Week 10 picks

My streak of no more than one incorrect pick per week ends at 4, and my streak of .500 or better weeks ends at 7. I was 1-2 last week as Calgary and Minnesota pulled off the comeback victories. If the games ended at halftime, I’d have been 3-3.

Record: 26-13 (.667)

TOR @ EDM I keep asking this question, but can anybody beat the Rush? Well sure, in this league anyone could. I doubt the Rush will finish the season 18-0, so somebody’s going to beat them. Could it be Toronto? Maybe, but I’m not betting on it. Looking forward to watching this game on TV though. Rush
TOR @ CAL If there’s one thing I hate doing, it’s picking against my favourite team. If there’s one thing I hate doing more than that, it’s picking my team to lose twice in one weekend. But if I’m going to be non-homer-ific, I have to admit that Toronto’s inconsistent play recently is not likely to get them by a surging Roughnecks team in Calgary. Roughnecks
ROC @ COL Calgary was able to come back against Matt Vinc and the Knighthawks but I don’t see Colorado pulling it off. They have the firepower up front, but they don’t have the defense and goaltending is still up in the air. Knighthawks5

Game report: Minnesota 12 @ Toronto 14

Well, it was a better result than last week, anyway.

Last week’s Toronto Rock game sucked because the Rock started off playing strong for the first quarter and a half and then not only did they let the Knighthawks get back into it, they let the Knighthawks take complete control. In this week’s game the timing was different and the result was different, but it was similar in that the Rock should have had the game locked up but they let the Swarm get right back into it. They managed to pull off the win, but it ended up being a much closer game than it should have been. However the other big difference is that despite what was at one point a fairly lopsided score, I didn’t think the Rock were in control at all.

There were a few real weirdnesses with this game. Toronto had 13 goals and a nine goal lead in the 3rd quarter and I didn’t think they played all that well. The 1-6 Swarm were losing by 9 and had only scored 4 and weren’t playing all that bad. Nick Rose allowed only 4 goals in the first three quarters and I didn’t think he was all that strong at all, even before his collapse in the 4th.

I don’t even know how to describe the game. Despite the score, I never felt that the Rock were in control. The Minnesota defense is big and strong (Brock Sorensen had a very good game), and the Rock had some trouble getting by them, though perhaps their persistence paid off in that they’d pass around looking for a way to get through and eventually they’d find one. It reminds me of something that Tyler said on a recent Addicted to Lacrosse show about the Vancouver Stealth – they took advantage of the scoring opportunities that they were given, but they didn’t really create any.

Nick Rose was fine for most of the game, but I didn’t think he played great. He made most of the saves you expected him to make (Jordan MacIntosh’s first goal was a bit of a softie), but he still gives up too many rebounds and cannot guard against the behind-the-net Air Gait goals. He’s been burned by those more times than I can remember (thank goodness Drew Westervelt is in the west division now), and on Saturday he gave up three more in the 4th quarter alone, all by Jordan MacIntosh, including two within eleven seconds.

And then there was the comeback. The Rock managed to hold the Swarm to four goals in the first three quarters and scored eight goals in a row within 16 minutes, but then everything turned around. The Swarm held the Rock to a single goal (an empty-netter) in the final quarter, and scored seven straight in 10 minutes and six in the last five minutes of the game. A lot of the fans remembered the Knighthawks game last week and thought “here we go again”. I’m really not sure if the Rock were actually able to stop the bleeding or if Minnesota simply ran out of time, but the last half of the 4th quarter was all Swarm and from a Rock fan point of view, it was not pretty.

Yes, the Rock won the game, and I’m not going to argue that they didn’t deserve to win. But they didn’t dominate a team that was 1-6 and they almost blew it in the last quarter. If they play like that against the Rush and Roughnecks next weekend, we’ll have the makings of an 0-2 weekend.

