Liveblog: Vancouver @ Colorado

I was out at my kids’ soccer games (my older son’s team won the consolation final while my younger son’s team won the Championship, though on penalty kicks. A sucky way to decide a championship in any sport) so I couldn’t watch the Vancouver @ Colorado game live. I did set the DVR to record it, so I started the game once I got home. I like to watch the game while chatting about it with other fans on Twitter, but that obviously wasn’t an option in this case, so I decided to do a “liveblog” just for fun.

First quarter

  • No Adam Jones for the Mammoth
  • Only a minute in and the Mammoth have already had a 30 second possession with no shots. Solid Stealth D
  • 10:55 – Ward has been solid so far, making a few saves. Richards hasn’t really had to make any yet
  • 8:36 – How many times have the Mammoth missed the net or missed passes so far? Looks like the first game of the season
  • 7:28 – Goal by Duch. Very nice pick by Billings to clear the lane. 1-0 Stealth
  • 6:30 – Beautiful goal by Mallory, top corner. Tied 1-1
  • There are taller players out there, but Callum Crawford just looks huge, like he’s towering over everyone
  • Duch had a wide-open lane but opted to pass, and almost threw it away. Ended up getting a shot off but nice save by Ward
  • Goal by Schuss, another laser into the top corner. 2-1 Stealth
  • 1:03 – Grant with a behind the back pass that was picked off by a Stealth defender. Grant loves him some behind the back action, doesn’t he? When it works (which, I admit, is most of the time) it’s a smart play but when it doesn’t, it looks showboaty.
  • Mammoth got away with it and regained possession
  • When under a minute is left, the game clock on the broadcast has “.0” at the end of it but never shows tenths of seconds. So why have the “.0”?
  • Noble scores to tie it up with a second left. Once again, top corner.
  • Wow, I’m bigger than Jeremy Noble. He’s 5’9″ 170 pounds, I’m 5’10” 180 pounds. Of course his 170 is very likely distributed a little differently than my 180…

Game is tied 2-2 after one quarter. This is a must-win game for the Stealth but they are not looking panicked at all. They seem confident and are playing with purpose. The Mammoth haven’t looked bad either but a little more sloppy than the Stealth. One wonders if the Mammoth didn’t think “Ah, it’s just the Stealth” coming into this one.

Second quarter

  • Nasty goal by Duch. Off the boards, hit Ward’s leg and deflected into the net. Just like in practice. 3-2 Stealth
  • 13:21 – Delay of game penalty against McCready. Don’t agree with that one. If a change of possession is signaled by the ref, you can’t drop the ball and then check the guy who picks it up, but that’s not what happened here. The change of possession was because of a shot on net and rebound, so the check should be totally legal IMHO.
  • Nice defense by the Stealth on the PK, keeping the Mammoth from getting any decent shots off
  • Man, these All Star RV bigfoot commercials are terrible.
  • Goal by Small. Standing on the doorstep and picked up a lucky bounce. 4-2 Stealth
  • Beautiful passing play resulting in a goal by Grant. Honestly, the passing was nicer than the goal itself but congrats to Grant for becoming the all-time Mammoth goal-scoring leader
  • Duch scores again – hit Dillon Ward who saved most of it but it still trickled across the line. 5-3 Stealth
  • Tyler Richards makes a dumb play, coming out of his crease and Dan Coates capitalizes. Not sure it should count because it looked like he batted it in rather than shooting it. I may be misremembering the rule though – I know you can’t reach into the crease and “poke” the ball into the net, but perhaps it’s OK out of the crease. 5-4 Stealth
  • Nobody mentioning this rule and no challenge flag, so I must have gotten the rule wrong.
  • Another behind the back pass, this time by Billings, that backfires.
  • Goal… or not. The shot clock expired before the ball went in. Surprisingly, no challenge
  • Loving the analysis from Shewchuk and Gallant. Obviously these guys know the game very well, and lots of other announcers do too, but hearing these guys discuss the pros and cons of the diamond vs. box defense on the PK was great.
  • Grant tries another behind the back pass and this time drops it
  • Rory Smith’s stick has a very cool black shaft.
  • 1:57 – Noble ties it up with – guess what? – a top corner shot. Tied at 5
  • Beautiful pass from Crawford who looked like he was going to shoot. Instead he passed it over to McLaughlin who had an open cage. That’s why Crawford is leading the league in assists. 6-5 Mammoth
  • Shewchuk nailed it – in a do-or-die game, you can’t be taking too many men or unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.
  • Is there a harder-working offensive guy than Joel McCready? Well, Shawn Evans is up there in that category too.

I’d be surprised if any thoughts of underestimating the Stealth remain on the Mammoth bench. The Mammoth have a 6-5 lead but this is anybody’s game.

Third quarter

  • Remember when Tyler Richards announced his return to the NLL and the Stealth said that Eric Penney was still their number one goalie? I wonder if anyone believed them
  • Stealth with a sloppy play giving the Mammoth the ball again, and they almost drop it themselves
  • Some more sloppy defense by Vancouver, giving Colorado a one-on-one chance. Richards bailed them out
  • Corey Small with a goal that, amazingly, did not go top shelf. Tied at 6. MOAR MONEY BALLER GOALS PLZ
  • Nice transition play by Ilija Gajic. That was at least the third pass interception by the Mammoth tonight and Gajic took off down the floor. Didn’t even have to run all that fast. 7-6 Mammoth
  • A couple of names I haven’t heard much in this game: Cupido & Billings
  • Of course, just after I typed that, Billings took a shot at one end and then Cupido took one at the other end
  • Excellent save by Dillon Ward with McCready right on the edge of the crease
  • Rhys Duch takes a huge hit, which knocks him to the floor but he keeps the ball, gets up, and puts the ball in the net though he went through the crease. Great play
  • Challenge flag is out. Looked to me like Duch stepped on the line before shooting. I’m not even sure that the ball went in the net at all
  • OK, the ball did go in but he stepped on the line. Here’s the call – no goal
  • Beers gets hurt, rolls around on the floor in pain for a while. Trainer tries to help him off, looks like Beers tries to wave him off then realizes his knee/ankle/something hurts more than he thought
  • News flash: Rhys Duch is a good player. Sweet goal to tie it up again
  • That was weird – Small picked up a rebound and all the Mammoth defenders seem to run away. Luckily for them he didn’t score but he was given a great opportunity
  • Nice spin-o-rama by Cupido, but great save by Richards
  • Corey Small with another one on a great pass by Billings. GB looked like he was going to fire it at the net but passed instead
  • Vancouver has 8 goals, Duch has 8 points (4+4)

Vancouver leads 8-7 but I’ll fearlessly predict this game will be tied at least once more.

Fourth quarter

  • Duch with another pretty one to give the Stealth a two-goal lead
  • Grant tries the Dane Dobbie style goal, coming off the bench straight to the net, doesn’t work
  • That one worked. Nice bounce shot from Grant through a defender gets by Richards. 9-8 Stealth
  • Now a pass interception for the Stealth. Doesn’t lead to a transition chance but they get a possession. No shots though
  • Almost the same shot again, Grant ties it up at 9. My fearless prediction came true.
  • What an effort from Callum Crawford. Fights off a bunch of Stealth defenders, picks up the ball, shovels it back to Gilles who’s wide open. Mammoth have the lead again, 10-9
  • McLaughlin scores, Crawford ties the single-season assist record. Mammoth lead 11-9
  • Hopefully the Stealth can kill this penalty off soon and then they might be able to get possession again. Oh wait, they’re not on the PK.
  • I’ve talked in the past (both on this blog and on the Addicted to Lacrosse show) about some dumb trades the Swarm franchise has made over the years. I think letting Crawford walk as a free agent tops them all.
  • Ward has been great in this game. Richards has been pretty good too, though with one or two shots that snuck by him.
  • It ain’t over yet… Corey Small gets the Stealth back to within one with 90 seconds left
  • Ward makes a save, then gets in the way of a Stealth player and gets knocked over… while standing in his crease. No call. Dangerous play by the Stealth given that there’s less than 30 seconds left in their playoff hopes but they got away with it

And that will do it. The Mammoth regular season is over and the Stealth are out of the playoffs. After winning twice in the past two weeks when they really needed to, they just couldn’t get it done tonight. A few defensive breakdowns here and there but I thought they put forth a solid effort. Rhys Duch came to play, and picked up 9 points in an outstanding game.

The Stealth have had a pretty lousy season but the last few games should give them hope for next year. Once they can get all the pieces together and stay healthy, they could do some damage.

The NLL Experience: Buffalo vs. Toronto Part II

This is part II of a short series comparing the lacrosse experience in Buffalo and Toronto. Part I was my own observations. This second one contains other people’s comments as well as a summary.

As I mentioned in the previous article, I have never been harassed in any way wearing my Rock jersey in Buffalo, and none of my Bandit-supporting friends have had bad experiences in Toronto. But unfortunately, that’s not true for everyone.

