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WHL justice served

Western Hockey League referees didn't get their man but league officials did when Marcus Messier of Tri-City was suspended for four games on Tuesday.

The infraction was a double-minor checking-from-behind penalty that injured Spokane's Liam Stewart in the Chiefs' 7-2 romp in their home opener on Satuday night.

Keep reading for thoughts on the matter.

Referees gave the penalty to Justin Harmonic ... but maybe it wasn't their fault, unless a short memory is a fault. After the check, Stewart's linemmate Mike Aviani got into a fight with Harmonic, usually a sign that Harmonic was the offender. By the time the fight was stopped, Harmonic was assessed a double-minor and Aviani got an instigator minor and both the usual 5 minutes for fighting. Actually, two players hit Stewart but it was clearly Messier that drove him into the boards.

There are a couple of things interesting about this, besides the mistaken idenity.

First, Dominik Uher got 3 games for a checking from behind penalty that was called a major, when the Chiefs were in Tri-City for the season opener a week earlier. Uher only had a forarm on the back of the opposing player, who was not injured, at least not as seriously as Stewart because he may not have even missed a shift, let alone the three games (or more) that Stewart will miss this weekend.

Second, there is no addition penalty other than the double high-sticking minor to Mason Wilgosh, who relieved Spokane's Mitch Holmberg of a couple of teeth in the first period. Heck, it's a four-minute penalty for a high stick that draws blood, let along claiming teeth. Wilgosh was back on the ice before Holmberg returned from the locker room. Maybe they thought was since Holmberg "only" mised 6:51 of play, returning for the second period, and contributing a nifty assist (plus Anthony Bardaro scoring on the earlier power play), that was enough of a penalty. 

Maybe had the referees been a little more stern in the Holmberg instance the game would never have gotten out of hand. TC had 19 penalties for 62 minutes. Even in the first game, which included Uher's major, which led to a fight, and also a game misconduct, both teams only combined for 15 penalties and 53 minutes.

Stewart, as well as defenseman Tanner Mort, won’t play in the three games this week, including a Saturday night matchup with Kelowna at the Arena. The Chiefs are at Vancouver tonight and Kamloops on Friday.




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