Other game notes:

  • The first two goals of the game were fairly similar. Logan Schuss takes a shot which Rose stopped, but Brock Sorensen grabbed the rebound and deposited it over Rose who had no chance. A minute and a half later, Josh Sanderon takes a nice pass from Garrett Billings and shoots, Zach Higgins makes an excellent save, but it left him lying down to one side of the net. Stephen Leblanc grabbed the rebound and scored. Just watched the replay on the YouTube feed, and Stephen Stamp said the same thing. You know, great minds and all that.
  • Scott Johnston was in a fight in the 1st quarter, and it looked to me like he spent most of the rest of the first half trying to get in another one. I even predicted on Twitter that he’d finish the game in the dressing room – but it was Billy Hostrawser who did that after getting into his second fight of the game.
  • There are games that are “chippy” and then games that get out of hand, with fights all over the place and such. This game was right in between those – not one of those that bordered on the ridiculous, but “chippy” isn’t quite enough.
  • Andrew Suitor took an instigator penalty in the first quarter, which comes with a game misconduct. How is this a captain-like move? I like Suitor and he’s obviously a great player, but considering their 4th quarter comeback that they weren’t quite able to finish, I doubt the fight he started in the first was really worth his removal from the lineup.

Update: I went back and re-watched the video of the 3rd quarter of this game, and I felt I had to update this article since the Rock really did play well in the third. The defense was strong, Ethan O’Connor’s goal was very nice, Rob Hellyer scored a nice one as well, and Kasey Beirnes was all over the place in the offensive zone. Nick Rose made some great saves though as I’ve said before, he’s more the type to get in the way and make the stop than to make the acrobatic plays that Matt Vinc makes so you may not notice them quite as much. Anyway, I wanted to say that the general theme of the original article (the Rock won despite playing badly and Rose wasn’t great) is not completely true.

I couldn’t bring myself to watch the 4th quarter though.

Week 9 picks

Another 4-1 week! Third in a row, and fourth week in a row with only one incorrect pick. I should be bragging about my prediction prowess, but I’m too shocked given my sub-.500 records in the last 2 years.

Record: 25-11 (.694)

MIN @ TOR The Rock had their asses handed to them last weekend, and they’ll also be looking for payback against the Swarm, who knocked them out of the playoffs last season. The Rock have been dominant at home except for last week, while the Swarm haven’t been dominant anywhere. Rock533
ROC @ CAL Rochester obviously has a strong defense and goaltending, but one of their criticisms this season has been their offense. Only one team (Minnesota) has scored fewer goals. But after scoring 17 last weekend, they got that monkey off their backs. The Roughnecks have lots of offensive threats as well, but I think the Rochester defense has a better shot of shutting them down than the Calgary defense has with the Knighthawks. Knighthawks
MIN @ PHI I hate to predict an 0-2 weekend for a 1-6 team, but there it is. The Wings are the only team the Swarm have beaten so far this season and they’re also on a three-game losing streak. But at this point I have more confidence that the Wings can turn it around than the Swarm. Wings

Game report: Rochester 17 @ Toronto 9

So, that game sucked.

The first quarter wasn’t bad. Nick Rose was playing pretty well and only allowed one goal, Colin Doyle had a hat-trick, things were looking pretty good. It wasn’t great, in that nobody other than Doyle was able to score, but hey, it’s Matt Vinc so you can’t expect much better. The fact that so many shots were missing the net entirely was a little worrisome, but that’ll get better, right? Well no, not really.

The Knighthawks came out stronger in the second, taking the lead halfway through the quarter. Again, Doyle seems to be the only Rock player who can solve Vinc, but then Steph Leblanc scores a couple and Patrick Merrill pulls a Geoff Snider and scores right off the face-off. The Rock have the lead back again, the Knighthawks momentum has been stopped, and things are looking good again, right? Well no, not really.

Out of nowhere, Rochester scores four within two minutes and while it may not have had an effect on Nick Rose’s confidence, it certainly affected that of all the fans near me. Suddenly the Rock are losing going into halftime, and whatever momentum there is belongs to Rochester. After halftime, that momentum continued for the Knighthawks, as they reeled off another seven in a row, leading many a Rock fan in attendance to wonder “wasn’t it 7-5 for the Rock at one point?” I know I’ve seen the Rock come back to win a game that they were losing by 7 in the fourth quarter, and I think they’ve come back from a deficit of 8 once. But not against Matt Vinc and the Rochester defense. And not the way the Rock were playing on this night.

The Rock D just didn’t have an answer for the Knighthawks offense. Maybe it’s that the Rock defenders aren’t all that big – of the twelve D or T players on the Rock, only AJ Masson and Craig England are over 200 pounds. Compare that with the Knighthawks – of their 12 D or T players, only four are under 200 pounds, and one of those is 197.

