The Toronto Rock and Calgary Roughnecks opened their seasons on Friday night in Toronto, and things couldn’t really have gone much better for the Rock. Captain Colin Doyle scored the first goal of the season four minutes in, and two minutes later, the Rock had a three goal lead. Not only did the Rock keep the lead for the rest of the game, but Calgary only got back within one once, and after the first quarter, the Rock’s lead would never drop below three. The Roughnecks had problems in all areas of the floor – goaltending, defense, taking bad penalties, and particularly the offense, which looked pretty sloppy. Shots were missing the net all night, and other times a Roughnecks player would try to sneak one by Rose through a screen rather than waiting for a better shot opportunity.
That said, the Riggers did try to make a game of it in the 3rd and 4th, as Jeff Shattler scored four straight Calgary goals and then early in the fourth, Shawn Evans and Curtis Dickson (neither of whom had scored up to this point) each scored to bring the Roughnecks back to within 3 with 10 minutes to play – and of course 10 minutes to score 3 goals is tons of time. But Nick Rose and the Rock D only allowed one more the rest of the way, and the Rock offense never let up the pressure.
Garrett Billings scored one and assisted on nine to lead the game (and now the league) in scoring, and Stephen Leblanc had an excellent game with 5 goals and a couple of helpers. Jesse Gamble is already making me reconsider my Transition Player of the Year prediction (Geoff Snider), and I wondered during the game who would win in a race: Gamble or Steve Toll in his prime. On the Calgary side, Shawn Evans had a goal and seven assists, and Jeff Shattler scored four. I noticed rookies Karsen Leung and Garrett McIntosh a few times but I don’t even remember seeing Tor Reinholdt’s name. He’s on the scoresheet, so he obviously played, but I have no memory of him.
But man, those Roughnecks have some pests, don’t they? Evans, Dobbie, and Snider spent a grand total of 2 minutes in the penalty box, but they were being their usual irritating selves (though if I were an NLL GM, I’d take any one of them on my team in a heartbeat), and Greg (or possibly Jon) Harnett and Andrew McBride also got in on the action. There were no fights but a fair bit of pushing and shoving all night, which is somewhat typical between these teams. However Mike Carnegie was given a 5-minute major for illegal cross-checking which I didn’t think was warranted at all. It looked to me like a good hit – maybe high across the chest, but I didn’t think it was a head hit, and it certainly didn’t look like an intentional head hit.
Next weekend, the Rock travel to Buffalo to see old coach Troy Cordingley, while the Roughnecks host the Mammoth.
Other game notes:
- Nice to see Ethan O’Connor get his first NLL goal in his first NLL game. Sure it was an empty-netter, but it still counts.
- Mike Poulin was hot and cold. Mostly cold in the first half and better as the game went on, but he made a few damned impressive saves throughout the game. Nick Rose had a few OMG-worthy saves as well, but let in a couple of softies. Then again, when Jeff Shattler is standing 15 feet from you and winding up like he’s going to put a 100 mph shot through you, you’re getting ready to feel the pain. You’re not looking for a 40 mph change-up that bounces right at your feet.
- Right at the end of the game, Damon Edwards was running out the last 5 or 10 seconds on the clock, when McBride started hitting him into the boards with some legal but very hard cross-checks – much harder than the situation warranted. When the hits continued after the final buzzer Edwards started shoving back, and a fight almost began. The refs broke it up before anything happened, and a minute later they were shaking hands in the lineup.
- The Rock cheerleaders had new outfits including denim jackets, but it looked like they decided that each girl would go and buy their own, since none of them matched. Some were longer than others, some were light blue while others were dark, it was weird. Normally their outfits are very co-ordinated.
- I like the Trainer’s Choice commercial they show on the Jumbotron during Rock games, showing players falling on various parts of their body. The best part is when they show a player falling through the crease. As soon as his elbow hits the ground, the video stops and the word “ANKLE” appears in big letters. This is a sports medicine company.
- They didn’t show the car rental company commercial that everyone loves. (“A little more to your right, a little back to the left, just an inch more to your right. OK, there. Do it. <BANG>”) I can’t currently remember which car rental company it’s for, so from that point of view it’s a lousy commercial. Makes me laugh every time though.