Game report: Buffalo 11 @ Toronto 18

The Rock and the Bandits really don’t like each other. This is not news to anyone who’s ever watched them play, and may be surprising considering the Bandits have eight former Rock players in their lineup plus their GM while Roger Vyse, former Bandit captain Chris White, and both the Rock coach and GM are former Bandits. We thought we’d be in for a long game during the first, with penalty after penalty after penalty, but eventually things settled down and we actually saw some good lacrosse for a while. Most of the really rough stuff was over halfway through the first, but the penalties continued all game.

If you read the NLL Message Boards, there’s a thread that starts before every game in the Bandits forum called Keys to the Game. Every week, someone comes up with three ways the Bandits can win – shut down the opponent’s star player, minimize opponent’s transition goals, grab an early lead (or prevent the other team from grabbing an early lead), that kind of thing. For the last ten years, #3 on that list has always been “NO DUMB PENALTIES”. Apparently the Bandits don’t read the message boards. The Rock have the best power play unit in the league, something you’d think Darris and the boys might have paid a little more attention to, but they didn’t. Special teams weren’t exactly root cause of the Bandits downfall, but Toronto’s four power play goals didn’t help.

That said, not all of their penalties were dumb. I’m not generally one to complain about reffing, but there were a number of phantom calls in this game, going both ways:

  • Alex Kedoh Hill was given a penalty for knocking Josh Sanderson down, though (a) Sanderson had just punched him in the head, and (b) Hill barely touched Sanderson, who dropped like a soccer player.
  • No less than eight players got roughing penalties at the same time after the first Bandits goal. It all started with some rough stuff between Josh Sanderson (!!) and Mark Steenhuis.
  • Anthony Cosmo gave Doyle a smack on the back with his goalie stick and although it wasn’t that hard a hit, Cosmo was penalized. Perhaps the refs thought it was too close to the head. I actually thought it did hit Doyle in the head, but on viewing the replay, it did not.
  • Just a couple of minutes later, Derek Hopcroft had possession when the Bandits were called for a moving pick. The whistle was blown and play stopped but Hopcroft did not drop the ball. Jesse Gamble tried to get it from him but he pulled away. Hopcroft should have gotten two minutes right there for delay of game – you must drop the ball as soon as the whistle is blown. Chris White then hit Hopcroft’s stick away (getting a slashing penalty in the process), and Gamble and Hopcroft had words. At this point Bill Greer stepped in which might have been a mistake, since Hopcroft immediately pulled Greer’s helmet off and just laid a beating on him. This was one of the most one-sided fights I can remember. I counted sixteen punches by Hopcroft and zero by Greer.
  • Just two minutes after that, Luke Wiles hit Patrick Merrill in the face, getting a slashing penalty. This was a good call.
  • But later on Wiles had possession when the whistle was blown and he dropped the ball right away. Perhaps it didn’t go straight down and stop – it did roll a little, but it seemed obvious to me that there was no intent to roll it away from the Rock player who was right there. Wiles was given a delay of game anyway. People around me were confused, wondering why I was complaining about that penalty since it was against the Bandits. Simple – it was undeserved.

All of that was in the first quarter.

The game did settle down after that. There were still lots of penalties (4 in the second and 5 in each of the third and fourth) but other than Luke Wiles double-minor for slashing and facemasking, most of them were fairly innocuous. I kind of held my breath near the end of the game, waiting for the Bandits to explode and start more fights (the “go down swinging” attitude that seems prevalent in some lacrosse people) but it never happened.

Cosmo wasn’t great but I wouldn’t place the blame for this loss on him, or on Kurtis Wagar. The problem was Buffalo’s defense. The Rock got a lot of chances in close, and when you have Colin Doyle with the ball standing just outside the crease and no defender within ten feet of him, he’s more than likely going to score. Give him and Kasey Beirnes a few of those types of chances each, and that’s a recipe for a blowout. Nick Rose had a pretty good game, but much of his success on Friday came because the Rock defense was preventing the Bandits from getting clear shots at the net. There is no video of the game highlights up on yet, but from what I remember, the bounce shot was not Rose’s friend.

As expected, it was an entertaining and exciting game, and I’m glad the rough stuff was taken care of early in the game. Nothing pisses me off more at a lacrosse game than a team starting fights near the end because they’re getting blown out. If your team is getting destroyed, tough. Man up and regroup for your next game, learning from the mistakes you made. Starting fights because you’re losing is just an adult temper tantrum.

Other game notes:

  • It was Kids Night, so there were some special promotions and events and such for kids. What better way to celebrate Kids Night than with 14 roughing penalties, six slashing penalties, and a fight? Maybe pick the Mammoth or Stealth next year for Kids Night, not the Bandits.
  • On a similar note, the song called Dance With Me (which contains the inane lyrics “if you’re sexy and you know it, clap your hands”) may not have been the best choice for the cheerleaders on Kids Night.
  • As I mentioned last week, the Rock were pretty slow on the offense-to-defense transition. This week was much better – no lollygagging.
  • There was a guy sitting behind me who called for Nick Rose to be pulled at least two or three times in the first half. The last time he said “They gotta put Boychuk in. Get Rose out of there” as if it was 15-0 Bandits or 5-0 after three minutes. But this was near the end of the second quarter and Rose had given up 5 goals. He did allow another goal with a second left in the half, but then kept the Bandits off the board for the next sixteen minutes. Didn’t hear any complaints about the goaltending in the third quarter.
  • Also overheard from someone behind me: “That #9 [Steenhuis] is out there an awful lot, isn’t he?” Yes. Yes he is.
  • Nice to see Rock captain Colin Doyle and Bandits alternate captain Shawn Williams going out of their way to get the game ball from the ref after Roger Vyse and Kevin Brownell scored their first goals of the year – Vyse’s was his first as a Rock (that must have felt good, especially against the team that released him before the season) and Brownell’s was the first of his career.
  • Shawn Williams’ nine-year-old daughter Dylana sang O Canada and did an outstanding job.
  • Great to see Roberto Alomar doing the opening face-off. I recently watched a game from the 1992 World Series on TV and I think I had forgotten just how much fun Alomar was to watch.

