Five-Minute for charging enough for UMD’s Pionk?


Allyson Bento, Sports Editor

When there is a championship on the line, it’s safe to say emotions run high and the physicality increases with it.

The NCHC championship game against the University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs was a prime example of this. The Fighting Hawks visited the penalty box a total of 12 times, while the Bulldogs took 15 trips, including a five-minute major to sophomore defensemen, Neal Pionk.

The officials served Pionk the five-minute major for charging UND’s starting goaltender, Cam Johnson, while in the goaltender’s privileged area shortly after UND jumped on the board 1-0 early in the first period.

Johnson, who was in a vulnerable butterfly stance during the hit, still managed to stop the shot. Even though he was knocked over and disoriented momentarily, he played for the remainder of the game. The hit was deemed dirty by the television broadcast crew almost immediately and the recent lack of attention to player safety was brought into play.

“It was a heated battle out there with two rivals going at it,” head coach Brad Berry of the penalty-filled game said. “You control what you can control and that’s the way you play on the ice. I feel very strongly that our team plays the right way.”

The 2016-2017 NCAA Ice Hockey Rules and Interpretations, Rule 43 (Physical Contact-Charging) states:

“A player shall not charge or otherwise foul a goalkeeper while the goalkeeper is within the crease or privileged area.”

The penalty is served as a  minor or major at the discretion of the referees and a game misconduct or a disqualification can also be served at the discretion of the referees.

Pionk served his five-minute major and UMD killed off the penalty unscathed, but not without a loud eruption from the crowd of UND fans who thought five-minutes just wasn’t enough.

“I thought that Pionk knew what he was doing,” avid UND hockey fan Blake Woolery said. “He deserved more.”

While many Hawks fans may have disagreed with the official to decide against the extra step of misconduct and disqualification, it’s important to look at the play with blank jerseys and understand why the call was made.

The major was Pionk’s first of his season and he has not been notoriously known for taking residence in the penalty box. However, three of his 10 penalties this season have come from games against UND.

Johnson proceeded to play the rest of the game seemingly in good health,  even after the aggressive play found him at the bottom of multiple tussles in front of the net.

Even though there is a championship on the line and each team was looking for their first NCHC title, the total of 57 minutes spent in the sin bin between the two teams was unacceptable. Pionk went on to assist to two of the four goals scored by the Bulldogs and help them take their NCHC title.

If anything, the lack of greater punishment against Pionk sent the message that allowed both teams to open the floodgates to bring out their most aggressive hits and blows to win a title.

Fortunately for UND, the injuries sustained in the NCHC championship game has not effected their roster heading into the West Regional tournament in Fargo this weekend.

Nick Nelson / Dakota Student
UND goalie Cam Johnson in action during the St. Cloud State Huskies March 11, 2017

Allyson Bento is the sports editor for Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected]