Wow, I haven’t done one of these game report things in a while! I think talking about the games every week on the Addicted to Lacrosse show has meant I didn’t feel the need to talk about them again on the blog. Also since I spend much of Sunday writing the Money Ballers column, I didn’t make time to write game reports as well. But they’re different media; I can get into more details here than I would on the show plus some people simply aren’t interested in watching or listening to a show but they’ll read a blog, or vice versa.
Anyway, the game. Or rather, the games.
First off, I make the trek to Rochester for this one, my first such trip in many years. My tickets were second row from the glass, right next to the Rochester bench. This meant that I could watch the line changes and see everything that happened at one end of the floor. It was great. What I didn’t anticipate was the view of the other end of the floor. When play was happening at the far end, this was my view:
I tried yelling “Angus, sit down!” but he wouldn’t. Actually, that was a joke. I didn’t really consider yelling anything but positive encouragement at Angus Goodleaf. Just doesn’t seem like a very bright move.
So I watched half the game from close up in very high definition, and the other half on a grainy Jumbotron at an angle 100 feet away.
We had a plus and a minus just before the game. The plus was the Native American dancers, who I believe perform at the beginning of every Knighthawks game. That was very cool, and the outfits they were wearing were awesome. That was followed by the minus, the national anthems, accurately described as “lounge-y” by Stephen Stamp in his Championship Game live blog, sung by a guy who should probably have waited until afterwards to start hitting the Genny Cream Ale.
The game itself was very entertaining. You already know the result and how the lead changed hands a couple of times before Rochester scored 6 straight, and Calgary almost came back but never tied it, so I won’t go over all of that. One thing I noticed about the Calgary defense (and to some extent the Rochester defense as well) is that they weren’t trying to prevent shots entirely. There were a few shot clock violations and occasions when a player would just roll the ball into the corner with a second left, but the Calgary defenders weren’t as aggressively trying to keep the Knighthawks from shooting as I’ve seen in the past. They seemed to say “Sure, feel free to shoot, but you’re going to have to thread the needle between a whole bunch of people before it even gets to Poulin.” Rochester did shoot in a lot of cases, and more often than not the ball never got anywhere near the net.
One defensive play I must point out is one by Brad Self late in the third. Unfortunately, I can’t link to a video of the play because the camera was on Mike Poulin at the time, but Poulin made a save and then launched the ball down the floor, looking for Dane Dobbie coming off the bench in transition (as he does frequently). Self made a diving catch just past the restraining line, preventing Dobbie from having a breakaway. The ball then got loose and Dobbie ended up with it anyway, but by that point the defense had come out and Calgary never got a shot off at all. It was an excellent play and really got the crowd fired up.
I do have video of a couple of goals to share, both behind-the-back beauties. First is Cory Vitarelli early in the 3rd quarter, and the other is Stephen Keogh with a little over 6 minutes left in the fourth. Vitarelli’s was particularly nice, since most behind-the-back shots come from in close, but his was from way out there.
Both goalies played very well though Mike Poulin seemed to get rattled a couple of times. This is a problem with some goaltenders – once you get them rattled or shaken up for whatever reason, they’re done. Poulin sometimes does that too but once he gets pulled (or pulls himself), he spends five minutes on the bench or in the dressing room getting refocused. He’s very good at this because more often than not, when he comes back he’s much better. He did this twice during game 2, but once the Knighthawks got on a roll in the fourth quarter, nothing could stop them.
So Rochester dominated the 4th to win game 2, and we headed to the mini-game with Rochester holding all the momentum. But then Shawn Evans and Curtis Dickson opened the scoring for Calgary (just as they had in game 2), and still led with less than 2½ minutes left. Nobody believed it was over at that point, but I thought that the Roughnecks had killed whatever momentum Rochester had going in. And maybe they had, but over the next 1:15, Craig Point and Joe Walters grabbed it right back. The Roughnecks poured on the pressure over the last minute, but Matt Vinc stepped up and stopped every shot, the last one just a second before the final buzzer.
I know there are people who don’t like the idea of the mini-game but after this year’s playoffs, I don’t think it’s going away anytime soon. The first two were very exciting to watch on TV and I imagine this one was too, and it was amazing to see live. I imagine it was everything the NLL was hoping for when they made the decision to move away from single-game elimination.