The Rock rookies have been playing pretty well this year – mainly O’Connor, England, and Lum-Walker – but O’Connor and England (Lum-Walker was sent to the practice roster when Merrill returned) really did look like rookies in this game, making silly mistakes, getting easily beaten by forwards, and taking dumb penalties; particularly England who after serving a two-minute penalty, left the penalty box, ran across the floor, checked Cody Jamieson across the back, and returned to the penalty box. The two teams played 5-on-5 for seven seconds before Rochester was back on the PP.

But to be fair, some of the Rock veterans played like rookies as well. I’m not sure I’ve ever had occasion to say this before, but Garrett Billings did not have a good night at all. He scored once, near the end of the game, but otherwise he was missing the net (by several feet at times), missing passes, dropping the ball when nobody was around him, all kinds of things. He just didn’t look good.

So the days of the Rock hosting the Knighthawks and expecting to win because they always have are gone, as are the days of the Rock expecting to lose in Rochester. The Rock are no longer undefeated at home, and the Knighthawks are no longer winless on the road. Next week Minnesota comes to town, and then a couple of weeks after that it’s the Knighthawks again.

Other game notes:

  • Patrick Merrill returns and Scott Johnston continues taking face-offs? Well, he took the opening one and then 9 more, while Merrill took 18. AJ Masson and Sandy Chapman took one each as well. As a whole, they won 33% of them. Someone on the IL Indoor message boards talked about acquiring Jordan MacIntosh from Minnesota. This would be an expensive acquisition (at least a first round draft pick, if not two) but how great would it be to have him, Gamble, and Edwards on transition?
  • The Rock announced the game’s three stars after the game – Jamieson, Keogh, and Dawson. What? No Matt Vinc? Have to disagree there. My three would have been Vinc, Keogh, and Jamieson.
  • Nick Rose allowed 14 of the 17 Rochester goals, including 10 of their 11 in a row. They really didn’t think after he’d allowed, say, 6 in a row and the team went from winning by 2 to losing by 4 that maybe it was time for a change? Was it because they are overconfident in Rose’s ability to stop the bleeding or because they lack confidence in Boychuk, who I thought did a fine job in relief?

Week 8 picks

OK, this is really getting weird. Another 4-1 week, and I’ve now got more than twice as many correct picks as incorrect ones. I’m tied with Brian Shanahan and two games ahead of anyone else on the IL Indoor team. I’m totally not used to this, and I’m assuming I’ve got some 0-fer weeks coming up. The really weird thing is that if I missed every pick in the next three weeks, I’d still be at .500. But I’ll try not to let it go to my head.

Read on for this week’s winners. Guaranteed, or your money back. Unfortunately, I didn’t get this article out early enough to put in my regular analysis, but I did give some when I gave my picks on this week’s Addicted to Lacrosse show.

Record: 21-10 (.677)

VAN @ COL Rhys Duch and Kyle Sorensen are back, which will give the Stealth a boost. Will it be enough to get past Grant/Westervelt/Powell without Adam Jones? I must have thought so on Monday when I did my picks though I have to say I’m less than 100% sure of this now. But I’m not sure I actually want to change it either. Stealth
EDM @ MIN Can anyone beat Edmonton? Yes, at some point this season someone will. But at this point, it ain’t gonna be Minnesota. Rush43_thumb33
ROC @ TOR Probably a homer pick. Tyler mentioned a good point in the show – that it’s hard to pick Rose over Vinc. But the Rock have been scoring way more than the Knighthawks, so I’m going with the home team. Rock53
PHI @ BUF Philly has already beat the Bandits, but Buffalo is playing far better now. Bandits43_thumb33
VAN @ CAL Given how they’ve been playing, it’s hard to pick Vancouver to win once, let alone twice in the same weekend. Roughnecks5

Game report: Philadelphia 10 @ Toronto 20

Friday night’s game in Toronto started off looking somewhat similar to the Vancouver Stealth’s visit to the ACC a week ago. The Wings came out fairly strong, scoring two minutes in, and playing a very physical game both on offense and defense. But while Vancouver dominated the first quarter before the Rock got the engine fired up and raced ahead, the Wings never dominated at all, they just happened to score first.

