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?
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.