A player’s wife told me a story of when she was cheering for her husband (who played for the visiting team) while in Toronto a couple of years ago. Her husband had been hurt and was down on the floor, but she didn’t know how bad it was. The woman behind her was shouting things like “get up you f**king pussy”. The player’s wife was there with their toddler who was already upset that daddy was hurt. She turned around and politely informed the screaming lady that it was her husband who was hurt and that their child is quite upset, and asked her to stop. The lady simply told her AND her crying child to f**k off. Nobody around her said a word to this obnoxious woman.

She acknowledged to me that this was a rare incident and that not all Rock fans are like that, but she hasn’t been back to a Rock game since and it’s hard to blame her. Not only am I shocked at the douchebag who yelled at her and her child, but I’m surprised that other fans around her didn’t step up and tell this lady to STFU.

Air Canada Centre

A few thoughts from other fans:

@TimNThen: “Probably biased, but Buffalo is better. Swennie is more into it. More basic fan interactive. Have had probs with Rock fans.”

@hardison34: “Rock season tic holder. Buffalo is what Rock games were like at Maple Leaf Gardens. Very envious. Rock lost 7000 fans somehow!”

@hardison34: “By the way, Bruce Barker has been increasingly repetitive and annoying. Toronto..do you want another,always when opp. has ball”

[GP: I figure this is because after the goal there’s a faceoff, and Toronto usually loses those. So by the time Barker has finished announcing the goal and asks “Do you want another?”, the opponents already have the ball. This has been much better this year, thanks to Brad Kri.]

@kevinmad: “not a fan of either team, but have been to both. Toronto was a awesome experience with great fans. Buffalo not so much #khawks”

[GP: The lone dissenting opinion.]

Steve Lorimer: “Buffalo atmosphere is way better! Probably because they’re owned and operated under NHL ownership! Toronto rock should be too! There’s more fans in Buffalo and most people are covered head to toe in bandits clothing! The announcer is even better! What’s he got? NOTHING! Toronto has nothing! Gotta change things around here but fans doesn’t want or like idea if mlse owns the rock…”

[GP: I’m not sure I agree with MLSE owning the Rock being a good thing, but that’s a whole ‘nother article…]

Extras

I said in Part I that I wasn’t going to look at food or ticket prices, but I will mention them briefly. Not only are the tickets cheaper in Buffalo but the outdoor parking lot right next to the arena is $10 – parking that close to the ACC would be $20 at least. There’s a parking garage connected to the FNC which is a little more expensive ($15 I think, still not terrible) but it’s a nightmare to get out of after the game. We walk the three minutes past it to the outdoor lot and we’re generally on the expressway in no more than ten minutes. Five minutes after that, we’re at the border.

The food and beer options are different but I can’t really compare them. When I’m at games, I rarely buy anything more than a Coke Zero (or a Diet Coke in Buffalo since they don’t have Coke Zero Sad smile), and maybe popcorn if my kids are there and hungry. Depending on timing we sometimes get dinner at the arena, and usually opt for a pizza slice or hot dog; we don’t get the more expensive pulled pork sandwich or beef on a weck. Thus I can’t compare the food quality in the two arenas other than to say the popcorn is comparable.

One other issue in Buffalo (other than the Diet Coke fiasco): my younger son isn’t a big fan of soft drinks but the only other option we could find for him was water or unsweetened iced tea. Did you know: it’s a scientific fact that you can’t add sugar to unsweetened iced tea and make it taste good.

Conclusion

Of the people I talked to, just one person preferred the Toronto experience to Buffalo, and it wasn’t me. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Rock and have no plans to stop going to Rock games. For me, the game is the main thing and the atmosphere is fine. But I do love going to games in Buffalo. The game is still the main thing for me but it’s just so much fun – it feels like Toronto did in the early 2000’s when we were getting 17,000+ to every game. But even then, 10,000 fans in Buffalo were louder than 17,000 in Toronto.

I wish I could point to something and say “Hey Jamie Dawick, here are a couple of things you could do to bump attendance and improve the game experience!” Because you know, he probably hasn’t had teams of people looking into that for years. Also, what might work in Buffalo might not in Toronto, and vice versa. But as long as the Coke Zero is available, you’re on the right track.

The NLL Experience: Buffalo vs. Toronto, Part I

I attended a recent Rock-Bandits game in Buffalo, and in my game report, I added an entire section about “Banditland environment notes”. Over the years, I’ve been to a number of NLL games in Buffalo, mostly Rock games. I try to get to at least one Rock @ Bandits game each season, sometimes more than one, and I’ve seen some other non-Rock games there as well. In fact, the first NLL game I ever attended was the Bandits hosting the Philadelphia Wings back in 2000. As for Rock home games, I’ve been at well over 90% of those since 2001.

