The IIHF has suspended U.S. National Junior Team defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere for one game for an infraction committed in the first period against Slovakia. As a result, Gostisbehere will miss Team USA’s quartefinal match-up against the Czech Republic, leaving the U.S. with six defensemen.
Upon review of the situation, the IIHF Disciplinary Panel determined that the U.S. defenceman skated up behind Slovakia’s Matus Matis and forcefully drove his stick between Matis’s legs, striking him in the groin area. Matis fell to the ice, injured on the play, but he did return.
Gostisbehere was assessed a major penalty plus game misconduct under rule 537b. The Disciplinary Panel deemed the action to be reckless. For this the player has to be held accountable.
Based on the received verbal Referee Supervisor report, the written Referees’ report, the video material, and the abovementioned facts and after consultation amongst the Disciplinary Panel, it came to the conclusion that the action was not only dangerous to the safety of the opposing player but also unnecessary and avoidable.
Coming up after the jump, video of the infraction, thoughts on the IIHF decision and where this leaves Team USA.
Here’s video of the incident that led to the suspension.
The infraction is clear. Gostisbehere was retaliating for a slew foot from Matis which occurred seconds earlier and is not in the video. That doesn’t excuse Gostisbehere’s actions, but provides a little context for what led to the play. As is often the case, the refs are far more likely to catch the retaliation than the initial infraction and as a result, Gostisbehere got himself in some hot water.
Matis received no supplementary discipline for a play that would have gotten him some games even in the NHL. Granted Slovakia is headed to the relegation round, so perhaps that’s punishment enough.
While Gostisbehere certainly deserved the major and the game for what looked more like a spear than a slash, considering the amount of game time he missed, that his team had to kill a five-minute major and the fact that the referee got the call right on the ice should have worked in his favor. Adding a game on top of missing more than two-thirds of an elimination game seems excessive.
The IIHF claims that Matis was injured on the play, which might be a bit of a loose definition of injured. Obviously, getting hit in that area isn’t going to feel too great, but Matis didn’t miss any shifts and even scored a goal later. The fact remains that there could have been a more serious injury on the play, so that certainly factored into the decision.
The IIHF also explained that they are punishing the fact that this play was completely unnecessary and certainly avoidable. That is where I find their decision more justifiable, but I still think Gostisbehere was punished deservedly and sufficiently held accountable during the game by the on-ice officials.
So now that the U.S. knows it will be without the Philadelphia Flyers prospect, some adjustments will have to be made.
Gostisbehere has been a top-four defenseman for Team USA the entire tournament, playing mostly with Jacob Trouba. Together, they’ve been Team USA’s most consistent and effective D pairing, so this is a loss that stings in an elimination game.
Team USA will be forced to go with six defensemen against a Czech team that has some good skill up front. This should mean some added ice time for Patrick Sieloff who could conceivably move up with Trouba, his former U18 D partner.
Gostisbehere also played an important role on Team USA’s second power-play unit, getting paired up with Seth Jones.
Expect to see more of Jake McCabe and/or Connor Murphy filling that void on the power play. Murphy looked good in the limited power-play time he received against Slovakia, earning an assist on Alex Galchenyuk’s late goal.
Losing Gostisbehere certainly hurts, but it won’t be crippling with the solid depth on the blue line. The U.S. has kept its bench generally short on defense with heavy doses of Seth Jones, Jacob Trouba and Jake McCabe. The pairs could get rotated a bit differently short a defenseman, but there’s a lot of versatility still on the back end which should help weather the Czech attack.
Team USA will meet the Czech Republic at 4 a.m. ET Wednesday. The game will air live on NHL Network and stream on NHL.com in the United States. A full preview of that game will be up on United States of Hockey later today.