Regardless of the subsequent visual and oral evidence Clendening’s goal was not, in fact, a goal, it still enabled the Comets to push Game 3 into overtime where they eventually prevailed 2-1 and took a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five Western Conference Quarterfinals with the Chicago Wolves.
But sports are a passionate matter and not governed solely by logic, so it’s meaningful to take a moment to recount what has happened with the Chicago Wolves since Clendening’s goal became a reality.
A quick review: The Wolves led the Comets 1-0 at 6:58 of the third period on Wednesday night when Clendening launched a slap shot from the high slot. The puck rang off the crossbar and fell to the ground. While Wolves goaltender Jordan Binnington flattened his body on the ice to smother the puck, the goal judge lit the lamp and the house lights dimmed while the players scrambled as if nothing was decided.
After several seconds, Clendening heard his shot declared a goal and pumped his fist to become the first person on the ice to celebrate.
The Wolves asked the officials to use the available video replay system. The officials declined and provided differing stories to explain their rationale. Initially, an official told the Wolves that Clendening’s shot rang off the back bar and was a clear goal. Then the Wolves were told the shot went off the crossbar, but deflected off Binnington across the goal line and the goaltender brought it back.
At some point during the third period, the AHL supervisor of officials at Utica Memorial Auditorium reviewed the overhead camera and didn’t see a goal. While he visited Wolves general manager Wendell Young at the third intermission to reveal his findings, it was too far late to change the result.
“I talked to the supervisor of officials at the game and he’s in total agreement with us,” Young said. “I filed a complaint with the league and they’re in total agreement with us that the goal never went in. I got the apologies, but the apologies don’t change anything.
“Moreover, why the refs didn’t go to the video review when they have access to a video review, I don’t understand. I don’t understand how we have that in the league, we have that at their beck and call, and they don’t use it at such a crucial time of the game and crucial part of the series.
“They said they’re frustrated, but we’re 100 times more. There’s nothing they can do about it except reprimand the refs and that’s it. We take the brunt of it and life goes on.”
Indeed, life does go on. As the disgruntled Wolves sat in their dressing room after Game 3, head coach John Anderson addressed them briefly, told them the team was just fine and to get ready for Game 4 at 6 p.m. Friday.
“This is the thing about playoffs: It’s always about the next game, the task at hand,” Anderson said. “Because even if you’re up 3-nothing, it’s always about the next game. You can only do one thing at one time. So if we can just get focused and let everything go by and focus on the task at hand, we should be OK.
“Quite honestly, I thought our goaltender was our best player last night. I thought they outplayed us. Not so much in effort – I thought our effort was as good or better than theirs – but we didn’t execute the things we were supposed to do properly and that caused us a lot of grief. That’s the one thing we talked about. We’re going to try to execute better. If we have the same effort, I think the outcome will be different.”
So that’s how the Wolves players spent their Thursday. After a brief video meeting, they held an optional skate that included several players who played in Game 3. That’s another sign they’re going to be as focused on Game 4 as they were on Game 3.
“Last night was hard to go to sleep,” said Wolves forward Shane Harper. “But after you wake up this morning, you forget about it.”