I decided to write a whole article comparing the experiences of a Rock game in Toronto with a Bandits game in Buffalo. Then I reached out to my audience and twitter followers to see if they had any comments, and got a few. The article ended up getting kinda long so I split it into two. This first one is my own observations. The second one (coming tomorrow) will be other people’s comments as well as a summary.

I’m just talking about the game experience itself – I’m not talking about parking or food options or ticket prices or the quality of the cheese sauce on the nachos (mostly – I’ll touch on this stuff a little in Part II). I know these are all part of the whole “game-day experience” but there’s stadiumjourney.com for that (Toronto gets a 4.1, Buffalo gets a 4.6 – both reviews written by the same guy).

Please remember that when I say “Many fans are <whatever>” or “Many fans <do or don’t do something>”, I don’t mean ALL fans, I just mean “I see this occurring in arena A more often than in arena B”. This could be due to my own biases, or where I sit, or any number of other things. It’s also possible that since many more people generally attend games in Buffalo (13-18k this year) than in Toronto (8-10k), certain things just happen more often. Thus it may seem that something is more prevalent when it’s really the same. I’m sure you and your friends don’t do these terrible things. But others do.

As a rule I don’t generalize. But yes, I know there is some generalization here.

Buffalo

Pros

  • Very loud
  • Swennie (aka Chris Swenson, the Bandits PA announcer) is one of the best. He and the fans have catch phrases for specific players – Dhane Smith, Benesch, Tavares, Steenhuis – and specific situations. Swennie was asking “What’s he got?” on a big save long before they were doing it in Edmonton or Calgary. FYI: His nickname is not “Sweaty” as I once thought it was.
  • Fans really get into the game. Chants are sometimes started by fans and sometimes by Swennie. Far more often by the fans than in Toronto.
  • Way more fans dress up, colour their hair, wear face paint, hold up painted signs, etc. Very little of that in Toronto.
  • I’ve always liked their penalty chant. When an opposing player gets a penalty, they chant “B‑O‑X! B‑O‑X! To the box! To the box! To the box box box!” When I first started going to Bandits games, that was it. In recent years they’ve sped the whole thing up and added a “Woooo” to the end, but I don’t like it quite as much now because the “Woooo” seems to be the focus. Now it’s “B‑O‑X! B‑O‑X! Totheboxtotheboxtotheboxboxbox WOOOOO!
  • I don’t remember Swennie ever taking cheap shots at the other team or players like some other announcers do. Or did before they were let go by the Mammoth. Not to mention any names.

Cons

  • Very loud, which is a con if you don’t like that sort of thing. But then who goes to a pro sporting event hoping it will be quiet?
  • In my experience, there seem to be more “homers” in Buffalo, i.e. booing or screaming for a penalty every time a Bandit is checked (legal or not), booing every time a Bandit is given a penalty (deserved or not), that kind of thing. If I were an NLL ref, I’m not sure I’d like working games in Buffalo.
  • At the game that inspired this article, every time a Rock player was hit to the floor and needed the trainer to come out (it happened three times), some Bandits fans around us accused them of faking the injuries. I’ve seen this more often in Buffalo than in Toronto.

First Niagara Center

Toronto

Pros

  • Fewer fans as in previous years but the ones that are left are generally die-hards and are pretty lacrosse-savvy. They will applaud good defensive plays and penalty killing, not just good goals.
  • PA announcer Bruce Barker also doesn’t take shots at the other team or its players. The closest he’ll get is saying “Let’s crush the Rush!” or something to that effect, but even that he’ll say once at the beginning of the game and that’s it.
  • In playoffs games or overtime, I’ve heard the Toronto crowds get pretty loud. They’re not generally as loud as Buffalo, only in certain situations.
  • If an opposing player gets injured and is down on the floor for a while, there is almost always applause when he gets up, even if he has to be carried off the floor. I don’t generally hear accusations of diving or faking injuries, or at least not as many as I have in Buffalo. But that doesn’t mean they don’t occur. (Foreshadowing for Part II)