Week 13 picks

Last week was my first above-.500 week since week 6. I was 2-1, missing only Edmonton’s victory over the Rock. Some tough picks this week though they should all be entertaining games. I’m particularly looking forward to seeing the Bandits at the ACC and the Stealth-Roughnecks game as well.

Record: 22-30 (.423)




PHI @ MIN Philly needs to sweep this weekend to get into the playoffs, but as I said on the Pro Lacrosse Face-off show this week, I don’t see it happening. I’m still bullish on the Swarm, especially given their recent demolition of the Stealth. Swarm
BUF @ TOR I love when the Bandits come to town. The games are always physical, always exciting, always eventful. Of course, the Bandits have a winning record in Toronto, so much of the time the ending of the game isn’t so good for me. But the Rock are in first place and the Bandits have lost four in a row. So obviously the Rock will win. Cause that’s the way the NLL works, right? Rock5
PHI @ COL I originally had the Wings logo here, but I’ve changed my mind. The Wings have five wins but four of them have been against Rochester, Buffalo (2), and Colorado. Toronto (early in the season) is the only team above .500 they’ve beaten – and they’ve since been beaten by the Rock. Colorado had a lead last week and let it slip away but that’s par for the course for the Mammoth – they’re becoming known for taking one quarter off per game and in that one, it was the fourth. If they can put 4 solid quarters together, they can beat the Wings easily but even if they only play 3 I think they can still win. Mammoth
TOR @ ROC Rochester is playing for their playoff lives, so they won’t go quietly. Or will they? They’ve lost five of their past six at home and only hit double digits in the first of those six. They’ve also only played one game since the 2nd of March. Worse home offense in the league (8.3 goals per game at home!) against the third-best defense? I’ll risk looking like a homer and take the Rock. Rock
CAL @ WAS I can’t figure out the Stealth. They win 3 in a row, two of them with 16 goals, and then only score 5 against the Swarm? So which Stealth do we get this weekend? Meanwhile the Roughnecks have allowed 15+ goals in 5 of their last 6 games. The Roughnecks haven’t demonstrated the ability to hold back the top offensive teams, at least not in the second half of this season. I originally had Calgary for this game but I’ve switched this one too. Stealth

Game report: Edmonton 17 @ Toronto 12

In my preview of the Edmonton Rush, I picked them to finish last in the West – not because I thought they were a last place team, but because there was so much uncertainty. Would Aaron Bold continue his strong play from 2012? Would the defense continue to dominate? Would Mark Matthews turn out to be the star everyone thought he would be? And after a 1-4 start, it looked like the Rush might have to wait at least another year to get back to the Championship game. But they’ve now won seven of their last eight games including five in a row, and have looked pretty dominant doing so. Sunday’s game against the Rock was no exception.

The first quarter might have been the Rock’s worst quarter of the season. The offense was sloppy, passes were missing their targets by several feet, lots of fancy over-the-shoulder passes were made to teammates not expecting them, and Nick Rose did not have his best game. Two minutes into the second, Rose was pulled for Zach Boychuk and the Rock were down 8-2. Shots after the first quarter were 22-8 for the Rush. Boychuk allowed another goal fairly quickly but then settled down and held the Rush scoreless for the next 12 minutes. Boychuk was hot and cold the rest of the way – he made a couple of holy-cow-how-did-he-stop-that saves, but let in a few softies as well. Boychuk is a much more athletic goalie than Rose; while Rose seems to move as little as possible to make the saves, Boychuk moves around a lot more. Not that either style is better or worse – whatever works.

The Rock’s play did improve over the next few quarters but still not up to the level of the Rush, who were simply dominant. Matthews didn’t have a huge game stat-wise, three goals and an assist, but he anchored the offense. And “anchor” is a pretty accurate description of this big guy – he can plow through defenders like they’re not there. His presence forced the Rock to focus more on him and allow the rest of the Rush forwards some good looks, but it was their defenders and transition guys that provided much of the scoring. Chris Corbeil and Kyle Rubisch, two of the best defenders in the game, contributed at both ends of the floor with two goals each, and Mydske, Dilks, LaFontaine, and Thompson each scored as well.

