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
phonetwitter-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.