Was girls hockey championship declared tie because boys needed ice?

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Two Connecticut girls hockey teams that saw their overtime championship end in a tie are wondering if their game was cut short because their male counterparts' game was scheduled to start. 

Simsbury and East Catholic/Glastonbury/South Windsor battled in the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference championship, and what a battle: Double overtime, tied 2-2, heading into triple overtime.

But that’s where the game ended: The teams were declared “co-champions.”

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No one was really sure why.

“It came over the loud speaker,” said Simsbury captain Maggie Grigely. “As we got to the bench we were expecting third overtime but it ended up being told that we needed to get on the blue line we were just going to give awards out now.”

Why not have a third overtime period? It’s a puzzler. The rules that were sent out to team officials for the tournament clearly state that “if overtime is required, the teams will play eight-minute sudden death overtimes until the games are decided.”

One theory: That the boys county title game between Greenwich and Darien was scheduled to start at 3:30 p.m., and that since the girls game – which started at 1:10 p.m. – had pushed past 3:30 p.m., it had to end. For the sake of a timely puck drop for the boys.

From the Hartford Courant:

"I think most people believe, and I can't dispute this, is that there was some pressure on the rink or the FCIAC, the tournament director, I don't know, to move it along and get the boys game started," East Catholic/Glastonbury/South Windsor coach Frank Usseglio said. "I don't know that, but I think that's what most people think. If you looked at kind of the circumstantial evidence, that's what you would think."

Usseglio and Simsbury coach Paul Melanson were told during the second overtime that if there wasn’t a winner, the game would be called a tie with no third overtime.

This despite Rich Bulan, the FCIAC girls hockey chairperson, telling the Courant that the decision not to play three overtimes was made before the game by a three-person committee. Yet that wasn’t communicated to the teams until the second overtime.

Which is completely irresponsible, of course, because knowing that the game has a finite endpoint changes the way the players and coaches approach the game.

Bulan said the decision was "absolutely not a gender issue."

One of the issues facing the teams, as Kate Fagen of ESPNW notes, is that the women’s teams aren’t sanctioned by the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference. That meant instant second-class citizen status, no matter the gender of the players: The sanctioned boys teams were going to be given preference. Especially when a large crowd had gathered to watch that game. From ESPNW, Rink manager Ken Smith:

"We actually got through a second overtime, and I think the game was supposed to be called co-champions after one overtime, so the way I see it, those people got their money's worth. And the building was filling with fans for the boys game, so it was a great environment and must have been exciting for those girls."

Yeah, it's super exciting when you're told your game isn't important enough to have an actual conclusion... 

Another drawback to being a non-sanctioned sport -- and sadly, the participation numbers for girls hockey aren't high enough to become an CIAC sanctioned sport -- so there isn’t a strict set of rules to which to adhere.

If they followed the guidelines of the SCC, the conference they play in, it states there are two overtimes and then a shootout. But it also states that a game can “ultimately end it at a certain point due to a conflict” to be completed at a later date.

But no such option was given to the co-champions.

"I can't imagine a boys championship game ending with co-champs," Simsbury co-captain Sutton Wunderle told ESPNW. "If it happened the other way around, if we were the game after, I have a hard time believing the same thing would have happened."

So do we. You play until there's a winner in a title game or you don't play it at all. Whatever the justification, this was an embarrassment. 

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