Jeremy ThompsonI’ve always liked Jeremy Thompson as a player. He can score, he can defend, he’s fast, he can fight (as we saw – see below), he can do faceoffs, and he has a very cool twitter profile picture (right). On Sunday, he displayed another skill: getting under the skin of his opponents, which directly resulted in at least two power plays for the Rush. On the opening face-off of the second quarter, he said or did something to Patrick Merrill. From what I saw, the ref blew the whistle to start the quarter and then immediately signaled that the Rock should have possession. Merrill suddenly walked away from the ball and started cross-checking Thompson across the chest. Thompson simply walked backwards taking the hits until Merrill was given a penalty. Not a smart play by Merrill. Then just a few minutes later, Thompson said or did something to Scott Evans, who dropped his gloves and went after him. Again, Thompson did nothing and Evans went to the penalty box. To add insult to injury, Thompson himself scored on the resulting power play. Surely after watching the Bandits implode year after year after year by taking stupid penalties, the Rock would have learned to let the other team do that and not to do it themselves. Actually the Rock are usually pretty good for keeping their heads on straight, but not on this night.

All in all, it was a rather ugly game for the Rock. But they ran into a hot Edmonton Rush team, who have replaced the Rock at the top of Brian Shanahan’s power rankings list. I saw a few tweets before the game that this game might have been a Champion’s Cup preview. If so, the Rock will have to keep their heads on straight and clean up (or cut down on) the fancy passing in the rematch.

Other game notes:

  • The Edmonton defense was very strong. There were times that I was waiting for the whistle and the “too many men” call, because there were seven or eight defenders out there. But no, there were only five.
  • In one play in the second quarter, Kyle Rubisch approached a group of three players all huddled together and checked them all at once, knocking two of them down.
  • After being pulled in the second quarter, Nick Rose sat on the bench for the rest of the game with his helmet on.
  • The fight: in the third quarter, Scott Johnston grabbed Jeremy Thompson and wouldn’t let him go. He held Thompson by the facemask and eventually pulled his helmet off. Thompson looked like he had no real interest in the fight, but after Johnston finally threw the first actual punch, Thompson pulled Johnston’s mask off and got a few punches in before Johnston suplex’ed him to the floor. Decision: Thompson.
  • The Rock’s transition game (defense-to-offense) is one of the best they’ve had in years. But their offense-to-defense is a bit more of a problem. There was a fair bit of lollygagging by the offense on their way back to the bench. You know what that makes them? Lollygaggers.

Week 12 picks

For the second straight week, I was 2-2 with my picks. Starting out under .500 and continually getting .500 will get you towards .500, but you’ll never get there. That’s math. Luckily, there are 3 games this week so I won’t be going .500. Let’s hope for a 2-1 or 3-0 week to bring up that average!

Record: 20-29 (.408)




EDM @ BUF Edmonton has won 5 of 6 and scored 14+ goals in four of them. Buffalo has lost three straight but only really got crushed in one of them. Given the events of the past couple of weeks, I’m wondering if Bandits will act like angels this weekend (not wanting to lose more people to suspensions) and stay out of the penalty box. If they can do that, they stand a good chance of beating the Rush. But notice who I’m picking. Rush
COL @ CAL This pick is closer than I would have thought a few weeks ago. The powerhouse Roughnecks against the lowly Mammoth? Not so much. The ‘Necks have had defensive troubles all year and are dead last in goals allowed, though they’re first in goals scored. The Mammoth are coming of two solid wins against Buffalo and have growing confidence in their young goaltenders. But I still gotta go with Calgary though it’s my least confident pick this week. Roughnecks
EDM @ TOR I saw Mark Matthews play in a pre-season exhibition game in Toronto and had to agree with all the experts saying that Matthews was going to be a force in the NLL. Obviously they were right, and I’m looking forward to watching him again, not to mention defensive stud Kyle Rubisch. But the Rock are on a roll (man, that joke just never gets old, does it?), and three wins in their final five games will give them their best record since 2005. Since this is the best Rock team since 2005 (including a team that won a championship), that would be fitting. Rock

The NLL rules

(Thanks to my son Nicky for the title of this article. I asked him for a good title for an article about the NLL rule book and he said “The NLL rules. And it does.” Clever kid.)

The Official 2013 NLL Rule Book is available on the NLL’s web site, and it’s a bit of an interesting read. There are 127 pages of rules, including pictures of the ref signals for various penalties (apparently if a ref calls head butting or “spearing with head” he has to smack himself in the face), the 2013 schedule, and the official dimensions of the floor and crease area. Did you know that the crease is 18’6″ wide and the goal line is 12′ from the back boards, also called the “dasher boards”? I did not.

NLLRulesThere are exactly 100 rules in the book, broken up in to the following categories:

  • 8 rules on The Arena
  • 7 rules on Time Factors
  • 7 rules on The Officials
  • 6 rules on Composition of Teams
  • 7 rules on Equipment
  • 8 rules on Penalty Definitions
  • 14 rules on Flow of the Game
  • 43 rules on Infractions

Most of the rule book is spent describing things players shouldn’t do and what the refs should do if they happen. While looking up a couple of rules, I happened across a weird one and thought I should write about it. Then I found another, and another, and…

These are in no particular order. Any emphasis is mine.

Rule 21.3: SHOT ON GOAL – When a shot hits a part of the goal post, does not go in and the ball continues in play, a shot on goal is awarded and a save is credited.

Said another way, the goalie gets a save if you beat him with a shot but hit the post. The assumption here is obviously that the goalie sees the ball coming, knows that it will hit the post and not go in, and therefore doesn’t bother moving to stop it.