Cons

  • Fewer fans as in previous years. I wrote about this last month.
  • Quiet for the most part. They obviously shout when the Rock score and when they win and during fights and such, but just during regular play, there’s not much noise.
  • Barker does his best to get the crowd fired up but it doesn’t always work. Fans yell “Go Rock Go!” as long as Barker is yelling it over the PA, but once he stops, the crowd stops almost immediately. If Nick Rose makes a great save, Barker yells “Rooooooo-sey!” and sometimes the crowd yells “Roooooo-sey!” back, but sometimes not. But when Rose is having a really good game, the “Rosey”s are louder.
  • I’ve heard the crowd start “Go Rock Go” or similar chants by themselves with no help from Barker, but rarely. Usually only in playoff games. There is one that the fans do themselves – when the Rock score, a group of fans (mostly in section 118) stand up, chant the opposing goalie’s last name three times, and then add “You suck!” (This is quite amusing when the Rock score their fifth goal of the game in the fourth quarter while the opponents have 15 or so.) Also, earlier this year Nick Rose was having a spectacular game and a chant of “Rosey! Rosey! Rosey!” started from the fans.

 

In every arena in the league, there are stories about fans of the opposing team being harassed by home team fans, but as I mentioned above, I have never personally had any trouble at all in Buffalo. I have worn a Toronto Rock jersey to every Bandits/Rock game I’ve been to in Buffalo (except the “Tucker out Lymphoma” night this past April when I wore my “Braver than Brave” t-shirt) and have never been harassed in any way. In fact, after Canada won the hockey gold medal in the 2002 Olympics, I had Bandits fans see my Rock jersey and congratulate me on the victory. I also know some Bandits fans who sit with us at Rock games and they’ve never been harassed because of their Bandits jerseys, except once by Iggy but that was fun.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case. But that’s a story for another day.

Game report: Toronto 8 @ Buffalo 12

OK, so now it’s over.

To keep their playoff hopes alive, the Rock had to win both games this weekend (and keep winning after that). To their credit, they played a great game on Friday night but the Bandits didn’t play up to their standards. Anyone who’s watched the Bandits this season had to know that it wasn’t likely to happen twice. And it didn’t.

But early in the game, I thought it might. The Bandits started the first quarter missing the net a lot, just like Friday, and I wondered if we might see more of the same. But it was only an illusion. The Bandits did miss the net a few more times, but when they did get it on net, Brandon Miller just wasn’t up to the task. Miller allowed eight goals before being puller for Nick Rose, who was really good the rest of the game. Of course it raises the question of how the game might have gone if the Rock had started Rose instead, but (a) it’s all academic now and (b) going with Miller was the logical choice when you’re playing two games in two days.

Dhane Smith was kept to only two points on Friday night, but returned to normal on Saturday with five goals. No assists though, so the Rock defenders kind of kept him in check. Ryan Benesch made up for that with eight points. But who thought to keep an eye on Nick Weiss, who had only two shots and scored on both of them?

DiRuscio played a great game

As the game went on and it was clear that the Bandits were likely to win, the Rock, and particularly Brodie Merrill, got more and more frustrated and started taking unnecessary penalties. The Rock were called for two major penalties only forty seconds apart in the second quarter. They both happened at the far end of the floor from where I was so I didn’t get a good look at whether five minutes was really justified.  But Merrill took four penalties in the game – slashing in the first, a high-sticking major in the second, roughing in the third, and then he fought Steve Priolo in the fourth. He was then given a free bonus game misconduct because he got two majors in the game. Sort of a frequent-flyer thing. For a veteran like Merrill to spend so much time in the penalty box and then take himself out of the game entirely in a do-or-die game was inexcusable, especially when you consider how many players the Rock are already down.

But let’s get back to the two major penalties. To the Rock’s credit, they managed to kill off both of them while only allowing two PP goals, which isn’t bad for a 4½ minute 5-on-3. Then again it wasn’t actually a 4½ minute 5-on-3 because Dhane Smith got a slashing call early in the second penalty, making the next two minutes 4-on-3. During that PK though, huge props to Turner Evans who grabbed the ball in the Buffalo end and despite being triple-teamed, held the ball for most of the thirty seconds, looking like a young Blaine Manning or Mark Steenhuis.

The refs were all over this game, calling almost everything. Speaking of veteran players taking unnecessary penalties, the goalies aren’t immune either. In the second, Jesse Gamble managed to get around Alex Kedoh Hill, who swung his stick one-handed as we see players do all the time. But he hit Gamble square in the head and play continued, presumably because Gamble had the ball. A few seconds later Gamble passed the ball and then retaliated against Hill, and both players were sent to the box for roughing. Nick Rose tried to leave his crease to say something to the ref, who immediately pointed to him, saying “Stay in your crease”. Rose said something else and was immediately given an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Not smart, Nick. Luckily Mark Steenhuis was also feeling particularly mouthy and was given an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty (his second in five minutes) at the same time.

