Game report: Saskatchewan @ Toronto

The defending champion Saskatchewan Rush made their way to the 6ix on Friday night, only their 6ixth game against the Rock in their history. They probably should have been the favourites in this game, not only because they are the defending champs, but also because of their 4-1 lifetime record against the Rock. But the Rush were 3-2 at the start of the game, second in the West, while the Rock were 5-1 and leading the league.

Judging by the first few minutes of the game, this was going to be a cakewalk for the Rock. The Rush were looking “out of sorts”, especially offensively. In the first three minutes, the Rock scored twice while the Rush barely got possession. Of course, you can rarely judge a lacrosse game by the first few minutes, and the next few minutes was proof of that. The Rush, particularly Ben McIntosh, came storming back with three goals in a minute to take the lead. But the Rush’s troubles returned as the Rock scored three in two minutes to take the lead back, a lead they’d never give up.  Saskatchewan kept it close, not allowing a long run that might have put the game out of reach early. But knowing what the Rush are capable of, I’m sure the Rock were never really comfortable even when they got to five-goal leads – I know I wasn’t.

Adam JonesThe Rock led 6-5 after one quarter and while I didn’t figure the score would stay that high all game (I decided a 24-20 final was unlikely), I wondered if were looking at an 18-15 game rather than the 12-10 you might expect from these two teams. The Rock scored within the first 90 seconds of each of the first three quarters, and took an 11-7 lead into the half. The teams split the third quarter 3-3 and while the Rush outscored the Rock 3-2 in the fourth, it was too little and too late. The final was 16-13 for the Rock, who remain first in the league with a 6-1 record while the Rush fall to 3-3, still good enough for second in the west.

Nick Rose did not have a great game. Allowing 13 goals wasn’t even the problem, it was the types of goals he was allowing: mostly outside shots from a fair ways out. Those are shots that Rose normally has little trouble with. I wouldn’t say he was terrible, but he wasn’t great. Luckily for the Rock, Evan Kirk was worse. He had a very un-Evan-Kirk-like night, and seemed to be reacting just slightly slower than he needed to. Both goalies improved throughout the game and the goaltending and defense in general was better in the second half.

The Rock’s transition game was excellent and included three goals from the back end – Challen Rogers, Creighton Reid, and Brandon Slade all scored, and Brad Kri, Latrell Harris, Jay Thorimbert, and Nick Rose each had assists. The Rush transition wasn’t bad either, with Matt Hossack, Chris Corbeil, Jeremy Thompson, Kyle Rubisch, Nick Finlay, and Brett Mydske each picking up points.

The Rush defense seemed to focus on Tom Schreiber, which is not a bad idea, but of course that left Hellyer and Jones a little more open. They did keep Schreiber to a single goal; he had twelve shots but they were mostly from bad angles or blind shots around defenders. Jones scored four and Hellyer two and the secondary scoring was strong as well, with Craig, Lintner, McArdle, and Powless all scoring. The Rush offense was a little less of a well-oiled machine than we’re used to seeing, with some missed passes and wide shots. Matthews and McIntosh were their usual dominant selves, but Keenan, Church and Shattler were hit and miss. I didn’t even notice Church until the second quarter.

The Rock seemed to really dominate on rebounds and loose balls. The stats say the difference in loose balls was only four in favour of the Rock, but it seemed to me that far more often than not, when a pass was dropped or there was a big rebound, a Rock player was there to grab it.

Other game notes:

  • Dan Lintner scored the first goal of the game on a pass from Kieran McArdle, but it was Johnny Powless that really made it happen. He took a shot which hit Kirk, then he went around behind the net to retrieve the loosie. After grabbing it, he was knocked on his behind but he kept the ball and managed to get a pass out in front of the net. I don’t remember the details (and the BR Live replay isn’t available yet) but somehow Powless did not get an assist on that goal.
  • The Rock took no penalties at all. The Rush had five, and the Rock scored on three of them. However the Rush scored on two of them as well – on one, the announcer had just finished announcing the Rush penalty and was still in the process of shouting “It’s a Rock power plaaaaaaaaay!” when the Rush scored a shorthanded goal.
  • It was country night, and a country singer named Jade Eagleson played at halftime. Country music isn’t really my jam, but I love pretty much any kind of live music so I enjoyed the show. It was mostly live, anyway – I noticed that the drummer was hitting quarter notes on the hi-hat while I could hear eighth notes, and when the singer stopped playing his acoustic guitar to adjust his microphone, there was no detectable difference in the sound. The drummer was obviously playing (it’s kind of hard to fake playing drums), so perhaps there was just a partial drum track they were playing over. It’s also possible that the mix on the acoustic was too low which is why we couldn’t hear it. Maybe that’s what he was trying to adjust. The singer was clearly singing though, and it’s not like each musician playing in the bed of a different pickup truck is the perfect concert setup, so I’ll cut them some slack.
  • Much of the in-game music was country-ish, but not all. The Rock cheerleaders did a country dance routine in the first half, but after halftime, country night seemed to be over. The second cheerleader dance was not country-related at all, no more country was played during the game, and even the “dance cam” used the standard dance-y music.
  • The people in the section next to us do a cheer after every Rock goal: they chant the goalie’s name three times, and then yell “YOU SUCK”. In tonight’s game, many were just yelling “Gooooo-lie Gooooo-lie Gooooo-lie” instead of Kirk’s name. Perhaps they had trouble stretching it out because it’s only one syllable? But they’ve managed Vinc, Bold, and Ward as well as Kirk for years so I’m not sure what the issue was. Could be the people near me didn’t know his name but they wanted to join in the cheer.
  • Something I’ve never seen at a lacrosse game before: when Adam Jones scored in the third quarter, someone from behind us threw a hat towards the turf. First off, hat-tricks are so common in lacrosse that nobody throws hats. Secondly, it was Jones’s fourth goal, so you missed it anyway. And third, you missed the turf by about 15 rows. Have another beer.
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