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:
- Here’s a blistering shot from Garrett Billings that beats Richards but doesn’t beat the post. I think Richards is probably glad it didn’t hit him. He’d have been feeling that one for days.
- Rob Hellyer takes a shot which Richards stops. Richards then tries to pass it up to Tyler Digby for a breakaway, but Hellyer leaps into the air and somehow snags the ball.
- Nick Rose sends an outlet pass up the floor to Jesse Gamble who dances around and between two defenders and beats Richards with a beauty.
- Alex Gajic does some dancing of his own, deking around Kyle Belton, then scores through traffic.
- Josh Sanderson gets himself in front of the net and then falls over Curtis Hodgson and shoots while falling.
- Colin Doyle does a beautiful spin move and then dishes a backhand pass to Josh Sanderson all alone.
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.
Ryan: <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.