The Bandits got great goaltending performances from all three of their goalies this weekend. As I mentioned about Friday’s game, Cosmo and Steve Priolo made saves at crucial times, and in Saturday’s game it was Davide DiRuscio. The Big Fish was great on Saturday, frustrating the Rock offense all night. I’ve said it before this season – when Anthony Cosmo decides to retire, Bandits fans have good reason to be optimistic about their goaltending future with DiRuscio. And Priolo, of course. 

So the Rock are out of the playoffs, the only team currently eliminated. They can still play spoiler though – if Vancouver wins their remaining games AND Toronto beats Calgary, the Stealth are in the playoffs. So say it with me Stealth fans: Go Rock Go!

Other game notes:

  • Brandon Miller started and allowed 8 goals in 23 minutes. Nick Rose took over and allowed 6 goals in 36 minutes. The Rock were already losing when Rose was brought in and never regained the lead or even tied it, and yet Rose was credited with the loss. I’m not sure how they decide who to give the loss to, but it’s wrong.
  • Billy Dee Smith is one intimidating dude. While defending against a Rock forward, I saw that he was yelling constantly and the look on his face was terrifying. There was an eight-foot wall of glass between me and him and I was still nervous.
  • Leading 12-5 in the fourth quarter, the Bandits music guy ironically (and quite intentionally) played We Will Rock You. I imagine that song wouldn’t have been played if the Rock were winning, or even if it was a close game.
  • After the Priolo-Merrill fight in the fourth, Bandits fans started chanting “Steve Pri-o-lo <clap> <clap> <clap>-<clap>-<clap>” (i.e. in the same rhythm as “Let’s go Bandits”).
  • When Nick Rose got his unsportsmanlike penalty, Kevin Ross took his place in the box. I told my son it’s because of their names: Ross and Rose are only different by one letter. He didn’t believe me.
  • I read later that Josh Sanderson left the game in the second after a hit to the head. I did wonder where he was at one point but didn’t make actually look for him so I figured I just didn’t see him. It just wouldn’t be a Rock game in 2016 if someone didn’t leave the game early because of an injury.

Other Banditland environment notes:

  • I think this every time I go to a game there but damn, it’s loud in Buffalo. I think all Toronto fans should be required to take in a game in Buffalo now and again to see how it’s really done. Sometimes chants and cheers start by themselves without the announcer’s help, which is exceedingly rare in Toronto.
  • It being Tucker out Lymphona night in Buffalo, Shawn Williams made a nice little speech thanking the fans for their unwavering support. Obviously the crowd’s applause was thunderous but it was also great to see applause from the Bandits & Rock players on the floor and even the refs.
  • The guy sitting a couple of seats down from my older son wore sunglasses the whole game. Public service announcement: if you think wearing sunglasses indoors makes you look cool, you are mistaken. You look silly.
  • Front row people: what is the point of pounding on the glass when there’s a play going on in front of you? We were in the second row and the people in front of us would stand up and pound on the glass whenever there was something happening close to them. Why?
  • FYI when Dhane Smith scores in Buffalo, the announcer yells that the goal was scored by “#92, great Dhane Smith!” after which the crowd barks. Like a Great Dane, in case you missed the reference there.
  • Several times, a Rock player was hit to the ground and stayed down for a few seconds (at least twice for Kri and once for Merrill – and that was just in our end), getting a whistle and play stoppage. Every time, the Bandits fans around us booed and accused the player of diving and/or faking injury. This is idiotic. How the hell can you possibly know if he’s faking an injury? Some serious injuries come from innocent-looking hits or just missteps on a slightly bumpy carpet. You simply can’t tell how hurt someone is by the force (or legality) of the hit. Luckily for the Rock, none of these players had to be removed from the game or carried off the floor like we saw on Friday night. These kind of boos and accusations are absolutely classless.
  • Buffalo fans also don’t know physics. The Bandits scored what looked like a goal but Nick Rose kicked it off of the goal line. During the review, they played a replay of it on the Jumbotron. You could see that the ball was bouncing on the line (only a few inches in the air) but never crossed it. Easy call for the ref. But many of the fans around us (and all around the arena) were shouting because it looked like the ball crossed the line. This is due to a thing called perspective. When the ball is bouncing straight up in the air, it looks like it’s actually behind things that are directly underneath it. This is very simple physics that the refs understood but many Bandits fans did not. An overhead camera shot would have made this obvious but we never saw one.
  • Yes, I’m aware that I’m generalizing. I’m sure there were plenty of Bandits fans who understood the perspective thing and didn’t think the Rock were faking injuries. But none of those Bandits fans were sitting near me at this game.

