It was a historic night in Toronto, for a number of reasons. The Toronto Rock honoured Bob Watson, one of the best goaltenders in lacrosse history, by retiring his number – the first such retirement in team history. It was historic for rookie Jesse Gamble, as he scored the first goal of his career. And history repeated itself, as this game was oddly reminiscent of a game from earlier this year:
- both were played in Toronto on a Friday night against the Rochester Knighthawks
- both saw the Rock win
- both saw Colin Doyle leave the game in the second quarter and not return
The first time it was a “lower body injury” which turned out to be a hamstring problem. The Rock were without Doyle for two games – winning them both – and then lost the game in which he returned. Now they lose Doyle again, this time to an “upper body injury”. Doyle fell awkwardly into the crease and immediately grabbed his shoulder. He left the floor and his night was over. The Rock are now 0-3 in games where Doyle plays more than half the game, and 4-0 in games where he plays less than half. Obviously he’s a liability and the Rock need to ditch him, right? Hey, I wonder if Paul Rabil would… nah.
But after losing Doyle, the Rock lost someone else and immediately replaced him with someone much better. The Stephan Leblanc who’s struggled most of this season also struggled in the first half of this game, scoring zero points on roughly a million shots. A few minutes into the third quarter, he looked quite frustrated. But shortly after that, he was replaced by the Stephan Leblanc who we saw last year, and that Leblanc went on to score four goals and two assists within ten minutes of play in the third and fourth quarters.
The game was very streaky. Only three of the 28 goals scored were singletons, all in the fourth quarter. The Rock scored five, then Rochester four, then Toronto four, then Rochester four, then Toronto two, then Rochester two,… I won’t have much to say about this game in my Money Ballers column this week; not a single point was scored by any Knighthawks, and only two Rock goals qualified for Money Baller points.
The Rochester offense was spread out – only one player had more than 5 points and nobody scored more than two, but nine different people scored goals. Cody Jamieson was the top scorer, not surprisingly, and Jordan Hall had a strong game as well. Craig Point didn’t score but had four helpers, and Brad Self scored a couple of nice goals. However, their shooting accuracy was terrible. The Knighthawks were missing the net all night long, and not just by a little. Shots were soaring several feed wide at times – and I’m not talking about behind-the-back desperation shots or shots taken while running sideways or backwards, though there were plenty of those as well. No, many times a Knighthawk forward had time to plant his feet and fire with nobody around him and still managed to miss the net by three feet. I just checked the game sheet to see if this impression was correct – the Knighthawks took 67 shots but only 37 hit the net, for a measly 55% shooting accuracy. The Rock took eight more shots than the Stealth, but had twenty-three more shots on goal, for an accuracy of 80%. The Rock also won 2/3 of the face-offs.
It seems odd to say that Rochester’s defense was pretty solid when the Rock scored 16, but the Rock had two different stretches of 10+ minutes without a goal; one of those was almost 15 minutes. Matt Vinc didn’t have his best game ever. Matt Roik played very well for the most part, though he did give up a couple of softies, and even allowed one over his right shoulder, presumably as an homage to Bob Watson.
But back to the Watson ceremony for a minute. I am a huge Watson fan, and I don’t deny for one second that Watson is deserving of having his number retired. But that said, I do have to wonder why he was the first Rock player to be so honoured. Both he and Jim Veltman are legends, both had long careers, both spent most of their careers with the Rock, both won several championships with the Rock, and both are in the NLL Hall of Fame. But Veltman went into the HoF a couple of years ago, while Watson has been retired for less than a year. The only explanation I can think of is that Veltman was an assistant coach with the Rock during the Kloepfer years. When that era ended, Glenn Clark and the rest of the coaching staff except Veltman were fired. Veltman was apparently given some sort of vague front office advisory position, but his employment with the Rock was never mentioned by the team again. Maybe there was some bad blood between the team and Veltman because of that, or for some other reason. But surely with new ownership, a new GM, and new coaches, the team can put all that behind them and retire #32.
- Jesse Gamble had a great game, and not just because he had his first career goal and assist.
- At one point in the second, the Rock had a shot clock violation, so the Rock player put the ball down. Knowing that the Rock were unable to touch the ball, the nearest Knighthawk defender made a move to pick it up, but ran by it without touching it and headed to the bench. The Rochester offense came out, and one of them grabbed the ball. Smart play by the Rochester defender to allow his team to get the offense set up.
- Matt Roik picked up the ball in his crease, then went to pass to a Rock defender, but the ball fell out of his stick and rolled behind him. Lucky for him, he wasn’t standing directly in front of the net, so the ball didn’t roll into the net. And yes, if it had gone in, the goal would have counted. We’d have called that “pulling a Cosmo” since it happened to Cosmo when he was playing for the Rock in the early 2000’s.
- The announced attendance was 10,274. Not a chance. I’d say there were no more than 7 or 8 thousand people in the ACC.
- Did Jamie Dawick really say “Let’s win one for the Whipper?” Yes. Yes he did.