October 1, 2014

Tomahawks' Lead League in Fighting Majors During September

Fight during 2012-2013 season (Tami Knopsnyder)
During this past offseason USA Hockey made a rule change concerning fighting. Fighting is still allowed in USA sanctioned junior hockey but the penalty for dropping the gloves has become more severe. When two players drop the gloves and solve things with their fists they'd always get five minutes for fighting. This season they still receive the five minutes for fighting but now they are also given a ten-minute misconduct penalty.

The reason USA Hockey made this adjustment was that they wanted to cut down on player injuries relating to fighting. They also saw the physical differences between the 20 year-olds in the league and the 16 year olds just coming into the league, and how lopsided and dangerous a fight between the two types of player could turn into.

So USA Hockey put in place the extra penalty to try and cut down fighting in junior hockey, while leaving it in the game for the instances where a fight has to happen. Well, so far into the young NAHL season fighting is down. As of 9/30/14 there has been a total of 10 fighting majors (five fights) in the NAHL. This is compared to last season when there was a total of 88 fighting majors in the first month of the season. Oddly enough, the league's most penalized team, the Johnstown Tomahawks (211 penalty minutes on the season) has been involved in three of those five fights.

The first fight in the league not involving the Tomahawks happened on September 19th between the Minnesota Wilderness and the Wichita Fall Wildcats. In the third period Austin Hingtgen (Wildcats) fought Billy Exell (Wilderness). Both players received the mandatory five minutes for fighting and ten minute misconduct penalties. Both players also received minors for slashing.

The other fight not taking place in a Tomahawks' game also involved the Wilderness, this time vs Fairbanks. Wilderness' Ivan Chukarov was given five for fighting and a game misconduct because the fight happened with less than five minutes in the game. Fairbanks did not get penalized for a fight in the scrum. Tommy Hall, now part of the Wilderness, picked up a roughing penalty on the play as well.

The three other fights in the league have happened during Johnstown games.

The Tomahawks got into their first fight at the NAHL Showcase vs the Austin Bruins late in the game. Zach Zech fought Brady Jones with about two minutes left in the game, which at that point had Austin winning 8-2.

Zech picked up 39 penalty minutes in that game, 37 of them because of the fight. Picking up extra minutes for instigating and removing his opponents helmet. This lead to a four game suspension for the first year Tomahawks' forward.

The second fight for the team was vs Odessa, which also happened in the NAHL Showcase. In the second period, Logan Hudson was jumped by Jake Hamilton after Hudson laid a huge hit on an Odessa player at the red line. Jake Hamiton got a game misconduct for instigating the fight.

The third fight of the season came against Michigan this past weekend on Saturday night. In the first period Johnstown's Dakoda Menslage fought Cam Jorgensen. Menslage picked up an extra minor on the play for cross checking.

Ten minute misconducts are up this season from this time last year. Last year in the month of September there were 38 ten-minute misconducts handed out. This year there was 42. Major penalties, not counting fights are also up this season. Last year there was five (1 spearing, 2 helmet removal/face mask, 1 head contact, and 1 slew foot, ). This year there has been nine (1 high stick, 1 boarding, 4 helmet removal/face mask, 2 head contact, and 1 kneeing).

One penalty that is down, which we thought would be up since there's less fights are checking from behind penalties. Last year after the first month of the season there was a total of 63 minors, double minors, and majors called for checking from behind. This year those calls are down, with 50 being called.

Teams and players have to be smarter this season in when/if they fight. Instead of sitting in the box for five minutes, you're now out of action for almost a whole period. Though it doesn't count as a power play opportunity, having someone out for a whole period does leave you with a shorter bench.

Do you think the fighting changes have made the game better or worse. Do you think it's cleaned it up or do you think we'll see more major penalties due to more players taking liberties? Let us know what you think, either making a comment here or on our Facebook/Twitter page.

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