Another very busy weekend in the NLL, as Colorado played twice and every other team played once. We had blowouts in Toronto and Philly but all the others were either close right down to the wire, or at least were close most of the way through. The defending champion Mammoth had games against two teams that had one win between them, but only came away with a split. The Desert Dogs picked up their second win, the Warriors held their own against the Rush, and Panther City also held their own against the Seals. Just like last week against Toronto, Calgary came back from a few goals down to force overtime, though this week the extra time worked in their favour.
If you like goal scoring, this was the game for you. The Rock and Riptide scored a total of 36 goals on Saturday night – we only went more than 3½ minutes without a goal once, and 12 goals were scored within a minute of the previous one. Jeff Teat scored 4 goals and picked up 10 points, while Connor Kearnan and Tyler Digby each had a hat-trick for the Riptide. Meanwhile for the Rock, Tom Schreiber scored three and picked up eleven assists, Corey Small, Dan Craig, Stephen Keogh, and Latrell Harris (!!) scored at least three each. Marley Angus made his NLL debut in this game, and it seemed obvious that by the fourth quarter, everyone was trying to get him the ball so he could score his first, but it just never happened. He did pick up three assists though.
Both goalies (all three actually, as Abrams replaced Orleman for about 20 minutes) had their moments and made some solid stops here and there, but the offense was king in this one.
Yes they lost but they put up a hell of a fight in the second half of Saturday’s game. Nick Damude was outstanding, doing everything he could to keep his team in the game. Panther City had a five goal deficit at halftime, and even without Callum Crawford, Tony Malcom, and Phil Caputo, they were able to stay in the game and got back within a single goal twice in the fourth quarter. At no point in that fourth quarter did anyone, particularly the Seals, think this one was over until it actually was. PCLC was never able to tie it but made a game of it and never gave up. This Panther City team is starting to become known as one that will force you to be at your absolute best to beat them.
I mentioned last week that the Calgary Roughnecks has been one of those “never give up” teams for many years. Where did Panther City head coach Tracey Kelusky play most of his career? Calgary.
He played very well this past weekend, but that’s not why he gets the awesome here. You’ve probably seen the interview he gave after the game, where he dropped an f-bomb on live TV and it seemed that there was never even a moment where he thought “I probably shouldn’t have said that”. It wasn’t even all that great an interview, in that Buque didn’t really give any useful answers to most of the questions.
Back in 2015 as a rookie playing for the Mammoth, Buque got his first-ever start in Denver against Vancouver, gave up only six goals, and got the win. After the game, he did a similar interview where he said something about playing in front of “the best f**king fans in the NLL”. A couple of days later, he posted an apology to social media, but I don’t think it was necessary. He’d just played what was likely the best game of his life and the adrenaline was still pumping. It was obviously genuine excitement so everyone forgave him. On Saturday, it seemed less like he was high on adrenaline and more “yeah, I think my teammates are f**kin’ great, so that’s what I said”. Still awesome.
It’s been said a gazillion times about the NLL that any team can beat any other team on any given night. Well, in the early part of this year that didn’t seem true. It looked like Rochester could beat anyone they wanted, and Vancouver and Las Vegas could maybe beat each other but had no chance of beating anyone else. Well, we’ve still got the haves and the have-nots, but things are settling down a little. Las Vegas and Vancouver did trade wins against each other but the Desert Dogs beat the defending champs on Saturday, and while they ended up losing the game, Vancouver played one of their best games of the year and kept up against a very good Rush team. The Knighthawks are obviously still strong but have lost a couple now. The Thunderbirds and Seals looked very strong on paper but started out looking just pretty good. They are both starting to put things together but it’s taken a little longer than expected. The Swarm are still winless but they also put together a good outing against Colorado on Friday.
That said, it looks like the Rock and Bandits are only getting better. They don’t meet again until twice in April, but I am really looking forward to those games. They will likely be extremely entertaining and will have a major impact on the playoff situation for both teams.
Vancouver trades Mitch Jones, loses Logan Schuss
It’s not awesome that the Warriors had to trade Mitch Jones, but it was starting to look inevitable. They got good return for him: Steph Charbonneau and various draft picks which they will use to continue to rebuild their team, and they played pretty well without him against the Rush. Then again, they played most of last season without him so they’re kinda used to that. They also lost Logan Schuss for the rest of the season thanks to a knee injury. They may decide to make more moves but we may see a lot of rookies Matt Delmonico and Connor Goodwin out the front door. By the time the team is ready to compete next year, they want these guys to have had as much floor time as possible.
As for Philadelphia, their offense was still not clicking like they wanted, so the addition of Jones might make a significant difference there. He did get two goals and three assists in his Wings debut so he’s already contributing. From Philly’s point of view, you can likely file this trade squarely in the Awesome category.
From my experience, the game streaming has generally been good this year, at least on tsn.ca. But there were a number of problems on Saturday night. I wasn’t able to watch any of the Colorado / Las Vegas game because of errors on the site. I tried to watch PCLC / San Diego but got a similar error, so I switched to Saskatchewan / Vancouver. A few minutes later, the feed just switched by itself to the San Diego game. That was fine since I was happy watching either one. After a few more minutes, it switched back again. I tried to go back to San Diego later and got errors again. At one point, I was getting errors on all three streams, though the games in San Diego and Vancouver were at halftime at the time. The Las Vegas never recovered for me but the second half of San Diego was fine and the last few minutes of Vancouver were fine too. Others may have had different results, but for me, Saturday night was the first night of significant streaming problems this year.
At the beginning of last season (and throughout the summer for PLL games), I’d frequently Chromecast from my phone to my TV, and that worked fine. But by halfway through last season, that started being more and more problematic (very choppy video, frequent buffering delays), to the point where I didn’t even try near the end of the season, I’d just watch on my laptop. I haven’t tried that this year but I’ve heard others say that it’s not working at all. Apparently there’s a new Chromecast device which can run apps, and that’s working fine, and I haven’t tried the TSN+ app on Roku yet.
Yes, there’s still a ways to go and yes, it’s frustrating when you really want to watch a game and can’t, but the streaming improvements plus games on TSN/ESPN every week mean things are still far better than just a few years ago, when nothing was on TV and you had to pay $40 to watch the Jumbotron feed. Believe me, what we have now is generally way better than missing a goal because we’re watching an eight-year-old flex on the “Show us your muscles cam”.
Albany’s first four games were rough – they played the Bandits, Knighthawks, and two against the Thunderbirds. Four games against three of their strongest division rivals, so the fact that they came out of that at 2-2 was pretty encouraging. But then they lost to the Riptide who were 0-4 at the time. This past weekend they played the 2-4 Wings and were only able to score five goals. They picked up a few in the fourth quarter but at one point they’d gone something like 46 minutes without scoring. That lack of offense has to be concerning. I didn’t see any of their game against Philly so it’s certainly possible that the low score on Albany’s part was more due to Zach Higgins and the Wings defense and less due to Albany’s forwards. However, in their six games, they’ve only scored more than ten goals twice, and they lost both of those games. In the NLL, ten goals is not going to be enough to win many games.