Rule 20.1: PUBLIC ADDRESS ANNOUNCER’S DUTIES FOR AWARDED GOALS – The name of the scorer and any player entitled to an assist will be announced by the public address announce system. Public address announcers shall not communicate derogatory or disparaging comments towards any individual players on the opposing team and towards the officials. Failure to do so will result in a fine to the announcer by the League.

The PA announcer in Colorado, a guy named Willie B, continually pronounces Rhys Duch’s surname like “douche”. So obviously, one of the following three things must be true:

  1. Calling someone “douche” is not considered by the league to be derogatory or disparaging.
  2. The league believes him when he says he keeps forgetting how to say it properly and it’s an honest mistake. In every game. For five years.
  3. He pays a lot of money in fines.

Rule 80.6: SWEATER REMOVAL DURING A FIGHT – Shall be [assessed to] a player who deliberately removes his sweater prior to participating in a fight. A player who engages in a fight and whose sweater is removed (completely off his torso), other than through the actions of his opponent in the fight or through the actions of the referee, shall be assessed a minor unsportsmanlike penalty.

So if your sweater is pulled up in front of your face during a fight and you pull it off so you can see, you get a penalty. That said, I’ve never seen this happen. I’ve seen players’ jerseys removed during fights, but I’ve never seen a player take his own jersey off.

Rule 80.7: EQUIPMENT REMOVAL PRIOR TO OR DURING A FIGHT PENALTY ASSESSMENT – A player who removes his equipment prior to or during a fight on his own accord shall be assessed a minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. Any combination of the jersey removal and equipment removal will result in a minor penalty being assessed. This is in addition to other penalties to be assessed to the participants of a fight.

According to this, all fights should be done with full equipment on, including helmets and gloves. This is interesting, considering the next one:

Rule 80.8: INSTIGATOR WITH FACEMASK ON – Any player who instigates a fight with a face mask on against an opponent who already has his facemask off will be deemed an instigator.

So according to this rule, if you start a fight with your helmet on, you get a penalty. But according to the previous rule, if you remove your helmet before a fight, you get a penalty. Basically, every fight should result in seven minutes of penalties for one of the players involved – five for the fight, and two for either removing or not removing their helmet. There are plenty of fights where players drop gloves, helmets, sometimes even elbow pads. Never seen them get penalized for that.

But even ignoring the apparent contradiction here, this rule is irrelevant. Read the beginning: “Any player who instigates a fight…” Regardless of whether the helmets are on or off, if you “instigate” a fight, you’re an “instigator”.

Rule 91: HELMET LOST DURING PLAY – When a player in possession of the ball loses his helmet he must immediately release the ball by passing or shooting.

It’s happened a number of times in games I’ve seen – someone with the ball gets his helmet knocked off and immediately shoots and scores, and the fans around me start yelling that the goal shouldn’t count “because you’re not allowed to play without a helmet”. That is true, but as long as you shoot right away, the goal counts. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

Rule 25.3 (also 95.12): CAPTAIN COMMUNICATION WITH OFFICIALS – A complaint about a penalty is NOT a matter “relating to the interpretation of the rules” and a minor penalty shall be imposed against any Captain or other player making such a complaint.

So every time you see a penalized player look at the ref and hold their arms out in a “what did I do” gesture, that player should be given an extra penalty. This is related to the next one:

Rule 95.4: DISPUTES CALL BY BANGING THE BOARDS – A misconduct penalty shall be imposed on any player or players who bang the boards with their sticks or other objects at any time, showing disrespect for an Official’s decision.

Obviously, the refs never look in the penalty box once the player has arrived there. It’s not uncommon at all for the player to get in the penalty box, slam the door, and then pound on the glass or throw a water bottle.

Rule 47.1: 8-SECOND COUNT PROCEDURE – The 8 second time shall be kept by the trailing referee on the floor by a chopping wave of the hand for each second.

The ref manually counts 8 seconds starting from when he waves his hand to tell the shot clock operator to restart the shot clock. This makes total sense, since we don’t have any sort of computerized time-keeping device nearby that could possibly be used for this. And this is totally fair because all refs count at exactly the same speed every time.

Rule 55.11: DIRECTED INTO NET – If the ball is loose in the crease a player may not direct the ball into the goal.

I’m sure I’ve seen players dive at a loose ball in the crease trying to simply poke it past the goalie, though I cannot say for sure that such goals have counted. But why would a player bother trying to do this if the rule book says it wouldn’t count?

Rule 63: ILLEGAL CROSS-CHECKING – A defender who cross-checks a player, who is in a stationary position and not in possession of the ball shall be assessed a penalty.

Yup, you never see this in a lacrosse game.

Here’s a “rule” only notable by its absence: There is nothing in the rule book that says what happens if a penalty is called on the defensive team and then a goal is scored. In practice, the penalty is simply waved off as if it never happened, but in my opinion the penalty should still be recorded. They can skip putting the offender in the penalty box because of the goal, but I think a record of the penalty and the offender should still be made.

Week 11 picks

I tried something different this past week since the previous weeks hadn’t really gone so well. I reversed my picks – if I thought team A would win, I picked team B. I did this for all four games and after starting 0-2 (and thinking this was the dumbest idea I’d had in years), I went 2-0 in the last two games, thus ending the weekend 2-2 and rendering my experiment pointless.