I have to say that it was pretty painful to watch the Roughnecks leave the floor. Scott Ranger in particular looked absolutely devastated. He was the last Roughneck through the handshake line and it didn’t look like he said a word to anyone.
A few more celebratory pictures:
So congratulations to the 2014 NLL Champion Knighthawks, and even more congratulations for the unprecedented three-peat. Rochester is a class organization from the top on down, so it’s nice to see them rewarded with so much success. But hey, three’s enough, dontcha think?
Other game notes:
- Saw a report before the game that Derek Hopcroft had been activated and was very excited about it. Then he was scratched. Ouch.
- I knew the Philadelphia Wings fans yelled “SUCKS!” after every name when the starting lineups are announced. I didn’t know they did that in Rochester too.
- After Rochester’s 3rd goal in the mini-game, Dan Dawson was the first offensive player back to their bench. He made a point of telling everyone “Calm down, it’s not over yet” to make sure the defenders didn’t get too excited and let their guard down. That’s the kind of veteran leadership a guy like Dawson bring to the team. The fact that he’s one of the best scorers ever is a bit of a plus too.
- In a lot of cases, a player who returns to an arena where he used to play is given some positive acknowledgement from the crowd, perhaps in the form of some extra cheering. Colin Doyle got a very nice reception in Toronto when he first played here as a member of the San Jose Stealth. This is particularly true if the player helped his former team win a Championship, as Doyle did in Toronto a few times and as Shawn Evans did in Rochester in 2007. But I didn’t see any of this recognition on Saturday with Evans. He didn’t seem to get any love from the Knighthawk fans who even booed him briefly after he fell, appeared injured, and then got up and ran to the bench. I even saw a sign saying “My 4-year-old is taller than Shawn Evans”. But who was the first Roughneck in line for the handshakes after the game? Shawn Evans.
- Cody Jamieson is quickly becoming one of my favourite players but I didn’t realize until this game that he’s not the biggest guy out there. In fact, he’s only 5’9″, the shortest guy on the Knighthawks and only an inch taller than little Evy. Note, however, that he weighs 40 pounds more than Evans.
- Y’ever notice that Dane Dobbie talks a lot during the game? To his teammates, to his opponents, to the refs, to everybody. Very social dude.
- During the warm-ups, my son (who’s in grade 9 – a freshman in high school if you’re south of the border) pointed at a particular passing drill and said “Hey, we were doing lacrosse in gym last week and we did that same drill! But it’s a bit different because they’re actually catching the ball.”
Some general notes about my trip to Rochester
- Wow, is the New York State Thruway a cheap toll road. Cost me $2 to get from Buffalo to the Rochester exit, about 41 miles or 65 km. If I take the 407 across the top of Toronto from Dundas Street in Burlington (near my house) to Highway 400 (to head north of Toronto), that’s 61.6 km and at the cheapest possible time, it would cost me $12.74. At the most expensive time, $19.26. More if I didn’t pay $1 per month for a transponder.
- Here’s a handy tip for Canadians going to the US or Americans going to Canada. What a Canadian calls “tea” an American would call “hot tea”. What an American calls “tea”, a Canadian would call “iced tea”. In the US, however, there are two types of (iced) tea: sweetened and unsweetened. Sweetened is what a Canadian would simply call iced tea. Unsweetened iced tea is not available in Canada, and is an interesting drink similar to sweetened iced tea except that it has the unique property that no matter how much sugar you add to unsweetened iced tea, you can’t make it taste good.
- We stayed at the Rochester Plaza, about a five minute walk from the BCA. Very convenient, but there weren’t a lot of places to eat nearby. We walked up to the arena (this was well over 2 hours before game time) and found nothing except a closed Tim Horton’s (in Canada, I don’t think they’re allowed to be closed), a closed pizza place, and another closed place (maybe Jamaican?). We ended up back at the hotel and ate there, though later I did notice a couple of places across the street. The next morning, the Tim Horton’s was still closed (WTF?!) so we found a Denny’s on the GPS.
- Dear Garmin: The Denny’s that you said is here isn’t.