For the first quarter, I thought the Wings played pretty good defense. The Rock weren’t getting many good looks at all though they did pick up 3 goals in the first quarter. But for the rest of the game, the Rock scored almost at will. Inside, outside, bouncers, in close, bad angles, everything was going in. The goals were spread around among the forwards; Garrett Billings led with 6 while Stephen Leblanc and Kasey Beirnes had 4 each. Only three Rock players who hit the floor didn’t record a point, and one of them was Nick Rose. But the oddest stat of the night for the Rock was Josh Sanderson’s line: 0G, 2A. Whaaaa…? The Rock score 20 and one of the best feeders in the history of the league picks up only 2 assists?

On Friday afternoon, I expressed my concern about the Rock’s face-off situation, with Stephen Hoar having been released. In this game, anyway, it wasn’t a huge concern. Scott Johnston was the man, taking 29 face-offs and winning 41% of them. Of the players that might have been chosen for this task, Johnston wasn’t one of the ones I was expecting, considering he’d taken all of one faceoff this year (though he won it), none last year, and three in 2012 (lost ’em all). A 41% face-off percentage isn’t stellar, but it’s better than Hoar’s 35.7%, and not far below the 44.8% that Patrick Merrill pulled in last season.

The Wings obviously didn’t have the greatest night, but your offense is going to suffer when someone like Jordan Hall is out of the lineup. Of course, offense wasn’t their problem so much as defense. Both of the goalies were hot and cold – they obviously let in a good number of goals (20 of them on only 49 shots), but each of them made some pretty impressive stops as well. The Rock defense was strong, and while Kevin Crowley did have one of his standard “dive across the crease” goals, most of the time the Philly forwards couldn’t get in close. Ryan Ward only scored one but it was a beautiful low shot through traffic, and Tracey Kelusky continues his resurgence after two disappointing seasons in Buffalo.

I didn’t actually think the Wings played that badly overall. They obviously weren’t great, and their physical play seemed to diminish over the course of the game, but the Rock won this game because they were firing on all cylinders.

Other game notes:

  • Damn, that Garrett Thul is a big man. It was a little weird to see 6’4″ Thul and 6’4″ Kevin Crowley next to the 5’8″ Tracey Kelusky, 5’8″ Kyle Buchanan, and 5’9″ Ryan Ward.
  • In the 3rd, Ethan O’Connor fell down just outside the crease and Evan Kirk fell over him. CJ Costabile then jumped on O’Connor and started pounding on him. This seemed to me to be a really dumb play – it was quite obvious that Kirk falling over O’Connor was purely an accident, so there was no need for Costabile to “retaliate”. They were already down by 7 and the retaliation put the Rock on another power play. The Wings did score a shorthanded goal during that penalty, which ended up offsetting the Rock PP goal that Kasey Beirnes scored 45 seconds later, but still. Unnecessary penalties are never smart (that’s why they’re called “unnecessary”) but they seem extra dumb when you’re desperately trying to get back into a game.
  • Speaking of the Wings’ shorthanded goal, it was a thing of beauty. Check out the video: Nick Rose sends a pass up to Garrett Billings, who gently tosses it to a teammate (can’t see who on the video), but Pat Saunders just puts his stick in the way and the ball goes into it. He turns around, just as surprised as anyone else, and races back towards the net. He dekes around Billings and then around Marshall and puts one over Nick Rose’s right shoulder. Nice.
  • Funniest moment of the night: Damon Edwards races up on a breakaway chasing the ball, but Evan Kirk, way out of his crease, gets to it first. Edwards hits Kirk though not especially hard, and Kirk passes the ball away. Brodie Merrill doesn’t like the fact that Edwards hit his goalie, so he nails Edwards and drops his gloves. Edwards just calmly walks away, and Brodie gets an unsportsmanlike conduct minor. “You’re gonna hit our goalie, huh? Get over here and I’ll teach you some mann– hey, where you going? Come back here!”
  • The guy beside me wouldn’t shut up all night. Just kept yappin’ and yappin’, Mammoth this and Denver that… I’m totally kidding, Jonathon, it was great to meet you and Annette!

Week 7 picks… and more!

Another good week – 4-1! I’ve only had one week under .500, and that was 1-2 in week 1. In four of the other five weeks, I’ve only gotten one wrong. WTF? This is certainly different from the last two years where I finished under .500.

This is a two-in-one article, since you get my picks and as an added FREE bonus, some thoughts on the Rock roster moves this week.

