After a 6-0 loss to Denver what he called “one of the strangest games [he’d] ever seen,” Air Force head coach Frank Serratore was looking for answers.
Rather than looking inside his locker room, he chose to focus on one of the game’s two referees.
Air Force was called for 13 penalties – including a run of seven straight; Denver, just five.
“You just don’t see a disparity in penalties like that,” said Serratore.
While Air Force was held scoreless with the man advantage, Denver went 3-for-11 on the power play.
“I don’t think I’ve been critical of an official in this century, but there was a guy – the guy that did that game up in Denver. His name was Nathan Wieler. The penalties were 11 to three and he calls just about every one of them,” said Serratore. “It was unbelievable.”
After talking about what he felt was a decent first period, Serratore noted a change in the second.
“There was a constant march to the penalty box. You just don’t see that. One, two, three, four five, six [penalties].”
Air Force was whistled for six straight penalties.
“I tried to stick up for my guys. I clapped at the guy from 85 feet away. He tees me up. He’s over there, he gives me the muscles and tees me up.”
Serratore admits that the officiating had no impact on the outcome of the game.
“Denver’s a terrific team. They don’t need help from the referees to beat the Air Force Falcons.”
In a separate clip, Serratore again conveyed his frustration, along with his surprise.
“I’ve never seen Bigfoot, I’ve never seen the Easter Bunny, and I’ve never seen a referee say he had a **** game,” said Serratore, adding, “I have seen Santa Claus. I had a drink with him in a bar in San Francisco.”
.@AF_HKY coach Frank Serratore reflecting on the penalties in the 6-0 loss to @DU_Hockey over the weekend, describing the @TheNCHC crew in a way only Frank could. More of it here on my Facebook page: https://t.co/9HxrBIc69A pic.twitter.com/UGI1nAA4JZ
— Grant Meech (@KOAAGrant) January 2, 2018
More on the game from KOAA’s Grant Meech:
In the first 10 minutes of the first period, the Pioneers outshot Air Force, 11-1, and took a 1-0 lead. Just after a DU power-play expired, Liam Finley’s back hand shot from the bottom of the right circle caromed into the air and behind Billy Christopoulos at 6:14. In the final 10 minutes of the period, Air Force outshot Denver, 8-3.
The game turned in the second period when the Pioneers had six power plays in the first 13 minutes of the period. Air Force killed the first four, but then the Pioneers scored four goals in just over two minutes for a 5-0 lead. Power-play goals by Jarid Lukosevicius and Jaakko Heikkinen put the Pioneers up 3-0. DU then capitalized on two odd-man rushes for two goal in 51 seconds. Logan O’Connor scored at 13:58 for a 4-0 lead. After the goal, Christopolous was pulled from the net and replaced by freshman Zack LaRocque. The Pioneers took a 5-0 lead at 14:49 when Ryan Barrow put back a rebound of O’Connor’s shot at 14:49 on the rush.
Meech reported that a member of the NCHC officiating crew approached Serratore after the game.
Wieler is in his second year as an NCAA Division I referee, his first with the NCHC. He previously worked as a referee in the Western Hockey League, where he officiated four league championships. He was twice named the top official in the WHL (2013, 2014). His partner for the game was veteran referee Dan Dreger, in his fifth season with the NCHC and seventh as an NCAA official; Dreger’s also worked the AHL, ECHL, and CHL.