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The Norfolk Admirals lead the best-of-seven Calder Cup Finals, 3-0, and there's nothing that's going to change that. They won Game 3 of the Finals against the Toronto Marlies, 1-0, in overtime on Thursday evening, but as it turns out, the game-winning goal shouldn't have counted.
Norfolk was offsides, and the dump-in was only allowed because of the delayed offsides rule. Since the play was clearly offsides, the play should have been blown dead as soon as the puck caromed off the seam in the glass and into the back of the net. But the officials missed the call -- perhaps in the confusion of the celebration by the Ads and the frustration by the Marlies -- and the teams left the ice without much question asked.
The AHL admitted Friday morning that the wrong call was made, calling it a "rules interpretation error."
"On the play, a dump-in from center ice by a Norfolk player caromed off a stanchion and into the Toronto net. The correct application of AHL Rule 83.4 would have negated the Norfolk goal due to a delayed offside call.
"As AHL By-Laws do not allow for any change to the final result of a game based on an incorrect rule interpretation, the result of the game stands."
It's an awful break for the Marlies, and aside from the goal actually winning Norfolk the Calder Cup, it's at the absolute worst possible time. There's no guarantee Toronto would have won the game, of course, but there's a huge difference between a 2-1 series lead for Norfolk (with Game 4 back at Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto) and a 3-0 lead with a chance for a sweep.
The Marlies essentially have no hope at winning this thing at this point, but head coach Dallas Eakins has still taken the high road, calling on fans not to blame the officials.
Never forget that @theahl is a developmental league for the referees as well. Players and coaches have made mistakes.We all move on.— Dallas Eakins (@dallaseakins) June 8, 2012
According to James Mirtle at the Toronto Globe & Mail, the two referees at the game were NHL-caliber officials, while the linesmen were AHL-level. The argument might be that the linesman never signaled offsides -- it's tough to tell from the video -- and that because the linesman blew the call, the referee didn't have the choice to overturn it.
But the whistle wouldn't have blown the play dead until the puck crossed the goal line anyhow -- had the puck gone around the boards normally, play would have continued with goaltender Ben Scrivens playing the puck behind the net. It seems as though there was ample opportunity for the officials to confer here after the goal, or at least a chance for Eakins and the Marlies to protest the call.
Nevertheless, it all stands. 1967, right Toronto?