Record: 17-9 (.654)

PHI @ TOR Toronto is undefeated at home, but the Wings are on a 2-game win streak and are 2-1 on the road. Should be a good game, and I’m predicting the Rock’s home winning streak to continue. Rock5
EDM @ PHI I think I said this last week. Until the Rush does something to convince me that they’re not the best team in the league, I’m probably just going to keep picking them. Rush43_thumb3
BUF @ ROC Similar to the Rush, the Bandits are playing great right now and I’ll probably keep picking them too, until they play Edmonton. Then I have no idea. Bandits43_thumb3
CAL @ MIN Calgary’s not having their greatest season ever, but it’s better than the Swarm’s so far. Logan Schuss is playing well but thus far isn’t the offensive star he was projected to be, and the production from Matisz and Jackson is way down. Roughnecks
COL @ VAN The Stealth are on a 4-game losing streak and confidence has to be pretty low – and they’ll be without Rhys Duch who’s serving a suspension. They’ve already beaten the Mammoth this season, but that was with Duch and the Mammoth were without Casey Powell. Mammoth4

I never managed to write an entire article on my thought about the Rock moves this week, acquiring Billy Hostrawser from the Stealth and releasing Stephen Hoar, so I’ll just put a couple of thoughts here. First off, I have no problem with acquiring Hostrawser for draft picks – unless they’re in the first round, draft picks are always a crapshoot anyway so giving them up for an actual warm body who can play now is fine. And he’s a young defender who can fight – just ask Mike Lum-Walker, his new teammate and sparring partner in last week’s Rock/Stealth game. He’s even scored a goal and has a few assists.

I am a little puzzled by Hoar’s release, though. In a number of interviews, both Terry Sanderson and John Lovell have mentioned that they are looking forward to the return of Patrick Merrill and Chris White (and Bill Greer, while he was out) because they bring some veteran leadership to the defense. They said that the young players (Lum-Walker, O’Connor, Dunn, England) are doing fine but more veterans on the back end would not only help the team but would help the kids to learn as well. And then they release Hoar, who is a veteran defender, and replace him with a guy with all of 15 games of NLL experience.

Hoar is also their only face-off guy who’s not injured. So I hope Patrick Merrill is back tonight, since 13 Rock face-offs this year have not been taken by Hoar, and they’ve only won 5 of them. Hostrawser has never taken one in the NLL, so no help there. That said, it’s not like Hoar is Geoff Snider either. He has a sub-.500 career faceoff percentage and was only at 35.7% this season. The Rock have never had a really strong face-off guy, since Merrill is under .500 over his career as well.

On the importance of handshakes

One of my favourite things about the NLL is the handshake line after the game. Fans of the game are always talking about the fact that they do this; it’s something unique about lacrosse and displays the camaraderie and respect among the players. Hell, I think it should be a selling point for the league – the fact that they can battle so hard for 60 minutes and then shake hands with the other team once they’re done should be part and parcel of the whole “weekend warrior” / “for the love of the game” thing. But if some people have their way, this tradition will be a thing of the past.

Last weekend, there were a couple of incidents that happened during the handshakes. In the Toronto/Buffalo game, John Tavares held up the line for half a minute while airing some grievances to the Rock players. It didn’t last long before Shawn Williams went around Tavares and began the handshakes. Tavares followed suit shortly thereafter, and that was the end of it. In that case, nothing really physical happened. In another game, Joel McCready had some strong words for Jeremy Thompson after the handshakes, and that confrontation did get physical. After that game, Buffalo assistant coach (and former Rigger coach – hence the handle) Dave Pym tweeted:

Example of why handshakes after games are not smart. Macready and Thompson getting into it after shake in edm.

I have tremendous respect for Mr. Pym, but I must disagree with him here.

Here’s the perceived problem with the handshakes. You have a bunch of young, competitive, testosterone-filled men who have been battling each other for 60 minutes, in a very physical and rough (some might even say violent) sport. There were probably lots of hits (some legal, some not), lots of penalties, lots of things that one side or the other think should have been penalties, lots of trash talk (some friendly, some not), and maybe even some fights. Half of these guys are excited because they won the game, the other half disappointed because they lost. Then immediately after the game ends, you get those same guys together and have them all shake hands. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, right? You might think so, but the numbers show that it’s just not.

