Game report: Philadelphia 14 @ Toronto 8

Sorry for the delay on the game report, dear reader, I know you have been on the edge of your seat since Saturday night thinking “For the love of Jim Veltman, when will he post it?!” You can blame my sister for having a baby yesterday. I tried to get her to reschedule so I could get this article done, but nooooooo. Some people think of nobody but themselves. Though I have to say that my brand new niece is pretty darned adorable.

Anyway, as you probably already know, the Philly Wings got redemption on Saturday for the beat-down the Rock gave them two weeks ago by beating the Toronto Rock 14-8. The game was pretty close for the first half, tied at 1, 2, 3, and 4 before Kevin Crowley scored twice within a minute to put the Wings up by 2 at the half. Johnny Mouradian’s halftime pep talk must have been more effective than Troy Cordingley’s, since Brendan Mundorf and Dan Dawson scored two more in the first two minutes of the second half to put the Wings up 8-4. The Rock scored a couple to get as close as 8-6, but then it was all Wings, as they scored two more in the third, and both times the Rock scored in the fourth, the Wings answered back a minute later. Another goal by Dawson chased Matt Roik for the first time in his Rock career, and then Drew Westervelt beat Pat Campbell to end the scoring.

Matt Roik was just as solid in the first half as in his previous games this year, but started to lose it in the third as the game got more and more out of hand. A couple of the later goals were a little softer than the ones we’ve seen him give up so far this year, but I certainly wouldn’t pin the loss squarely on him. The Rock offense looked similar to the offense in the first couple of games, i.e. mostly not there. Garrett Billings and the new guys (Rooney, Thenhaus, and Carey) definitely showed up to play, but Sanderson and Leblanc looked frustrated, and Colin Doyle was pretty much a non-factor in his return from injury.

As an aside and to take a page from Dave Barry’s book, Billings and the New Guys would be a good name for a rock band.

The Rock with Colin Doyle in the lineup are 1-3 with an average of 10 goals per game (and in the one win, Doyle got 0 points in less than two quarters before getting injured). The Rock without Doyle are 2-0 with an average of 14.5 goals per game. If you count the game where he got injured (and wasn’t a factor) as a game without him, it changes to 0-3 and 9 goals with Doyle, 3-0 and 14 goals without. Of course, that’s not to say “Doyle makes the team worse” – it’s not that simple – but it does make you wonder if Troy and the boys will be looking at other differences in how the offense was run before the next game.

The Rock took a  lot of shots that hit Wings goalie Brandon Miller square in the chest or missed the net completely; in fact the Rock had three different breakaways (two from Mike Hobbins and one from Brendan Thenhaus) where the shooter missed the net. But in saying that the Rock took lousy shots, I don’t want to take anything away from the play of Brandon Miller, who was very solid in the Wings net. The Wings defense was absolutely stellar, especially in the second half. There was one play where Garrett Billings had the ball right in front of the Wings net for at least 15 seconds, and in that time he was covered so well that he had no opportunity to either shoot or pass and ended up having to just drop the ball when the shot clock ran out.

The Wings offense was pretty impressive. Brendan Mundorf scored five, including two on the power play, and Dan Dawson scored three and added seven assists. Kevin Crowley added another hattrick, and now has four in his six career games. But take a look at this comparison between the Wings offense and the Rock defense:

Rock defenders:

  • Codd, 5’8″
  • Bryan, Chapman, Sanderson, 5’9″
  • Merrill, 6’0″

Wings forwards:

  • Dawson, Westervelt, 6’5″
  • Crowley, Merrill (yes, mostly transition but he played up front a lot) 6’4″
  • Crotty, 6’2″

At one point, Dan Dawson ran by a Rock defender and I think he pulled the ol’ swim move, but it could be that his arm went over the head of the defender while he was running. It was hard to tell. Given that size difference, the fact that the Rock managed to hold the Wings to only 6 goals two weeks ago is doubly amazing.

The Rock host Rochester this Friday while the Wings play in Edmonton before the All-Star game on Saturday.

Other notes:

  • The Rock brought Jesse Gamble back from the practice roster when Marshall got hurt, and then didn’t play him.
  • I’ve said before that I am impressed at how Colin Doyle stands still during the anthems and even sings along to O Canada. As the camera panned down the Rock players during the anthem, I saw at least two others (one was Patrick Merrill, don’t remember who the other was) who were also singing along. Kudos to them.
  • For a while, I thought “Man, Dan Dawson is everywhere tonight!”, then realized that sometimes he wore a different number. Duh. Both he and his brother Paul Dawson just have “Dawson” on their jerseys, with no first initial.
  • I got a few looks from my fellow Rock fans when I actually applauded a goal by the Wings. Drew Westervelt scored a kind of “backwards Air Gait” in the second, where he dove out from behind the net and backhanded it in on the far side of Matt Roik. Outstanding goal. Of course, that kind of goal is a little easier when your arms are eight feet long.
  • On one play in the first, Billings grabbed the ball to try and avoid an over-and-back violation but stepped over the line. The ref blew the whistle and Billings put the ball down, but I guess he rolled it and as Brodie Merrill ran by and tried to pick it up on the fast break, he missed it because it was rolling. He stopped running and literally jumped up and down twice. The ref did give Billings a delay of game minor, and I agree that it was deserved given the new rule, but I was less than impressed with Merrill’s display. I’ve seen that kind of behaviour in my nine-year-old son sometimes, but he’s nine. There were a few other occasions where Merrill complained loudly to the refs, sometimes quite animatedly. I have heard other (non-Edmonton) fans in the past talk about Brodie Merrill’s antics and call him a whiner, but I’d never really noticed it myself. On Saturday I got to see it first-hand.
  • The Wings had at least three or four broken sticks. To the Philly Wings equipment manager: I’m pretty sure balsa wood sticks are not allowed in the NLL.
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