UPDATE (12:30 PM, 2/4/13): Eric Burton from "Goon's World" spoke to WCHA Supervisor of officials Greg Shepherd Monday, and Shepherd confirmed that Mersch WILL NOT be suspended by the league.
According to Burton, Shepherd said that Mersch would have had to actually enter into an altercation with Pattyn to be suspended. So there you have it, Wisconsin will have its leading scorer for this weekend's contests vs Bemidji State.
To nobody's surprise, the final game between Wisconsin and North Dakota as members of the WCHA resulted in some extracurricular activity after the whistle. With just 59 seconds remaining and Wisconsin trailing North Dakota, 4-1, Saturday night, an incident occurred that may net Wisconsin forward Michael Mersch a suspension.
It started with a few players from each team pushing and shoving in the corner after a nasty cross check by North Dakota forward Derek Rodwell to the back of Wisconsin's Eddie Wittchow. As the players were being hoarded off the ice, UND's Stephane Pattyn skated by the Wisconsin bench, taunting the Badgers into fighting.
Pattyn would find a taker on the Wisconsin side, but it wasn't someone you would have expected. No, it was Wisconsin's leading scorer Michael Mersch, a player clearly known much more for his goal-scoring ability. Mersch is ranked second in the nation in goal scoring with 16, but came into the weekend with just six penalty minutes.
With Pattyn chirping as he skates by the bench, Mersch finally has enough and hops off the Badger bench to fight Pattyn. Mersch clearly drops his glove, stick and helmet while Pattyn does the same for North Dakota. To the dismay of the home crowd in Grand Forks, officials broke the two up before a punch could even be thrown.
Both players were assessed 10-minute misconducts for their roles in the incident.
Mersch should be -- and likely will be -- suspended for one game for coming off of the bench to fight Pattyn. After the game, Eaves told the media that Mersch was coming on the ice for a line change, but video of the incident clearly shows Mersch hopping the boards specifically to go after Pattyn.
While I believe Mersch should be suspended, I don't have a problem with what he did. There's an obvious argument to be made that at this point in the season it's irresponsible to risk being suspended for a game, but I think Mersch showed his teammates a lot by dropping his gloves against Pattyn, who is one of the toughest players in the WCHA.
Although as Eaves said after the game, it was probably too late. When asked to clarify his comments on what he meant by too late, Eaves said he wanted to know why it didn't happen before.
"Where was that earlier in the game?"
Eaves' comment is a bit murky, but it came across to me as if he was wishing Mersch showed a bit more heart earlier in the game. As the contest wore on in the third period, Mersch's ice time seemed to dissipate. It's obviously rare to sit your leading scorer in the third period when you're trailing by three or four goals.
One play that stood out was UND's third goal, when Mersch failed to pick up Michael Parks on the back-check, and Parks was allowed to walk in all alone and score on Peterson while Mersch coasted back into the zone.
Jumping off the bench to fight Pattyn may have been an attempt by Mersch to prove something to his head coach.
Eaves will meet with the media Monday shortly after 12:30, and I'm sure he'll be asked about the Mersch fight. We'll have any pertinent updates for you here at Bucky's 5th Quarter. If Mersch is suspended by the league, the ruling will likely come down either later Monday or Tuesday.
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