World Junior Hockey: What Needs to Change in Ice Hockey

Peter BojarinovAnalyst IJanuary 4, 2012

Canada's Scott Wedgewood, injured after a being hit by Russia's Alexander Khokhlachev at the World Juniors
Canada's Scott Wedgewood, injured after a being hit by Russia's Alexander Khokhlachev at the World JuniorsRichard Wolowicz/Getty Images

In the Canada-Russia World Juniors semi-final game, which was full of momentum changes, in my opinion was the turning point. It was easily the biggest and most significant reason why the young Canadians lost the match.

At the four minute mark of the second period, Canada was already down 3-1.Yevgeni Kuznetsov, who I believe is an amazing player, scored to pull Russia ahead by three. On the breakaway chance, Yevgeni made the Canadian goaltender Scott Wedgewood stretch wide from his right to left.

Wedgewood was low and unable to move faster than the shifty Kuznetsov, who put it by him. Two seconds later, Alexander Khokhlachev crashed the net, dived head first with the puck already in the net, and hit Scott hard in the head, knocking him out.

I really don’t understand how a player could do such a thing, without a penalty being called on the play after the goal.

A less-stunned Canadian team would have ran Khokhlachev, got there business done with him, and moved on.

Instead Canada, which was completely in shock, just stood there, and then completely collapsed. Over the next 22 minutes of the second period and into the beginning of the third, the red and white started to make foolish penalties.

They let Russia pull away with two more goals to lead 6-1.

With a bit of luck and pressure, Canada’s Dougie Hamilton scored. It went straight to their legs and heads. While playing real Canadian hockey, they scored four straight, and just missed tying the game.

Not only were the kids foolish in losing control of the game, they could have changed momentum with both a penalty on Khohlachev during a power play, and a quick retaliation on him to move forward with the game.

This isn’t just in international hockey; it’s in NHL hockey also.

Remember when the Buffalo Sabres played against the Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins?

Both the Sabres’ goaltender Ryan Miller and Bruins' left winger Milan Lucic chased down a puck near the top of the circle in the Buffalo zone. Miller got there first and shot the puck away. Lucic pretty much finished his check as if Miller were a regular player.

No penalty was assessed and Miller actually ended up with a concussion.

This needs to change. I know the NHL and other hockey leagues and associations want more offense, but what we really need is protection for its players.

At least if you can't bump a goaltender in his own crease to make it more black and white, it would be easier for the referees to call. If it’s more then just a bump, a hard hit, or the goaltender gets injured, then it should be even more than just a minor penalty (a double minor or more at the discretion of the man in stripes).

If not, I feel there will be more injuries to goaltenders, which are vital to ice hockey, as well as the players that take more aggressive approaches to the man between the pipes.

Since the Miller hit, the Sabres have been more protective of their goaltender. They immediately attacked anyone that touched Ryan.

In addition, the NHL has since suspended Jordin Tootoo of the Nashville Predators for hitting Miller in his crease, which by the way looked much less worse than what Khokhlachev did to Wedgewood.