Colorado College center Nick Dineen (above) maintains he was the victim of a “cheap shot” from Denver left wing Jason Zucker in a Feb. 4 game in which he endured a concussion, and in a strange twist, if Zucker had been suspended, he too wouldn’t have been injured.
Dineen was knocked out in the first period of a 2-2 tie at World Arena that gave CC the Gold Pan, crushed so hard by Zucker that he admitted he doesn’t remember grimacing in pain on the ice, talking to Tigers trainer Jason Bushie or skating to the locker room. After Dineen was demolished by Zucker, he lost track of pretty much everything until Bushie was doing a concussion test on him. Even then, his head felt like an indescribable haze.
CC was on the penalty kill when Dineen headed toward the corner with Zucker in pursuit. “I went to get the puck, and I was kind of turned toward the boards, and Zucker came in, and left his feet, and elbowed me right in the back of the head,” said Dineen, whose head struck the boards as he crumbled to the ice. Zucker didn’t draw a penalty for the blow.
Asked if he perceived the hit by Zucker as being dirty, Dineen said, “Yeah, I did. He left his feet, and it was pretty obvious from the tape that both of his elbows hit the back of my head. … If it was a clean hit and someone got the best of me clean, it would have (stunk) to be out. It’s never enjoyable to get hit with a cheap shot and then miss 2 ½ games.”
The Western Collegiate Hockey Association reviewed the incident – at the request of CC coach Scott Owens – for a possible suspension because there was contact to the head, but the league ruled that even though Zucker was off the ground, with his hands in the air, he wasn’t targeting Dineen. Zucker got off the hook, and since Dineen had a concussion, he was forced to miss last weekend’s trip to Bemidji State – a pair of losses for the Tigers.
Ironically, Zucker, a 2010 second-round draft pick by the Minnesota Wild who captained the U.S. at the world junior championships, went down Friday against Minnesota, a game he wouldn’t have participated in if the WCHA suspended Zucker for his crack on Dineen. He was drilled against the glass by Minnesota left wing Kyle Rau, the younger brother of former CC center Chad Rau and a teammate of Zucker at world juniors, and after Zucker lay on the ice for several minutes, Rau was ejected and later suspended for a game.
Dineen didn’t see Zucker coming, and Zucker never saw Rau hunting him down. Zucker sent Dineen spiraling into the boards, and Rau pinned Zucker against the boards between the team benches. And Dineen was clocked in the head by Zucker, while replays showed that Rau rocked Zucker in the upper chest, maybe also in the neck and lower head. So if Rau was suspended for hitting Zucker, why wasn’t Zucker suspended for hitting Dineen?
Minnesota coach Don Lucia told the Star Tribune, “You can go back to incidents (across the WCHA) – what deserves extra and what doesn’t? … Had Zucker got up, would (Rau) have gotten suspended? I don’t know. But he didn’t.” Lucia added the WCHA is “looking at player safety right now. … Ultimately, we have to make sure we protect the players.”
Contact Brian Gomez: 719-636-0256 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Facebook: Brian Gomez. Twitter: @gazettehockey. Google+: Brian Gomez. YouTube: Colorado College Hockey, Covered by The Gazette. For the CC homepage, visit www.gazette.com/sections/sports/cchockey. For the CC blog, visit http://cchockey.freedomblogging.com.