This week I’m back to my regular picking strategy. Next year, I think it would be interesting to actually flip a coin each week and see how many people the coin can beat.

Record: 18-27 (.400)




BUF @ COL This one will be weird, since with all the injuries, trades, and suspensions, the entire game will be Tye Belanger and Anthony Cosmo lobbing the ball back and forth to each other, with John Grant and Mark Steenhuis trying to intercept the passes. Steve Dietrich will replace Cosmo in the fourth just because now he can. Bandits
WAS @ MIN Stealth fans yell at me when I pick the Stealth, which I guess is understandable given my overall record. But I’ve picked Washington to win 7 times this season, and they’ve won 4 of those games. So when I pick them, they win 57% of the time. That’s the highest percentage of any team in the league. You’re welcome. Stealth
TOR @ PHI Brandon Miller will not be playing this weekend (unless he appeals his suspension), so backup Kevin Croswell will be starting. But facing the backup goalie isn’t always the good news that you might think. Last year, the Rock faced Washington’s backup goalie when Tyler Richards was injured and he played a great game, giving the Stealth the win. That backup goalie was Kevin Croswell. Rock
EDM @ ROC Rochester now has Purves and Sullivan on their D – but both are suspended. They’ve also added defensive stud Scott Self who is not. They’ll be without Casey Powell, which I think is a good thing for their offense overall, but it might take a bit of time to reorganize. Edmonton has scored 14+ goals in 4 of the past 5 games and have won all four. Rush

The Casey Powell trade: Good or bad for the Mammoth?

Considering I’ve only known about the Casey Powell trade for about twelve hours, I’ve changed my mind about it a surprising number of times. First it was great because it shakes up both offenses. Then it was dumb because Casey Powell is old. Then it was smart because he’s not that old. Then it was dumb because even if he’s not that old, he’s unlikely to play for long, making this a rental move. Now I’m back to good.

The offense for both teams did need a shake-up, and this deal will certainly provide that. Casey Powell wasn’t having an outstanding season – 22 points in 7 games, which would be a 50 point season over 16 games. This is far from terrible, but it would be his lowest point total since 2000. The Knighthawks offense was getting a little crowded, with Powell, Dan Dawson, Cody Jamieson, Mike Accursi, Johnny Powless, Cory Vitarelli, Stephen Keogh, and Craig Point. This move takes Powell out of the mix, giving the rest of them a little more floor time, which if nothing else changes the dynamic. It might allow the Knighthawks to see a little more of the 8-10 point Dan Dawson and less of the 2-3 point Dan Dawson. If the Knighthawks offensive problems were a case of too many cooks, this may help the broth turn out a little better. Hopefully better than that metaphor just did.

Casey Powell

In the case of the Mammoth, John Grant is having a very good season, a little down from last year’s outstanding season, but that’s to be expected. Unfortunately, pretty much everyone else in the offense is down from last year as well. Adding Casey Powell to that mix will have the opposite effect than in Rochester. Rather than having too many people to pass to, the Mammoth only had one, and I’ve heard a lot of Mammoth fans talk about how all their offense flows through Grant. I’ve even heard suggestions that maybe sitting Grant for a game might be a good idea, just to let the offense know that it’s possible to take a shot yourself, even if Grant is on the floor. Adding Powell will change their dynamic as well, allowing them to not put Grant out there on every shift if they don’t want to. This also reduces the possibility of Grant being what we in the computer industry call a “single point of failure” – if Grant gets injured, the Mammoth offense might have fallen apart. With Powell in the lineup, they should be able to adapt a little easier. In fact, there is talk that Gavin Prout is injured and may miss the remainder of the season, in which case Powell simply replaces Prout.

There’s also the mentoring aspect – if you’re a young offensive player, particularly an American, it’s hard to imagine not being excited to have arguably the greatest American lacrosse player in history playing beside you.

The reason I thought this was a bad idea for a little while was based on an assumption that I do not know to be true – the assumption that Casey Powell will retire at the end of this season, or maybe next season at the latest. He just turned 37 and missed all of last season due to injury, so it stands to reason that he may not play much longer. If that’s true, then the Mammoth have given up Jon Sullivan (from a defense that could really use him) and a pick for at most a season and a half of Powell. Is he enough to turn the team around and make them contenders? If not, the deal makes no sense. They didn’t get Powell so they could be contenders for the next five years, this is a move for right now, and the Mammoth are in last place so there may not even be a “right now”.

But there are two reasons I changed my mind on this. First, 37 isn’t that old (right, John Tavares?). In fact, Powell is a year and four months younger than John Grant. Powell has retired from the MLL but he could play another few years if he can stay healthy. It’s a bit of a risk to assume that though.

The other reason is that in the current NLL, as long as you don’t finish dead last, you’re in the playoffs. And as Edmonton showed us last year (and several years ago in the NHL as well, now that I think about it), once you’re in the playoffs anything can happen. If Grant and Powell have a couple of very good games, Lewis and Belanger don’t have to be outstanding. If they’re just “good enough”, we could be talking about the 2013 Champion Colorado Mammoth. Weirder things have happened though admittedly, not many.

It’s likely that Powell is a rental player and will retire after this season. If the Mammoth get a Championship out of it, obviously it’s a good deal for them. Even if they just make the playoffs, you could argue it’s a good deal considering that they’re the team on the outside looking in at this point. If the Mammoth get a second season out of Powell, so much the better for them. It’s really only if he doesn’t play (or tanks) and they miss the playoffs that this doesn’t work out as as even a small win for the Mammoth.