Game review: Buffalo 9 @ Toronto 12

It ain’t over yet.

The Rock sent that message loud and clear on Friday night, taking down the Buffalo Bandits 12-9 at the ACC to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. Despite being without Colin Doyle (who is out for the year because of a fractured vertebra in his neck – HE BROKE HIS NECK people), Brett Hickey, Patrick Merrill, Scott Johnston, Jamie Batson, Damon Edwards, and Bill Greer (did I miss anyone? Probably), the Rock managed to get it done against the top team in the East. That said, the Bandits didn’t really look like the top team in the East.

We’ll start from the outside and work our way in. Nick Rose was outstanding, yet again. I said a few weeks ago that he might be my pick for Goaltender of the Year, though Evan Kirk and Mike Poulin are right up there too. There were a couple of goals that he allowed on shots he didn’t see – at least I’m guessing he didn’t see them since he didn’t move at all – but he also made some really outstanding saves. Anthony Cosmo also had a strong game, making some great saves himself but just wasn’t quite as good as Rosey. The Bandits backup goalie, Steve Priolo (what, you thought it was DeRuscio? HA!), also made a great stop on the one shot he faced when a Rock player had a wide open cage with Cosmo on the bench.

Buffalo’s defense was generally good, with a few lapses here and there. Kasey Beirnes got a couple of goals from in close, and somebody (Sanderson?) was left alone on the doorstep at least once. Their transition was typically fast, but the Rock countered by sometimes leaving a defender down at the other end and going with only four O guys. This didn’t help the offense, but prevented the Buffalo transition from racking up the breakaway goals.

Nick Rose

Toronto’s defense was excellent. The Bandits had lots of shot clock violations, shots from distance because they couldn’t get any closer (though Steenhuis did score one from the restraining line), and dumping the ball into the corner. They never scored more than two in a row, and had five leads in the first half, which all vanished. The only stat you really need to know: Dhane Smith was held to a single goal (Buffalo’s first goal) and a single assist (on Buffalo’s last goal). His goal was beautiful though – a bounce shot that was perfectly placed to hit the ground right under Rose’s dropping leg. Any slower or any further forward or back and it would have been stopped. Smith is by far the league’s leading scorer and hadn’t scored fewer than five points in any game this year. It’s amazing that a 4-10 team was able to keep him to only two points.

Neither offense was really clicking. There were lost of missed passes on both sides, and the Rock in particular seemed to make a lot of passes to someone who was completely covered or even double-teamed. Sure, if the pass is completed, you’ve got a man in close and a quick shot could surprise everyone, but it’s still a low-percentage pass and far more often than not led to turnovers. Dan Lintner and Turner Evans seem to be fitting in well with LeBlanc, Hellyer, and Sanderson (and Ross who played about half defense and half offense). If Sanderson and Doyle (BROKEN NECK) decide to hang ’em up after this season, Lintner and Evans won’t just step in and replace these two Hall of Famers without missing a beat, but the future of the Rock offense still looks pretty good.

As I mentioned, Dhane Smith was held to just two points; in fact nobody on the Bandits had more than four. They were doing less of the “pass it to the guy who’s double-teamed” thing than the Rock, but still missing players with passes and shooting wide of the net. Smith in particular missed the net a number of times. I remember watching him wind up and thinking “it’s Dhane Smith, this is going in” only to see him miss the net by a foot.

The injuries troubles continue for the Rock too. Right after the face-off to start the third quarter, Brock Sorensen was hit or turned his leg funny or something and fell to the ground, screaming in pain. My seats are 17 rows back from the Rock bench and despite the music playing, I could clearly hear his screams from centre floor. Play was immediately stopped and the ACC was silent for several minutes as the trainers tried to figure out how to get him off the floor. In the end, they mostly carried him, though he was able to hop on his right leg a little. His left leg never touched the ground and he did not return. Hopefully it looked worse than it was.

