During Saturday’s 5-2 win over Lake Superior State,
Michigan senior alternate captain Brandon Rogers spent six minutes
in the penalty box — four for interference and two for
holding the stick. As a defenseman — and more specifically,
as a defenseman who often plays against other teams’ best
scoring lines — Rogers has been one of the Wolverines most
harshly affected by the NCAA’s new rule-enforcement
policy.

Ice Hockey
Defenseman Brandon Rogers and the Wolverines have had a hard time adjusting to the new system for calling penaities, as they feel it slows down the game. (TONY DING/Daily)

“(The new rule enforcement) doesn’t help,”
Rogers said. “But we just have to do a better job of staying
out of the box. Most of them aren’t very good
penalties.”

In August, the commissioners of all the college hockey leagues
and Ty Halpin, associate director of playing rules administration
for the NCAA, met just outside of Boston to discuss the new rules
initiative for this season. They decided that the number of
penalties that were going uncalled was getting out of hand, and all
six conference commissioners agreed to crack down in a few specific
areas: holding along the boards, hooking and holding at center
ice.

Earlier this week, the commissioners gathered once again to
discuss the effectiveness of the rules so far this season, as well
as the plans for the rest of the season. They said that the new
initiative is good for the game and insisted that they would stick
with it throughout this season, into the postseason and on through
next year.

“What we’re experiencing here is that we’ve
gotten to a point where we have let the game go,” said Joe
Bertagna, commissioner of the Hockey East. “Guys are just so
used to doing so many things that are illegal and getting away with
it because of the game, the score and where the ref was, that the
rulebook became a book of suggestions, as opposed to hard and fast
rules.”

The new rules enforcement initiative has caused an increase in
penalties called around the country. So far this season, there have
been an average of 20.39 penalties per game. This is up from an
average of 14.80 per game over the same time period last
season.

Despite this increase, the players and coaches in the Michigan
hockey program say that the new initiative is good for the game,
but they admitted that it is going to take some adjustment.
Saturday was the third multi-penalty game for Rogers this season,
but he said that the new rules enforcement was not to blame for his
time in the box.

After last week’s game at Lake Superior State, junior
Brandon Kaleniecki complained that it was difficult to get into the
flow of the game.

“It’s tough,” Kaleniecki said. “You get
a little bit of momentum going and you take a penalty that you
aren’t very happy with and it obviously slows you down. It
slows down the game, slows down the momentum and a lot of guys
can’t really get into the game because all you’re doing
is penalty-killing. You’re not getting five-on-five
shifts.”

The commissioners said that they are aware of players’
complaints of not being able to play the game the way they played
previously. Bertagna responded by saying that they simply need to
learn how to play without hooking and grabbing.

“These are already illegal actions,” Bertagna said.
“These are the penalties that have been on the books for
years. So I have no sympathy for the players who basically are
whining that the illegal acts that they’ve gotten away with
in the past, they are now being penalized for.”

One of the added benefits of the increased number of penalties
so far this season has been increased offense due to more odd-man
rushes and power plays. Even-strength goals are actually down, and
goals per game is up just a fraction — up to 6.22 from 5.95
during the same period last year. But scoring chances per game are
up to 16.17 from 11.12. The commissioners said that they like the
excitement of the new game filled with scoring chances, but added
that increased offense was not why they implemented the new rules
initiative.

“We don’t want people to misconstrue that this is
the end all for creating more offense,” said Tom Anastos,
commissioner of the CCHA. “But yeah, we’re hoping that
it will free up more space on the ice to create offense.

“We think that if we have a higher quality product. The
fan, as much as anybody, will be the biggest
beneficiary.”

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