As for the Knighthawks, the offense gets better through addition by subtraction, and they pick up a good experienced defender and a draft pick, so it’s a win for them as well.

Game Report: Colorado 10 @ Toronto 14

Lucky for me I don’t start writing my game report until well after the game has ended. If I were one of those actual reporters who bring their laptop and write during the game, I’d have been frustrated by the fact that I had to rewrite it after the first quarter. Then again, there were a few lengthy delays that would have given me plenty of time to write.

The Mammoth started out strong, both on offense and defense. After Blaine Manning put the Rock up early in the first, the Mammoth scored the next four while keeping the Rock off the board for over ten minutes. The Mammoth led 4-2 after one quarter and Dan Lewis, despite being 6’0″ and only 180 pounds (which is tiny for a goaltender), was playing very well. He moves around a lot more than Nick Rose but he has to, since Rose is the same height but 105 pounds heavier (and therefore wider). But in the second, Lewis was less effective as the Rock outscored the Mammoth 7-2. I thought they pulled Lewis a little early, and this did seem to backfire as Belanger allowed a goal on the first shot he faced, but he settled down quickly and kept the Rock off the board for fifteen minutes after that. Belanger played most of the second half as well (other than maybe a minute when he needed an equipment adjustment) and did very well for his first game since April last year (and only his fourth ever).

The Mammoth climbed back to within one three times, but just couldn’t get that one extra goal to tie it up. After a penalty to Richard Morgan halfway through the fourth (more on this later), Blaine Manning scored on the PP to give the Rock a 2-goal lead, and then Jesse Gamble continued his bid for Transition Player of the Year (he’s got my vote), scoring his second and third of the game late in the quarter, his third coming on a penalty shot. Make the final 14-10.

I’m not generally one to complain about reffing, but there were a few problems in tonight’s game. First off, there were four goal challenges and three of them took forever. The league really has to work on speeding these things up because they completely killed any flow or momentum in the game. I PVR’ed the game, and have gone over two of the reviews with a stopwatch. In the second quarter, Adam Jones scored and Troy Cordingley threw the challenge flag just as the faceoff was happening. The rule says the flag has to be thrown before the faceoff, but I guess they decided this was OK and 1:20 after the goal, the ref started the review. The review took an unbelievable 3:35, so by the time play began again, just shy of five minutes had elapsed.

Later on in the second after a goal by Stephen Leblanc, a Mammoth player fell to the ground with an apparent injury (though he ended up being OK), then Lewis needed some work done on his equipment, and then Bob Hamley threw the challenge flag. The time between the goal being scored and the flag being thrown was seventy seconds. The review didn’t even start for another minute after the flag was thrown, and then the review took another minute, so we had almost a 3½ minute delay between the goal and the face-off.

We were all angry at the time because we thought the rule was that the flag must be thrown within 20 seconds, but according to the rule book, what happened was perfectly legal. The challenge flag must be thrown “prior to the next faceoff”, and the refs are instructed to “endeavour to achieve a face-off… as soon as possible to a maximum of 20 seconds”, but the refs have leeway to allow for longer stoppages for injuries and things like that, so technically no rules were broken.

But that’s the problem – no rules were broken. Everything proceeded according to the rules, and yet we had such huge delays. The only rule that was not followed to the letter was:

Review by the officials shall be attempted to be completed within two minutes.

But since we have “shall be attempted to be” in there, this is more of what you’d call a guideline than an actual rule. The weird thing is that it was pretty evident from the overhead replay that the goal was good, so I’m not sure why it took so long.

In addition to the lengthy reviews, the Mammoth were given an undeserved penalty late in the game that might have been the final nail in the coffin. Richard Morgan hit Colin Doyle with what looked to me to be a clean check. Doyle might have embellished it a little but not a lot – Morgan is a big strong guy, and any check to your chest from such a man is going to knock you backwards. But it was still legal, and yet Morgan was sent to the penalty box. Blaine Manning scored on the resulting power play, putting the Rock up by 2. It’s not like a two-goal lead with 7 minutes left in the game is insurmountable by any stretch, but the unfairness of it might have taken a little of the wind out of the Mammoth’s sails.

Toronto fans weren’t too thrilled with the first quarter, but had to be happy with the Rock’s comeback and strong play in the fourth, which we didn’t see in last week’s loss to Buffalo. Mammoth fans were probably unhappy with their offense, which seemed disorganized, but should be fairly pleased with the play of their goaltenders. I thought they both played well – not outstanding, but Lewis was very good in the first quarter and Belanger only allowed 5 goals in the second half, one of which was a penalty shot.