Problems during the handshake lines are few and far between. I’ve seen a number of games over the years where the handshake line goes awry and turns into the exact opposite of the show of respect it’s intended to be. But really, how often does it happen? A few times a year? Sure it happened twice last weekend (in the same night) but that’s definitely the exception and not the rule – and nothing significant happened in the Buffalo case anyway. In 90+% of the games, the handshake line is the show of respect it’s intended to be, and many a newcomer to a lacrosse game is surprised (and impressed) when they hear that it happens after every game.

If they do decide to get rid of it, how would they announce this? What would the press release look like? What reasons would they give? More importantly, how would the fans and media react? Even if the announcement by the league is innocuous, can’t you just see a news story that starts like this:

National Lacrosse League abandoning handshakes

The National Lacrosse League announced today that the players will no longer shake hands after every game. For more than 25 years, the league’s players have held the traditional handshake line immediately following every game, both during the regular season and the playoffs. But the league has decided that due to incidents of fighting during or following the handshakes, this tradition will be scrapped.

What kind of impression does that give about lacrosse players? I know people who already think lacrosse is a brutally violent game for thugs who like to hit each other with sticks. This is simply going to reinforce that negative stereotype.

Why not point the finger at the real culprits here – the players who can’t keep their emotions in check? I realize that that’s a totally unfair statement. We’ve all had times where we’ve been so angry at someone that the thought of shaking their hand at that moment is repulsive, so I get that sometimes it’s an incredibly hard thing to do. But if that’s the case, walk away. If you don’t think you can hold yourself back enough to get through the handshake line, just head to the dressing room. In extreme cases, the refs may decide that emotions are running high enough that the handshake line is too much of a powderkeg, and they should cancel it for that game. It’s happened in the past, and it’s a perfectly viable solution. But we shouldn’t remove it from every game because a problem might happen in a handful of them.

I think the handshakes are a very important part of the NLL and I would be very disappointed to see them abandoned. During the handshakes in Buffalo, every Rock player and coach hugged Shawn Williams, and they all expressed their thoughts and hopes for a quick recovery for his son Tucker. During that line, none of the Rock players remembered or even cared, just for a few seconds, that they had lost the game. That was a special moment for all fans watching, and especially for Williams and his family. I realize that a lot of the Rock players would likely have done it anyway at the post-game party or some other time, but doing it on the floor right after such a rough game was the quintessential example of the respect these players have for each other, and truly showed that they really are a big family.

Game report: Toronto 10 @ Buffalo 12

The Rock playing in Banditland. As a Rock fan, this is almost better than the Bandits playing in Toronto. The two teams are pulling in roughly the same sized crowds this year (13465 average for Buffalo, 11177 for Toronto), but the Buffalo people are way louder. Of course, they all cheer for the wrong team, but nobody’s perfect. Anyway, they love to hate the Rock just as we Rock fans love to hate the Bandits. Saturday night’s game was perfect for fuelling this rivalry, being a very physical game with lots of chirping between the teams. No actual fights, but it got close several times, including in the handshake line. And keeping the Buffalo crowd loud was the fact that the Bandits led for more than half the game and won.

The Rock played the reverse game from Friday night – instead of improving throughout the game, they got worse. We’ve all seen it before, the team that’s losing near the end of the 4th quarter gets frustrated and they start taking dumb penalties. The Bandits have been guilty of that on many occasions, but the Rock have usually been one of those teams that doesn’t succumb to that. On this night they did. Even Colin Doyle got into it, taking what’s called an “Intentional Contact” penalty, described in the rule book as “any player who intentionally makes contact with another player after the whistle has blown and during dead ball situations”. He and John Tavares were jawing at each other a few times in the 4th quarter, and Tavares even held up the handshake line for a minute yelling at some of the Rock players. The ever-classy Shawn Williams actually shoved Tavares out of the way in order to shake hands with the Rock players. This turned into a hug per person as everyone wished Williams well and expressed their hopes and thoughts for his son Tucker.

