A whole bunch of awesome in the NLL this past weekend, and not much that wasn’t.
Halifax goalie Warren Hill is having an outstanding season, and had played every minute of every Halifax game so far this season. But he had to go onto the COVID list and couldn’t play this past weekend, so backup Aaron Bold was called on to get the start. In his first game since January 2020, Bold was a little shaky in the first half, giving up five Vancouver goals in each of the first two quarters. But in the second half, Bold played a lot more like the goalie who won two straight Championships with the Rush, shutting out the Warriors in the third quarter and only allowing two goals in the fourth. Playing as well as he did in his first game in more than two years was great, but there’s more to it than that. Bold’s wife Michelle Fines fought cancer for many years before passing away in May 2020. Given what Bold has gone through over the past few years, I’m sure getting together with his second family to forget about everything else and just concentrate on lacrosse for a couple of hours was therapeutic. The fact that he was successful and they pulled out a hard-fought win was icing on the cake. It was truly moving to watch his teammates swarm him on the floor after the game.
Dan Lomas also played his first NLL game in two years on Saturday night, but his time off was for different reasons. His 2020 season ended the same way everyone else’s did, with the cancellation of games and then the season in March. But during an MSL game in the summer of 2021, Lomas ruptured his Achilles tendon. He had surgery in August, and was told it would take a year to recover. But Lomas didn’t just wish he could return earlier, he BELIEVED that he would. So while others were recording podcasts, Lomas was puttin’ in the work to make his dream come true. Seven months after surgery, Lomas returned to action in Hamilton on Saturday as the Rock hosted the Riptide. I was at this game, and when the first Riptide goal was scored, I noticed that the guy who scored it looked positively thrilled, and his teammates surrounded him. I didn’t quite understand until I saw that it was Lomas. He scored two more in the fourth quarter for a nice return-to-action hat-trick.
We’ve talked about parity in the NLL for years and how any team can beat any other team on any given night. It’s always been at least mostly true but there are always a couple of exceptions. This year is no different, but even the exceptions are somehow less… exceptional.
The Riptide are only 2-8 but they beat the Rock last weekend and are tied for second in the league in goals scored per game. Nobody looks at the Riptide coming up on their schedule and thinks “OK, we got that one. It’s just the Riptide”. The Rush and Roughnecks are 3-7 and 3-6 respectively, but they’re still the Rush and Roughnecks. While they’re struggling more than they’re used to this season, nobody’s writing them off either. Panther City is only 3-8 but have won two straight including beating the Rush in OT, and have looked like a different team in the last few weeks. Similar to the Riptide, take them lightly at your own peril. Vancouver has been playing the best we’ve seen this franchise play since they were the Washington Stealth – even with Mitch Jones out for who knows how long, they’ve been playing very well, and weren’t far from beating the powerhouse Thunderbirds.
Even the strong teams have their weaknesses. The Bandits and Thunderbirds are 9-1 and 8-1 respectively, and seem to have already locked up first and second in the East, in some order. But the Bandits lost to the Rock, and had to go to overtime to beat the FireWolves and Riptide. Five of the Thunderbirds eight wins have been by one or two goals, and they’ve only won by as many as five once.
I’m not sure I’d put a lot of money on Panther City beating Buffalo, but if it were to happen, it wouldn’t be a jaw-hits-the-floor moment. You might just shake your head and say “2022, man”.
A few quick ones
- Nick Ossello has quickly become one of the better broadcasters in the NLL. He’s a funny guy and makes jokes and is self-deprecating, and that’s all great and makes him fun to listen to, but he really does know the game and is good at explaining why players are doing what they’re doing.
- I listed Zach Currier as the third runner up as Transition Player of the Year in my mid-season awards article last week, but then I watched the Calgary / San Diego game on Friday. That race is even closer than I thought. Messenger is still having an outstanding season and Rogers and Matisz will likely be on the short list for TPotY for years to come, but Currier made a very strong case for himself in that game. He was everywhere: playing strong defense, intercepting passes, creating chances running up the floor, playing shifts on O when needed, all those things that transition players do. Here’s how well he played: he made me think of him as a serious TPotY candidate in a game that his team lost and in which he picked up no points at all.
- Frank Scigliano has now allowed only four goals in three separate games this year. Nobody else has ever done that more than once in a season. He’s also had games where he’s allowed 8 and 7 goals, and has a league-leading GAA of a preposterous 7.73. In a league where a GAA below 10 is very good, below 8 is unreal.
- I saw a game live again! After the Rock played three home games in an empty arena, fans were finally allowed back in the building again, and almost 8,000 people showed up. The lower bowl was mostly full and loud, and most people were wearing masks (as is still mandated by the province). That said, it still surprises me how many people don’t know, after two full years of a global pandemic, that the mask goes over your nose.
I’m sure you get tired of me whining about NLL announcers who get names wrong. Trust me, nobody is more tired of that than I am. But it just keeps happening. This weekend, the Georgia guys talked about Mike Hansen and Charlie Bee-trand, and even got Ed Comeau’s name wrong. That’s their own coach. The Panther City guys have been saying Nick Damude’s name wrong all season. That’s their own goalie.
As someone said to me on twitter when I pointed that out, the only way that happens is (a) the announcers didn’t bother asking Nick how to say his name, or (b) the announcers are given a pronunciation guide for their team, written by someone who didn’t bother asking Nick how to say his name. I know there are announcers who will go to the players themselves and confirm the name pronunciation, even if they’ve been given a guide by the team or league. These guys obviously didn’t. I’ve been told that the NLL is now telling its announcers to read my pronunciation guide, so now I feel like it is my job to point out when someone hasn’t.