The division finals are set: the Bandits will host the Rock beginning next Sunday, and the Seals host the Mammoth with game 1 on Friday night. We had four excellent games to start the 2022 NLL playoffs, and the matchups for the second round should be just as good. The Rock took two of three from the Bandits during the regular season, while the Seals took two of three from the Mammoth.
Rock / Halifax game
I wrote about this in my game report so I won’t go over all the details here, but holy moly what a game on Friday night. The Rock took an early lead and their defense was amazing, so it looked like the Rock might just run away with it. But everybody in that building knew the Thunderbirds weren’t going to be that easy to beat and sure enough, they fought back to take the lead in the fourth quarter. Tom Schreiber tied it just a couple of minutes later, and the last seven minutes of the fourth was back and forth action with great defense and goaltending at both ends. Overtime was more of the same until, in an ending that couldn’t have been scripted better, captain Challen Rogers scored on a breakaway. Obviously the end result was only great for Rock fans, but in terms of entertainment, it was just an awesome game.
Colorado finally gets by Calgary
Before Friday night, the last time Colorado beat Calgary in a playoff game was April 22, 2006 by an 18-17 score. None of the players who played in that game are still active, though a half dozen of them are now coaches in the NLL and one is a current GM. The leading scorer in the game was Gavin Prout with 12 points, and Kevin Dostie (later traded to the Bandits for Jeff Shattler) and Lewis Ratcliff (later traded to the Rock for Josh Sanderson) led the Roughnecks with 9 points each. Colorado went on to win the NLL Championship that season. They haven’t won another since and Friday night’s game was only the third playoff game they’ve won since then. The Mammoth have been eliminated from the playoffs by the Roughnecks nine times since 2006. But none of that history matters anymore as the curse has finally been broken. I’m sure the team is done with that and is now preparing for their battle with the Seals, but getting that monkey off of their back had to feel pretty damn good.
Goaltending on Saturday
In Buffalo, both Matt Vinc and Doug Jamieson were so good that the NLL record for the lowest scoring game was in jeopardy. The Rock beat the Attack 7-4 in 2001, and the score in this game was 7-4 for most of the fourth quarter. One more goal each in the last five minutes and a couple of empty-netters bumped the final score to 10-5. It appeared that both goalies knew this could be their last game of the season and decided “if we’re going to lose, it will not be because of me”. And they were both right.
In San Diego, Zach Higgins and Frank Scigliano must have watched the early game and been inspired. Both goalies in this game were also outstanding and again, each goalie gave his team every opportunity to win the game. In the end, Jamieson and Higgins are done for the season but each knows that they did everything they could and their team’s loss is not on them, though I’m sure that’s small consolation.
I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before but I really hate watching the losing team after a playoff game. Somehow it’s different during the regular season when teams get eliminated from the playoffs but once you’re in the playoffs, we all know that anything can happen. Look at the 2012 Edmonton Rush, who finished 6-10 and snuck into the playoffs, then made it all the way to the finals where they lost to the Knighthawks. You know that no matter the matchups or the regular season record, every player on every playoff team has considered the possibility that they could go all the way. The Roughnecks, for example, didn’t have their best regular season ever but they got hot right at the end and then had to face a team they’d beaten two out of three games this season and a zillion times in the past. The look on Curtis Dickson’s face as the game ended was heartbreaking and I’m glad the camera didn’t spend a lot of time on the Roughnecks players.
Even celebrating Challen Rogers OT goal on Friday night was tempered a bit when I saw Aaron Bold’s reaction to the goal and the Halifax players slowly leave the bench as the Rock players celebrated.
I know that this happens to every team except one every year but it’s difficult to watch and I’m sure it’s far more difficult to experience.