I wouldn’t say the Bandits got into penalty trouble, though the Rock did score three PP goals. But Buffalo got the same needless delay of game penalty twice. The ref whistled a change of possession, and Daryl Veltman immediately dropped the ball, but didn’t move. When the Rock player picked up the ball, Veltman immediately checked him. You can’t do that. He went to the box (a place with which he’s rather unfamiliar, see below) and Toronto scored on the power play. About six minutes later, Alex Kedoh Hill did exactly the same thing and also went to the box, though the Bandits managed to kill that one. Sometimes taking a penalty is necessary, in fact Luc Magnan took one in the third that probably prevented a Bandits player from being in all alone on Rose. But the delay of game one is not one of those. It’s completely avoidable and taking that one is kind of dumb.

These two teams meet again tonight in Buffalo, and my sons and I are making the trek across the border. As a Rock fan I’m hoping for a repeat performance, but as a realist I’m not expecting one. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Dhane Smith pull out 10+ points and knock the Rock out of the playoffs.

Other game notes:

  • Nice to see Adam Will get a goal in his NLL debut, though having a guy named Will and a guy named Hill didn’t help me figure out who was on the floor.
  • Daryl Veltman’s delay of game penalty was his first penalty since 2012. He now has nine penalties totaling 24 minutes in his entire career – eight seasons. Not bad.
  • Weirdest challenge ever – Buffalo was credited with a goal which Toronto immediately challenged. The replay clearly showed the ball never went in the net at all. The ref who called it a goal was in the perfect position to see this, so I’m not sure how he thought it was a goal in the first place. We’ll give him the benefit of the doubt though – in real time, it could have looked like it went in and bounced out very quickly. We’ve all see those goals before.
  • When Chad Culp got called for holding in the first quarter, some Rock fans near the penalty box did the Buffalo “B-O-X B-O-X” chant. Sweet.
  • At the beginning of the game, Bruce Barker announced something like “Let’s show the Buffalo fans how loud Toronto can be!” The clear answer: if we’re winning, not bad. If not, pretty damned quiet.
  • Announced attendance: 9,237. Maybe if they included all the players, coaches, and peanut and beer vendors. No way there were 9,000+ fans at that game.
  • Cool to see the @LacrosseBoss up on the Jumbotron, winning some power tools!

Could happen…

As I like to do at about this time every year, I’m going to look at the playoff picture and see what the possibilities are. Can a last-place team finish first? Can a first-place team miss the playoffs? Sometimes the possibilities are surprising.

Some options are no longer possibilities. Saskatchewan and Colorado have not only clinched playoff berths, they’ve clinched home playoff games, which means the final playoff spot in the West is between Calgary and Vancouver and neither can finish higher than third, so not much room for surprising finishes there. Neither Georgia nor Toronto can finish first in the East.

Let’s see what could happen. UPDATED after games of April 10.

Georgia finishes second in the East

If Georgia wins out, NE loses out, and Rochester beats Buffalo and Saskatchewan, all three teams are 9-9. The first three-way tiebreaker is the combined record against each other. In this case, Georgia would be 4-3 against NE and Rochester, New England would be 4-4, and Rochester would be 3-4, so Rochester finishes third (of the three, so fourth in the division). Then we drop to the two-team tiebreaker. Georgia and New England would be 2-2 against each other, so we go to Eastern division opponents. Georgia would be 7-5 while New England would be 7-6 so Georgia gets second.

Toronto finishes second in the East

The Bandits will have at most 8 losses, and New England will have at most 9. Toronto already has 10, so they can’t finish better than third.

Buffalo misses the playoffs

Buffalo is in the playoffs

Buffalo can finish with no more than 8 losses. Georgia already has 9 and Toronto has 10 so the Bandits can finish no lower than third.

Rochester misses the playoffs

If Rochester loses three of their four remaining games, Toronto wins their remaining four, and Georgia wins four of their remaining five, Rochester is out.

New England misses the playoffs

 

No announcement has been made by the league or the team that New England has clinched, but I can’t find any scenarios where New England finishes any lower than third. Toronto already has more losses than New England can have, so Toronto will finish lower than the Wolves. There are no ways Georgia can have fewer losses than New England, so either NE is ahead of Georgia and Toronto (so they’re in), or they end up tied with Georgia. But in that case, Rochester is either also tied with them (so they’re out, given the three-way tie-breaker I mentioned above) or has a worse record. In the second case, NE is ahead of both Rochester and Toronto so they’re in.

Unless I’m misunderstanding the three-way tie-breaker, New England has clinched a playoff spot.

Update: Nailed it.

Vancouver finishes third in the West

It’s still possible for Calgary and Vancouver to end up tied at 7-11. The season series would also be tied at 2-2, so then the tiebreaker falls to record against divisional opponents. Vancouver would be 6-5 against western rivals while Calgary would be 3-8 so Vancouver gets in.