By now, I’m sure you all know how this game ended, not only the outcome but the dramatic fashion in which it happened. But whether or not you are happy with the result, you have to admit this was an amazing game with an amazing ending.
The Rock and Bandits had met seven times in the playoffs prior to this game, with the Bandits holding a 4-3 edge. After the offensive bloodbath of Game one, I think everyone expected more of a defensive battle in Game two, and that’s what we got. In Game 1, it took less than 6½ minutes for both teams to score five goals. In Game 2, we only had five goals at halftime.
Both teams played very well defensively and both goalies were excellent, but I have to give the defensive nod to the Bandits here, particularly in the first half. They were stifling and physical but played smart – the Rock had a single power play the entire game. The Rock were limited to bad angle or far outside shots which Vinc had no trouble with. They did manage to get inside a little more in the second half but Matt Vinc was still Matt Vinc.
Oddly, Toronto’s offense was kept at bay a little more than their transition was. Of the Rock’s nine goals, three were transition goals by Slade, Jubenville, and Harris. Brad Kri had three assists and Harris, Jubenville, Slade, Rogers, and Rose each added one – those guys contributed the same number of assists as the forwards. Dan Dawson was held off the board entirely – not that he wasn’t working hard or getting his shots, but he just wasn’t able to get anything by Vinc.
As for the Bandits, their offense was pure offense. Ian MacKay and Steve Priolo had an assist each, but the rest of the scoring was offensive players. Josh Byrne and Dhane Smith continue to prove themselves as one of the top scoring duos in the league, with Byrne picking up 8 points and Smith 6. Tehoka Nanticoke was held to no goals and a single assist but he was still active in the offensive zone, making space for the other guys – “crashing and banging” as Pat Gregoire might say.
Both Vinc and Rose were outstanding. Vinc faced two more shots and made three more saves, but I can’t say enough about how Rose kept the Rock in that game. Saves on breakaways and crease dives, grabbing loose balls and rebounds (do they not credit goalies with loose balls anymore? Neither Vinc nor Rose had any), and at one point he made three straight saves from Bandits right on the edge of the crease within about ten seconds. Vinc made some pretty amazing saves as well and as former NLL star Lewis Ratcliff pointed out on Twitter:
Vinc also makes some really good shots look like routine saves.
— Lewis Ratcliff (@ratcliff42) May 22, 2022
And that ending.
The Rock never led in the game, and after tying it at four early in the third, they never managed to tie it again. But they kept chipping away at the lead, scoring three goals in a minute to bring the score from 9-5 to 9-8 with about five minutes left. Chase Fraser scored to restore the two-goal lead but with 46 seconds left in regulation, Tom Schreiber got the Rock back within one. They pulled Rose and kept pushing on the resulting 6-on-5. But as hard as they pushed, Matt Vinc and Buffalo’s defense just wouldn’t let that comeback get completed. One Schreiber shot beat Vinc but hit the far post and bounced out. Finally, with only a second left, Schreiber threw a pass over to Dan Craig, who was all alone on the doorstep, who buried it past Vinc. The arena went nuts and I looked at the clock to see whether the goal was in time.
The clock read 0:00.0. Oh dear.
But it’s possible that the ball went in just before the clock hit zero. The refs immediately went to the booth for the goal review. The arena, of course, was still buzzing when they started showing the replays. The first couple didn’t really show anything, as the angles made it difficult to see when the ball went in. The call was going to be inconclusive and we were heading to overtime, right? Not so fast.
After a couple of these inconclusive shots, they played the overhead shot, with the clock in the upper corner. When they slowed it down enough to see exactly what happened, there was no ball in view but the clock was counting down: 0.4, 0.3, 0.2, 0.1. Still no ball. It was only when the clock hit zero could you finally see the ball: within the crease, just inches away from the line, but still clearly outside the goal. As everyone realized that we wouldn’t be going to overtime, the arena quickly fell silent – except for the Bandits players still on the floor, the entire section of Bandits fans behind their bench, and the scattered pockets of Bandits fans throughout the arena. They realized that they were not going to overtime, but they were going to the Finals. Utter heartbreak for the Rock and their fans, jubilation for the Bandits and theirs. And I’m sure there were thousands of lacrosse fans across North America, with no rooting interest in the game at all, watching on TV and screaming “OH MY GOD” when that ball crossed the line.
But those watching on TV had an extra wrinkle to deal with: it looks like the clock shown on the screen during TV broadcasts doesn’t quite match the arena clock. When Craig’s shot went in the net, the clock on the TV said 0.6 (picture below). This is not the first time this has happened – a similar issue came up a couple of weeks ago, and I think that was a Rock game in Hamilton as well. At the very least, the TV announcers should have been told that the clock was not quite right so that they could inform the viewers. Maybe it’s a TSN thing or maybe it’s an arena thing, but it needs to be fixed before next season.
Anyway, congratulations to the Rock on an excellent season and a hard-fought series. And congratulations to the Bandits on their division win, though every member of that team will tell you it’s just a stepping stone on the way to their real goal.
We always say we want our team to play a full sixty minutes, but the Rock played 60:00.1. Turns out it was just too much.
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