Both goaltenders were great, particularly Cosmo who is having a great season. Nick Rose must have read my game report from last night where I said he doesn’t make the spectacular saves as much as other goalies, since he had a few more of the big “wow, how did he stop that?” saves than he usually does. Cosmo made lots of those, and on the few occasions where the Rock picked up a big rebound and shot again right away, almost always came up big again. There was one occasion where he didn’t – Cosmo stopped a shot and Kasey Beirnes grabbed the rebound right on the doorstep and scored, but that goal was inexplicably waved off. It may have had something to do with the delayed penalty that was called at the time, but the penalty was being called against Buffalo, which means that the play should continue until Buffalo gains possession, which they didn’t. A shot that Cosmo stops resets the shot clock, but does not count as possession so since the Rock grabbed the rebound, that goal should have counted. (There were more penalties called at the same time, but that was Marshall and Priolo getting into it after play had already stopped.)

This was a very entertaining game, but there were actually some dumb plays on both sides. The Rock allowed a pretty two-on-one with Ryan Benesch and Steve Priolo early in the second, but the Bandits were shorthanded at the time – how do you allow a 2-on-1 for that length of time while on the PP? Later in the second, the Rock got two penalties at the same time but Mark Steenhuis must have said or done something dumb and got himself an Unsportsmanlike Conduct penalty, negating what would have been a two-minute 5-on-3.

I saw a number of comments on Twitter saying that the refs had lost control of the game, but I think the opposite was true – they had complete control of the game. They were calling penalties left and right, slowing down the game and making sure nothing got out of hand. This not to say that I agreed with all of the penalties, but while there was lots of chippiness and it was very physical, there were no actual fights. Things did cool down a little in the second half, with only 3 penalties called in the 3rd quarter and 5 in the 4th (after 9 in the 1st and 15 in the second).

The Rock tied the game in every quarter but only led once, in the third for 10 minutes. In the fourth they were down by 3 with 3½ minutes left, and I don’t want to say they gave up, but that’s when Doyle took his Intentional Contact penalty and some more rough stuff ensued. It certainly looked like one of these “if we’re going to lose, let’s go down swinging” attitudes that the Bandits more than the Rock have been known for. The Bandits took a Too Many Men penalty with <2 minutes left, resulting in an automatic penalty shot. But Kasey Beirnes missed the net entirely. When Josh Sanderson scored less than a minute later, that miss really became costly – “down by one with a minute left” is very different from “down by two with a minute left”. The Bandits were able to run out the clock and that was all she wrote.

Other game notes:

  • Since Tucker Williams couldn’t make the game, the Bandits set up a facetime session with him in his hospital room, and the entire crowd sang Happy Birthday to him while he watched live. That was awesome. Great to see #BraverThanBrave on the ribbon board and T-shirts as well as on all the players’ helmets.
  • People who are homers are partially funny but mostly irritating. There was a guy behind me who stood up and held his arms out on just about every Bandits penalty (which means he was standing a lot) and every time a Bandit player got hit with a legal check that wasn’t penalized. Meanwhile, if a Bandits player had pulled out a knife and stabbed a Rock player in the chest, he’d have been all “Oh come on, you’re calling that?”
  • John Tavares was given a five minute major for high-sticking early in the fourth, but it looked to me like a cross check to the chest that slid up and hit the player in the head, not a cross check to the head. I get that they want to cut down the head shots and so they penalize them hard, but if the head contact was unintentional like in this case, two minutes would have been sufficient. A major penalty seemed unnecessary. Kudos to the Bandits for only allowing a single PP goal in that five minutes.
  • In the second quarter, Andrew Watt scored a beautiful breakaway goal that was immediately waved off. Just about all the Bandits fans near me were up in arms at the obvious injustice (particularly the guy behind me), yelling about how the ref was obviously blind and incompetent – until the replay was shown. Once it became obvious that Watt was indeed in the crease, the shouting stopped. Turns out the ref does occasionally get it right.
  • The Bandits somehow don’t use a computer to display the shots on goal on the video board. At one point, the Bandits shots were 9 in the first quarter, 15 in the second, and none in the third, for a total of 25. Another time, the Rock had 13 in the first and 9 in the second, totaling 23. Ummm… no. Note that the Bandits incorrect total was up for all of half-time, so it’s not a question of my looking just at the wrong second after they’ve updated one but not the other. And if you’re using a computer to do it, they really should be updated at the same time.
  • Steve Priolo scares me. Right at the end of the game, there was some pushing and shoving near the Toronto net, and Priolo went after someone. The ref pulled him off but had to hold him back – he wanted to get right back in there. A couple of years ago I saw Priolo in a game where he was trying to start a fight but nobody would fight him. He literally ran around in circles looking for someone to fight. He’s playing very well this year, but he’s a very big, very strong guy and if he can’t control his temper… Like I said, he scares me.

