NLL Alternative Fact of the Day

It’s difficult to believe that these are all absolutely true:

  • John Grant Jr. won the Rookie of the Year award a record four straight years from 2000-2003.
  • The Toronto Rock used to have the highest attendance in the NLL, but dropped in the late 2000’s once the team’s dynasty ended. The attendance hasn’t recovered because people are still afraid Two for the Show will return.
  • Along with Gary and Paul, there is a third Gait brother, Steve. Unfortunately, he was a goalie and played against his brothers. His confidence was shattered at an early age and he never played again.
  • The Buffalo Bandits won 22 straight games from 1992-1994. 17 of these were defaults because the other team was too scared to show up for the game.
  • The Georgia Swarm have relocated more than any other team. They used to be the Washington Stealth and before that, the Arizona Sting, the Baltimore Thunder, and the Montreal Expos.
  • Kevin and Kyle Buchanan are the first father and son to play in the NLL together. Some people think it was Josh and Phil Sanderson but they’re brothers.
  • John Tavares is the all-time NLL leader in points, goals, assists, power play goals, loose balls, penalty minutes, faceoffs, saves, goals against average, rebounds, rushing yards, and slugging percentage with runners in scoring position during afternoon games on artificial turf.

One of the Buchanans. Don't know which.

Disclaimer of sorts: the Toronto Rock one is kind of an inside joke. Two for the Show are a “group” (two guys) who used to play between quarters at Rock games. One guy played bass and sang and the other played guitar and sang, and they had a drum machine behind them. They were pretty good music-wise (especially when the guitarist’s teenage daughter joined them to sing – she was really good) but because of a complicated situation at the All-Star game in 2006, my friends got the impression that I hated them.

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Game report: Rochester 9 @ Toronto 8

I’m afraid I’m short on time today but I wanted to get a report done for last night’s Rock/Knighthawks game. So I’ll do this report in the same format that we’re using for Addicted to Lacrosse this season: rather than describe the game in detail, I’ll list a few awesome things and a few not-awesome things.

Awesome

Jesse Gamble

  • Close game. The Rock never led but were never out of it, and almost came back to tie it. When you’re on the edge of your seat in the final seconds of the game, that’s awesome.
  • As a Rock fan, it was good to see Stephan Leblanc back. As an NLL fan, it was good to see Dan Dawson, Andrew Suitor, and Cody Jamieson back. The game is better when all of the great players are healthy.
  • Great games: Billy Hostrawser, Latrell Harris, Jesse Gamble. Would have been great to see Harris score on his breakaway against his teacher, Mr. Vinc. I tried to find a picture of Hostrawser to put in this article but couldn’t find a good one of him not fighting. Sorry Billy.
  • Gamble got away from FOUR Knighthawks defenders at once and managed to keep the ball, and was even able to pass it to someone else who got a decent shot on net.
  • Schreiber and McArdle really seem to have figured out the box game. McArdle made a great play to prevent an over-and-back and both he and Schreiber were involved in some nifty quick passing plays that don’t happen in field lacrosse.
  • 10000+ attendance at two straight home games. That hasn’t happened in almost two years: March 21 / April 3, 2015.

Not awesome

  • An awful lot of shots hit Vinc square in the chest. You’re unlikely to score when you do this. This could have been bad shot selection by the Rock but is more likely due to a strong Knighthawk defense limiting the shots.
  • Nick Rose was shaky in the first half, allowing a couple of goals that he wouldn’t normally allow. He was better in the second half but never really looked comfortable. I thought the fact that Rochester only scored twice in the second half was more due to the Rock defense than Rose. That said, Rose did come up with some strong saves in the last couple of minutes to keep the Rock in the game.
  • Cody Jamieson picked up a couple of assists but left the game in the first quarter. Hopefully he hasn’t re-injured his knee.
  • The ACC lighting was weird. As the game started, we noticed it seemed a little darker than usual and after the second Knighthawk goal (which Rose obviously couldn’t see because of the lighting and so the goals should have been disallowed), there was a five minute pause as the ACC people played with light switches for a while. Lights went on and off and light covers opened and closed but eventually they rebooted the arena and got things sorted out.

Two additional comments:

  1. When a player on the defending side takes a penalty, play continues until the defending team gets possession. If a goal is scored, the penalty is cancelled. But the penalized player still committed the infraction. If I cross-check someone illegally four times but a goal is scored before I get to the box each time, it shows up as 0 PIM on the score sheet. Shouldn’t the player still be charged with the penalty? Maybe the power play could be negated (with the logic being that the goal is punishment enough) but I think the player should still be given the minutes on the stat sheet.
  2. A couple of us talked about the fact that Jim Veltman still has not been honoured by the Rock. His number should be retired along with Watson’s, and soon Doyle’s and Sanderson’s. Then we wondered how many current Rock players ever played with Veltman. We came up with three: Beirnes, Marshall, and Chapman. But there are actually four: we missed Patrick Merrill.