Other game notes:

  • Toronto had four penalties, half of them bench minors. Colorado had eight penalties, half of them bench minors.
  • Rose tried to score on the empty Mammoth net in the final seconds of the second. He threw the ball way too high and hit the scoreboard. Pieces of it fell to the turf. Nick Rose broke the Air Canada Centre.
  • I listened to the most recent VoodooCast (a podcast done by Mammoth fans) on the way to the game. The panel mentioned what they believed to be Lewis’ weakness – he drops his right shoulder at inopportune times (like when the ball is flying towards it). The Rock’s second goal was a laser from Doyle directly at Lewis’ right shoulder, and just as the ball was coming towards him, he dropped the shoulder. Textbook. Maybe Doyle listened to the same podcast earlier in the day.
  • John Grant seems to be the quarterback of the Colorado offense and frequently takes the point position – except on the power play. When the Mammoth are a man up, Gavin Prout takes that position. Interesting. The Mammoth had four power plays and no goals, so maybe that strategy needs reworking.
  • A friend of mine commented that these behind-the-net “Air Gait” goals shouldn’t be allowed and I’m starting to agree. While some of them are spectacular to watch, it’s always seemed kind of cheap to me. Or maybe it’s because the Rock have allowed at least one of them per game this year.
  • Rock owner Jamie Dawick pledged to donate $25,000 of his own money to the Daily Bread Food Bank if the game was a sellout. The result? Attendance was up about 700 from the average of the previous four games. It wasn’t even the highest attendance this year. I was pretty skeptical we’d get the full 19,000+ to this game, but after all the hype, I was hoping for at least 14-15k. Disappointing.
  • The guy in front of me was texting on his phone almost the entire game. I check my phone twitter-reading device plenty of times as well, but usually only during TV timeouts and between quarters, rarely during play. This guy was writing a novel. The guy behind me was one of those guys who screams at the opposing players and refs about how much they suck. He was yelling at Lewis all night and when the Mammoth switched goalies, he was yelling about riding the pine. He yelled at one player to get a haircut. It wasn’t even short things like “Lewis you suck!”, it was full sentences, and he wasn’t even clever or funny. People, a word of advice. Don’t be that guy.

Week 10 picks

OK, this is getting silly now. Parity is great and all, but what I wouldn’t give for a 2007 Knighthawks vs. 2004 Anaheim Storm game – at least it’d make one pick easy.

I went 2-3 last week, which isn’t bad, but it’s my third sub-.500 week in a row. People have started to ask me on twitter NOT to pick their team so I’m going to spin things around this week. I will make my picks, and then record the opposite. Sounds silly, but if I’d done that the rest of the year, I’d be 25-16, batting .610.

But I’m tellin’ ya, if this doesn’t work, I may not bother with the picks thing next season. Maybe I’ll just do Power Rankings. Anybody can do those.

Record: 16-25 (.390)




MIN @ CAL Despite their recent struggles, I still find it hard to pick against the Roughnecks. This combined with a Suitor-less Swarm who have also been struggling lately, and I think the Roughnecks will get back to their winning ways and take this one. So I’m picking the Swarm. Swarm
COL @ TOR Top team in the league against the bottom team in the league – no-brainer, right? Not exactly. With the weapons that the Mammoth have and the fact that they’re hungry to prove themselves and get out of the basement, they could be a dangerous team. That said, the Rock aren’t happy with their loss to Buffalo last week. Like the Roughnecks, I think the Rock will get back to form and take this one. So I’m picking the Mammoth. Mammoth
COL @ BUF Tough one. Both teams have superstar players that can be unmatched when they’re on their game, but if you get them rattled, their effectiveness drops significantly. Colorado’s is Grant, and Buffalo’s is Cosmo. If either one of these guys is off his game, the other team’s likelihood of winning skyrockets. I’m not saying that Grant will be off his game, but I liked how Buffalo played last Thursday against the Rock so as long as they can avoid a fourth quarter collapse like they did against Philly (and like the Rock did against them), I think Buffalo can take it. So I’m picking the Mammoth. Mammoth
WAS @ PHI Hmmm… Philly’s won 3 in a row, Washington’s won 2. BMiller vs. TRich. Crowley, Buchanan and Ross vs. Duch, Ratcliff, and Iannucci. Reynolds vs. Snider. This is a close one, but Philly has surprised me too often this season to pick them to lose again. So I’m picking the Stealth. Stealth

NLL mid-season report: West division

The East consists of one really good team, a couple of good ones and one struggling, but the west is much more even. Last year we had two great teams, two good teams, and the Stealth. This year it’s more like five pretty good teams. Nobody is head and shoulders above the rest, and nobody is terrible – not even the last place Mammoth. Blah blah parity blah blah…


Roughnecks Calgary Roughnecks

Offense: A+

First in goals scored per game by more than a full goal. There are two Roughnecks in the top ten in scoring including #1 and five in the top twenty-one. Averaging 1.2 shorthanded goals per game. Have only scored less than 11 goals once, and they won that game. Scored 16+ four times in ten games. Best offense in the league – only the Toronto Rock is close.

Defense: C

7th in goals allowed per game, so they’re winning lots of high-scoring games. Only given up less than 10 twice, but have given up 16+ in each of the last four games and 15 in one other (though they won two of those). Poulin hasn’t looked like Poulin – in Calgary’s last three losses, he’s allowed 16 goals on 48 shots, 13 on 46, and 14 on 37. He’s 7th among starters in GAA and 9th in Save %.

Overall: A

Still my pick to win the West, though I’m reconsidering. After coming up with grades for the Rush, I had to think about which of the two I would rank higher. I eventually settled on giving each of them an A.


Mammoth Colorado Mammoth

Offense: D

Tied with the Knighthawks for 7th in goals per game. Grant is tied for 7th in points, then Prout at 16th. In terms of points per game, Grant is 3rd, Prout 13th, and Jones 17th. Of their top 10 scorers in 2012, 6 of them are down in points/game this year, two (MacLeod, McBride, Coates) are slightly up, and one (Hopcroft) is gone.