Game report: Vancouver 12 @ Toronto 17

Last week, all three games featured comebacks. On Friday night, the Rock continued the trend, coming back from a 6-2 deficit in the first quarter to win 17-12. I mentioned to a friend when coming out of Friday night’s game “That had the makings of a very bad game… until the Stealth decided they were no longer interested.” That’s really what it looked like – that the Stealth simply lost interest in the game and allowed the Rock to get back in it. And once they did, Toronto kept the pressure on and the Stealth collapsed like a house of cards. By the 4th quarter, they seemed to spend less time fighting for possession and loose balls and more time fighting.

The Stealth came out for the first quarter fired up. They had crisp passing, great goaltending, and after one quarter they had six goals from six different people. After their sixth goal, there were people near me calling for Nick Rose to be pulled. Rose just didn’t seem to be seeing the ball well, particularly the low shots. But the Rock stuck with Rose, and it turned out to be a good decision. After allowing six goals in the first quarter, he only allowed six the rest of the game.

It’s harder to tell with Rose than other goalies whether he had a good game or not. He’s less of a reactionary goalie than guys like Tyler Richards, so he gets set up in a position to block shots with his body without moving much, while Richards moves around a lot more. When a ball beats Rose, he barely moves at all so it looks either like an excellent shot or like a complete goalie screw-up. On the other hand, even if Rose has a great night, you still don’t often see the spectacular saves like you’ll see from Richards.

All that said, I think Rose played a really good game after the first quarter. Tyler Richards played a great game except for the 4th quarter, when he seemed to lose confidence and was replaced by Matt Roik. Odd – the three best NLL goalies right now in my opinion would be Vinc, Richards, and Aaron Bold, and all three have been pulled in the last week.

There wasn’t a clear momentum shift, it was rather gradual. But looking back over the game, it was a definite trend – the Stealth started strong and gradually got sloppier as the game progressed, and the Rock didn’t start so strong but their game improved throughout the night. Confidence is such a huge thing in lacrosse, and in sports in general. As the game went on, the Rock’s confidence level kept increasing and it was evident in their play, while the Stealth’s confidence seemed to evaporate.

There were some spectacular plays in this game. Here are links to the YouTube video of the game with time codes:

Other game notes:

  • Tyler Digby is one big dude. I don’t know if he considers himself a lacrosse player who also plays football (he was drafted into the CFL), or a football player who also plays lacrosse, but he plays lacrosse like a football player. Stephen Leblanc tried to set a pick on him at one point – I don’t think Digby even noticed.
  • Nice to see the Rock with BraverThanBrave stickers on their helmets. This will apparently be a league-wide thing, and I’ve also heard that among the myriad other fundraisers going on by various teams and leagues for Tucker Williams, every player in the NLL will be donating their per diem for one week to the Williams family. The lacrosse community is one big family, and you see it the most when someone needs it the most. A couple of years ago it was Sean Pollock, then Chris Sanderson and Kyle Miller, and now Shawn Williams. You know these kind of heartbreaking stories are going to come up from time to time, and some have happier endings than others, but it’s got to be nice for the players knowing that all the other players, coaches, executives, and fans have your back – as hard as they will fight you on the floor, they will support you just as hard off the floor.
  • I’ve written many times before about how I’m not a fan of fighting in lacrosse. I guess it’s rubbed off on my son Ryan, since after the Ethan O’Connor / Nick Weiss fight, the following conversation occurred while O’Connor was being cheered on his way to the penalty box:

Ryan: Why are they cheering him?
Me: He was in a fight.
<pause> My question still stands.

  • This was quite the penalty-filled game. Some of the penalties were dumb (Damon Edwards and Sandy Chapman each knocked people down on their way to the bench and were sent off for roughing, though Chapman did it twice and each time took a Stealth player to the box with him), while others were questionable calls (some off-ball pushing that was called roughing). There were eight penalties called in the 1st quarter and nine in the third. Now and again they’d be playing 5 on 5 and I thought “there are a lot of people on the floor” because one or both teams had been down a man so often.