Game report: Buffalo A MILLION @ Toronto 14

The Bandits and the Rock played a rare lacrosse doubleheader on Friday night. In the first game, the Rock played smart and the offense was clicking, while the Bandits were undisciplined and had lousy goaltending. Toronto won the opener 11-8. In the second game, it was just the reverse. The Rock couldn’t score to save their lives because of the great Bandits defense and they took the stupid penalties while the Bandits got their offense going, and Buffalo won the second game 13-3. Unfortunately, each of these games was only 30 minutes long, and their aggregate score was what really mattered.

The final score was actually Buffalo 21 @ Toronto 14, not A MILLION like in the title of this article but as a Rock fan, that’s what it felt like. Some of the numbers in this game are staggering – Toronto had 11 goals in the first half and 3 in the second. Buffalo had 8 (eight!) power play goals and four shorthanded goals. In contrast, Dan Carey’s beautiful behind-the-back goal in the second was Toronto’s second shorthanded goal of the season. The Rock had a run of five goals to take an early 5-1 lead, but in the second half Bandits had runs of 5 and 6 goals. Five different Bandits had 6 or more points.

How Rock fans felt as the game went on

Mark Steenhuis wasn’t having the greatest season of his career, but he was everywhere on Friday night. Near the end of the game when it was obvious that the Bandits were just killing time whenever they had possession, they’d just send Steenhuis out there by himself to run around and get pounded for 30 seconds. He didn’t even have anyone to pass to half the time – there were no other Bandits anywhere near him. One of those times, the Rock were on the power play but managed to allow Steenhuis to run around without really hitting him at all. After about 20 seconds of this he scored. A few Toronto fans actually started to boo the Rock defenders.

The Rock were much more undisciplined in the second half than the first. Toronto had four penalties in the first half, but only one that wasn’t coincidental with a Buffalo penalty. Buffalo had five, including two at the same time. In the second half, Toronto had six non-coincidental penalties. Matt Roik even got a penalty when he cross checked Luke Wiles in the head, though I did not see what Wiles had done. Wiles got a minor while Roik got a double minor. Toronto fans started booing when the penalties were announced, but Roik deserved it and was lucky he didn’t get five. There were two fights: Stephen Hoar and Travis Irving in the second, and then Patrick Merrill and Irving again in the fourth. I didn’t see the beginning of the second fight, and all I saw was Merrill on the floor with Irving pounding on him. My son asked if the guy who didn’t throw any punches could be given a fighting penalty; I said that in that case Merrill wouldn’t be given anything and Irving would just get two for roughing. But both got game misconducts and Merrill was also given an instigator penalty, so it sounds like Merrill picked a fight with the wrong guy and got his butt kicked.

On the plus side for the Rock, Garrett Billings continues his strong season picking up 9 points (3+6) and Colin Doyle had another good game with 5 goals and an assist. The Rock had four power play goals of their own and a shorthanded goal. Let’s see… other positives for the Rock… I’ll have to get back to you on that.

For the Bandits, Cosmo did not look sharp. He made a few pretty good saves, but the Rock seemed to have him figured out. He was pulled for Mike Thompson, who played very well. That is the Mike Thompson that I picked to win goaltender of the year. Mat Giles had 6 points (2+4), Steenhuis and John Tavares both had 4 goals and 3 assists, Luke Wiles had 5 goals and 2 assists, and new daddy Chad Culp had a pair of goals and six assists for eight points. I mentioned in the pre-season that if all the Bandits offensive guys could get it together, they could have a scary good offense, and we saw that on Friday.

I don’t really have a lot else to say about this game. It started off well for the Rock and it looked like the Bandits would continue on their losing skid. But then Toronto came out flat in the second half while Darris Kilgour must have given one hell of a halftime speech in the Bandits dressing room. The Rock have now lost four of the past five, while the Bandits season might have just turned around.

Other notes:

  • The singing of the National anthems was a study in contrasts. There were two singers, one for the American anthem and one for O Canada. The guy that sang the American anthem had a deep country-and-western sort of voice, and did a very good job. The woman that sang the Canadian anthem was local radio personality Josie Dye. She started off with the wrong words “O Canada, we stand on guard for thee”, and things got worse from there. After a few more lines it was obvious she was so nervous or flustered that she had totally lost track of the words and she actually stopped and started over. Then she got them wrong the second time as well and the crowd started singing very loudly – whether that was to drown her out or to help her remember, I can’t say. She seemed to remember the words after that and ended up finishing the song. She was actually a decent singer but the performance was shameful. I haven’t seen an anthem that badly butchered since Roseanne.
  • There was one unusual play in the first half – a shot clock violation was called on the Rock, and the Rock player (I think it was Doyle) immediately put the ball down, and then stood there waiting for the Bandits to grab it. The Bandits defense raced to the bench to get the forwards out, but a few seconds later the ref blew the whistle and Doyle picked up the ball again. He ran in and got a shot on net, though it was stopped. It was not clear why he was allowed to pick up the ball in the first place. My only guess was that the ref decided that the Bandits took too long on the line change.
  • Jesse Gamble had yet another nice game, scoring a goal and adding two assists. He’s impressed the hell out of me this season.
  • Ryan Sharp announced on Friday that he has retired from the NLL. He missed most of last season with knee injuries and I guess he aggravated it enough in the last game (or gradually over the season) that his doctor told him he had to stop. I can’t say I’ve been a huge fan of Sharp this season; while he was a big tough defender, of which the Rock have precious few, I felt he took too many unnecessary penalties. That said, it sucks when a player has to end their career early because of injuries.
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