You couldn’t expect Junior’s production to stay at the 8.3 points per game he had last year (he’s down to 5.8), but as he’s dropped, so has just about everyone else. Derek Hopcroft was traded for a 5th round pick and is on the Bandits’ practice roster and playing in CLax. Jamie Shewchuk is sitting at home. First round draft pick Colton Clark has played in one game. They’ve been so focused on their goaltending situation that they have done nothing to shake up their offense. They’re just not clicking this year. This was the top scoring team in the league last season.

Defense: D-

Dead last in goals allowed per game with 13.8. They’re way worse at home (14.2) than on the road (13). They released Chris Levis after a terrible start and gave Matt Roik the keys. Then they released him and are trying Minnesota’s rookie-twin-terror strategy – Lewis and Belanger had a combined 30 minutes of NLL experience before this season. It worked for the Swarm last year, though not so much this year. Can it save the Mammoth’s season? Seems like a long shot.

Overall: D-

At the halfway point, there are no two ways about it: the Mammoth are the worst team in the league. But they’re not that different personnel-wise from the contending team they were last year. A little confidence and they could start winning but they need the wins to get the confidence.


Rush Edmonton Rush

Offense: A

Wow, this Mark Matthews kid just came out of nowhere! Who saw this coming? Oh wait, everybody did. Matthews leads the league in goals scored and is tied for 7th in points. The team is 2nd in goals per game and has three players in the top 13 scorers. When have you been able to say that about the Rush before? Matthews is the offensive star the Rush have never had, and he’s turned a decent offense into a great one. The Rush have scored 18 twice, 15 twice (though they lost one) and 14 twice.

Defense: A

2rd in goals allowed per game. The Rush are giving up less than 10 goals per game in away games. They’ve given up 10 or fewer goals in six games out of ten. Aaron Bold is 4th among starters in GAA, though only 8th in save %.

Overall: A

Last year, the Rush were decent offense and great defense. This year the defense is just as good but the offense is so much better.


Swarm Minnesota Swarm

Offense: B-

5th in goals per game. They’ve scored less than 10 goals in a game only three times. Ryan Benesch is 6th in points per game, Callum Crawford is 8th (but has missed 2 games), Shayne Jackson is 28th and Kiel Matisz is 30th. The next player is Jordan MacIntosh way down at 50th so it seems that the Big Four do pretty much all the scoring.

Defense: D

The Swarm are 6th in goals allowed per game; only Colorado and Calgary are higher. Strangely, the Swarm have given up an average of 2 more goals per game at home than on the road. The experiment with two young goalies that worked so well last year isn’t going so well this year. Both Evan Kirk and Tyler Carlson have GAA over 14, ranking them 9th (Carlson) and 10th (Kirk) among starters, and they are 6th (Carlson) and 7th (Kirk) in save percentage.

Overall: C+

I expected a lot from the Swarm this year – I picked them to finish second in the west. Right now they’re fourth and with captain Andrew Suitor out for the year, I have to wonder if the Swarm are already done. I was on a roundtable last week with the guys from and most of the panel believed that the loss of Suitor will be too much for this young team to handle and that they’ll be the team that finishes out of the playoffs. I’m not sure I’m ready to write the team off quite yet, but with all he does for the team, Suitor will be a tough guy to replace.


Stealth Washington Stealth

Offense: B

Right in the middle, at 4th in goals per game. I was about to say that “Rhys Duch is having a great year” but when I look over his points per game averages over his career, I found this:

    Season Points Points per game
    2009 89 5.56
    2010 86 5.38
    2011 90 5.63
    2012 (14 games) 79 5.64
    2013 (10 games) 57 5.70

Look at the points per game – talk about Mr. Consistency. Duch missed two games in 2012 and his total extrapolates to 90 points over 16 games, and this year he’s on a pace for 91. So yes, Duch is having a great year but not significantly better than his previous great years.

Duch is fourth in the league in points per game, while Iannucci and Ratcliff are 21st and 24th respectively. Cliff Smith is having a career year – he has 32 points in 10 games so far. He started the season with 44 career points in 33 games over four seasons.

Defense: B-

Also right in the middle, 4th in goals allowed per game. In their four losses, they’ve allowed 18, 15, 15, and 7 goals. OK, we’ll give the defense a pass on that last one. Tyler Richards is having a much better season than last year, with a GAA lower by more than two. Last year, Richards’ GAA was twelfth among starters last year. Twelfth is not great in a 9-team league. This year, he’s second. Nick Patterson had a 16.81 GAA but was released last week, replaced with former Mammoth Matt Roik.

Overall: A-

The goal for the Stealth in 2013 was (a) forget 2012 and (b) win Championship. Perhaps they thought about it in the other order but I think (a) had to be done before (b) was possible. At 5-4 and second in the West, they haven’t clinched a playoff berth yet but I think they’ve been successful in getting (a) accomplished. But (b) will be a bigger challenge.

Similar to the Bandits, their overall grade is higher than their offensive or defensive grades. Can’t argue with first in the West, though given how the Rush have been playing and how the Roughnecks should be playing, I’m not sure I’d count on the Stealth still being in first at the end of the season.