The Rock hosted the New England Black Wolves on Saturday night for the right to lose to play the Georgia Swarm in the division finals. In the lowest-attended Rock home game ever, the Rock fought off the strong Black Wolves attack in the first quarter and turned a close game into a blowout.
- Brandon Miller came in relief of the not-awesome Nick Rose (SPOILER: he appears below) and was outstanding. He allowed one goal a couple of minutes after coming into the game, one 21:43 later, and another 16:11 after that. Three goals in about 38 minutes, and two of them were scored by Shawn Evans. You can’t really blame anyone for allowing a Shawn Evans goal. There were two more after that – one from Thorimbert right off a face-off and a meaningless goal with seven seconds left that the Black Wolves didn’t even celebrate. Five goals against in over 47 minutes for a GAA of 6.34, and he saved more than 85% of the shots he faced.
- Great defense tonight from the Rock, particularly Latrell Harris and Bradley Kri. In particular, Harris was tasked at one point with covering the aforementioned Shawn Evans and not only managed to keep him from getting a shot off but managed to strip Evans of the ball. That’s tough to do.
- Stephen Leblanc was trapped on D at one point as well, but did a great job. Note that I don’t mean a “great job for an offensive player”, I mean he did a great job.
- Rock transition was also strong – Edwards, Merrill, Gamble all played well and combined for 5+2.
- Dan Lintner scored an unbelievable behind the back goal in the third quarter. Someone passed it to him right in the middle, and he had to physically turn himself 1/4 turn before shooting it backwards over his shoulder.
- I’ve written a zillion times about how I don’t like fighting in lacrosse, but props to Kieran McArdle for his first fight. He didn’t back down, got a lot of good punches in, and I’d say he won the fight. “They won’t let me do that in the MLL!”
- Nick Rose looked uncomfortable and didn’t seem to be seeing the ball well. After five goals in twelve minutes, he was pulled. Since March 31 (his last six games), Rose has a 70.7% save percentage and a 15.21 GAA. This is after having a 79.4% save percentage and a 9.64 GAA in the first thirteen games.
- The scoreboard guy forgot that the season was over and that all stats revert to 0 in the playoffs. Thus Kasey Beirnes’s game-opening goal was not his fifteenth goal of the season, it was his first of the playoffs. Every single goal was announced incorrectly, with the exception of Jeff Gilbert’s: it was his first of the season – playoffs or otherwise.
- The Black Wolves offense didn’t seem to have much energy after the first quarter. Perhaps it was more the Rock D and Miller keeping them from getting good shots but Evans didn’t really seem involved until the second half, and no Black Wolves player had more than three points.
- Evan Kirk didn’t play well at all. Weird: I was surprised they left him in as long as they did, but I’m also surprised they took him out. He probably should have been pulled once Toronto scored to open the third (their 10th goal), but he wasn’t pulled until the Rock were up 15-9, and changing goalies really didn’t matter much at that point. I guess they were hoping that Jamieson would make some big stops and inspire their team to make the big comeback, but it didn’t work since Jamieson ended up with a higher GAA and lower save percentage than Kirk.
- Only 6260 people showed up, by far the lowest attendance at a Rock home game. The next lowest was 7743 at a regular season game in February of 2015, coincidentally also against the Black Wolves. I get that they only had a week to advertise the game and I don’t blame the Rock but it’s quite disappointing. If nothing else it tells you that there are at most 6000 season ticket holders. It’d be nice to say “Saskatchewan has over 12,000” but they’re brand new and a great team – sound familiar? Let’s see how the Rush are doing in fifteen years after they get a new GM who trades Mark Matthews away and Aaron Bold retires and they’ve missed the playoffs a few times.*
* Update: Please ignore the second half of that last paragraph starting from “It’d be nice…”. I wrote that point after the Stealth/Mammoth game ended Saturday night (i.e. 1 am) and I obviously wasn’t thinking clearly. The only city that I’ve heard season ticket holder numbers for is Saskatchewan, which is about 12,000. My point was supposed to be “yeah Saskatchewan has 12k while Toronto has only 6k but the Rock started off strong too in the early 2000’s. Wait until the Rush have been through what the Rock have been through and see what happens”. Of course, it’s possible the Rush will weather that storm and still sell out the place every game. Or maybe not. But either way, it really has nothing to do with this article. I was basically “defending” the Rock from an attack (that didn’t exist) from Rush fans, and at least one wondered why I was attacking the Rush. I have no answer. It was definitely not an attack on the Rush, who have done an outstanding job both on and off the floor in Saskatoon.
Other game notes:
- The Rock started a new chant for Brandon Miller. The PA guy yelled “What time is it?” and though I was compelled to yell “Toole Time!” (that was Pat O’Toole’s nickname when he played with Rochester, for all you young’uns out there), we were supposed to yell “Miller Time!”. It made me feel old because I had to explain to my 17-year-old son what “Miller Time” meant.
- I didn’t initially like the white “rally towels” they handed out because waving a white flag is a universal sign of surrender, i.e. “WE GIVE UP”. But if you ignore that, it did look pretty cool to have nineteen ten eight six thousand white towels being waved around at once.
So the Rock are off to the division finals, hosting the Swarm next Saturday night and then finishing the series in Georgia the next weekend. Unfortunately I don’t see the attendance changing much next week; maybe some extra people come out because it’s the second round, but some may stay home because it’s not a deciding game.
As for who’s going to win it, I can see the Rock taking one of the two games but in a series, I’m taking the Swarm over almost anyone.
What is with the poor attendance? Do Torontonian sports fans have something better to do right now? The Leafs are done and the Jays are out of town right now. Very disappointing to me to see so few people supporting their boys. Heck, even the Stealth drew 4,000 last night, which is pretty good for them! And the Roughnecks nearly sold out the Saddledome last weekend after an aggressive campaign in the week leading up to the game.