Game report: Saskatchewan 11 @ Toronto 13

The weird 2017 season continues. As Bob Chavez pointed out on IL Indoor, last year’s Champions Cup finalists are a combined 0-4 while the teams that missed the playoffs are 5-2. One thing that has continued from last season is the injury bug plaguing the Toronto Rock. Stephen Leblanc has missed both games so far and then Brett Hickey was injured during practice and is now on the IR. But rather than make their absence the story of the game, the Rock’s new guys stepped up to make sure that didn’t happen. And since there are a lot of Rock new guys, this was significant.

One question was directed at the Rock by many fans throughout this game: Who are these guys? Ten players in the lineup weren’t on the team last year (eight (!!) first-year players, Damon Edwards, and Steve Fryer who was on the practice roster), while five of last year’s top six offensive players (Doyle, Sanderson, Hickey, Hellyer, Leblanc) weren’t there. Every Rock goal except one unassisted goal from Brad Kri involved at least one player who was not on the team last year. Kieran McArdle and Tom Schreiber continue their strong rookie campaigns; neither one looks like they had never played box lacrosse a couple of months ago.

Damon Edwards (not on Saturday)But even bigger additions to the Rock are the transition guys. Brodie Merrill is having a bit of a resurgence at the age of 35. Damon Edwards (dumb penalty in the third quarter notwithstanding) is looking great in his return from missing all of last year, Jesse Gamble is Jesse Gamble (which is a very good thing), and I’m liking the addition of Challen Rogers more and more every game. I said after the first Rock game that if the Rock score ten transition goals a game, it doesn’t matter much how their actual offensive players do, and that seemed true after this one as well.

The same “Who are these guys?” question was directed at the Rush during the first half, though it was less literal. The guy wearing the Bold jersey wasn’t making stops that the real Aaron Bold generally would, the best defense in the league (and one of the best ever) was allowing all kinds of shots on the aforementioned Bold, and the offense couldn’t score to save their life. The Rush we were all expecting showed up in the second half. Mark Matthews looked as dominant as ever, and Robert Church also had a great game. I honestly didn’t notice Adam Jones or Ryan Keenan much but Mike Messenger scored a beautiful diving cross-crease goal. This reappearance of the real Rush almost had them pulling off the comeback that Rock fans knew was possible. For one eighteen minute span, the Rush outscored the Rock 8-1, turning a 10-2 blowout into an 11-10 nailbiter. Fortunately for the Rock, that’s as close as it got.

As a Rock fan I’m glad the Rush never tied it up although I have to say as a guy who writes a weekly column on clutch goals, it wouldn’t have been so bad.

Considering the Rock missed the playoffs last year, lost Doyle and Sanderson to retirement, and lost Hellyer, Leblanc, Sorensen, PMerrill, Marshall, and Miller to injury (and Hickey for game 2), it’s hard to believe they’re 2-0 and looking as strong as they are. I’m sure they’ll fall back to earth soon – nobody is expecting 18-0 – but I for one am going to enjoy this ride as long as it lasts.

Other game notes:

  • My thoughts are with Rock PA announcer Bruce Barker as he recovers from a stroke. I don’t know who the guy was doing the PA but he did a pretty good job with one exception – when replacing someone who’s been doing a job like this for years, don’t try to be him. He used a number of Barker catch-phrases that he probably shouldn’t have, IMHO.
  • In previous years, the team was always announced in numerical order but Colin Doyle was always last and prominently announced as the captain. (“Your captain, my captain, our captain”). Brodie Merrill was listed in numerical order and his captaincy was mentioned almost in passing. One wonders if Merrill himself asked for this lack of special treatment.
  • Connor Buczek was included the player announcements although he’s on the practice roster. He wasn’t at the game. Brodie Tutton, also on the practice roster, was not listed.
  • Ryan Dilks was ejected for instigating a fight with Kieran McArdle after McArdle crashed into Aaron Bold. I’m one of the most outspoken anti-fight people around, but I didn’t think Dilks deserved to be tossed for that. Five each would have been fine with me. Of course as a Rock fan, removing the reigning Defender of the Year from the game in the 2nd quarter was also just fine.
  • Nice of the Rock to recognize Josh Sanderson, though doing it between quarters rather halfway through a TV timeout would have allowed for a longer ovation.
  • Not a single challenge was issued by either coach.