Pre-season game report: Mammoth 15 @ Rock 15

The pre-season scrimmages continue this week. The Rush and Swarm played a rematch of last year’s finals, the Bandits and Black Wolves faced off, and the Stealth and Roughnecks played again after facing each other last weekend. In Oakville, the TRAC was rockin’ once again, this time featuring the Colorado Mammoth taking on the Rock. The game ended deadlocked at 15 and they decided not to play overtime, so it ended in a rare lacrosse tie.

Most of the Rock players who did not play last week were there this week: Jones, Leblanc, Brodie Merrill, Hostrawser, Chapman, Edwards, and Rose. Still no sign of Challen Rogers or Jeff Gilbert. Nick Rose played the first half in net while Brandon Miller played the second half. They gave up 15 goals so it’s hard to say either one was particularly good but neither was terrible either. Rose and the defense were very good in the first quarter, giving up very few chances. That changed in the second quarter as the Mammoth got back into the game. I didn’t think Brandon Miller was great last week but he was much better this week. The Mammoth outshot the Rock 55 to 50, and that margin got much closer near the end of the game. I think Colorado were outshooting Toronto by as many as 10 or 15 at some points.

We finally got a look at Adam Jones in a Rock uniform, and he didn’t disappoint. He did the standard Adam Jones thing, shooting through traffic at a spot he can’t possibly hit, but he hit it anyway. Tom Schreiber seemed a little more frustrated than last week, but Kieran McArdle scored a couple of nice goals. For the Mammoth, I was surprised that I only heard Ryan Benesch’s name twice – once on an assist near the end of the second, and then he scored a goal a minute later. I don’t think he played in the second half. Considering the Mammoth scored 15 goals, I’m a little surprised I didn’t hear the names Jeremy Noble or Eli McLaughlin much either.

Dillon Ward started for the Mammoth and didn’t seem to be seeing the ball very well. He was replaced partway through the second quarter but oddly, he went straight to the dressing room and we never saw him again. Steve Fryer took over in net, and the team had no goalie on the bench until well into the third quarter. Brandon Humphrey took over in net in the third.

The Mammoth warm up (photo credit: me)

The game started off very physical, but that mostly went away after ten minutes or so. Not entirely, of course, but it wasn’t as chippy as it looked like it was going to be. In the third or early fourth there was one… “incident” is too strong a term, maybe “occurrence”. A couple of players between the benches did the chest bumping thing and some teammates and the refs went over to pull them apart before anything could happen, and that was it. No penalties came from it. Thinking about it now, I think there was a similar “occurrence” near one of the nets later in the game. Again, no penalties.

Top players of the game for the Rock: Adam Jones, Brodie Merrill. Dan Lintner only played the first half (I think) but played hard. I’m liking his game more and more. I also noticed Drew Belgrave getting a lot of playing time, and coming up the floor a lot in transition. Brandon Slade scored a very nice transition goal in the fourth – he received an outlet pass around centre and basically ran straight in on goal on a 2-on-1. While the defender protected against the pass, Slade got to the crease, faked the shot, waited until Humphrey made his move, and then shot far top corner. He showed great patience and it paid off.

For the Mammoth, I saw Nick Ossello a lot and Jordan Gilles had a strong game in transition as well, setting up a couple of goals on really great plays. I thought Stephen Keogh had a good game as well, but I’m a big fan of his so he’d have to play pretty badly for me not to include him.

Goal scorers for the Mammoth: Wardle (3), Keogh (3), Lee (2), and one each for Benesch, Eastwood, Ruest (announced as “Roost”… sigh), Noble, McLaughlin, McKay, and Bal. For the Rock: Jones (4), Leblanc (3), Hickey (2), McArdle (2), and one each for Hellyer, Schreiber, Lintner, and Slade.

Other game notes:

  • Keegan Bal was not listed on the Mammoth roster. After he scored a goal in the first quarter, the PA announcement was simply: “Colorado goal scored by number 91.”
  • Both teams had their names on the jerseys except Mark Farthing for the Mammoth and Phil Caputo for the Rock. Caputo’s name wasn’t on his jersey last week either, but all of the rookies’ jerseys had names on them, so I’m not sure why Caputo got hosed.
  • Play was still pretty sloppy but not as bad as last week.
  • Weird play of the night: I’m not sure of the details but it looked something like this: A Rock player deflected the ball towards his own net, and Rose made a casual stick save, launching the ball into the air. When it came back down, another Rock player somehow hit it back towards the net, and again Rose made a stick save, knocking the ball behind him over the net. It hit the boards or took a weird bounce or something and ended up in front of the net again, just rolling slowly towards centre but out of Rose’s reach. No Rock player did anything but a Mammoth player grabbed it and took a quick shot. Rose stopped that one as well. Three saves but only one actual shot.
  • The music was very loud. Like, very loud. In the first half, some fans tried a “Go Rock Go!” cheer but it was completely drowned out by the music and didn’t last long. The team actually had former Rock player Nick Diachenko as the DJ for the night (I believe that’s his non-lacrosse job), and sorry Nick, but I wasn’t impressed. There were a ton of remixes; it seemed that 80% of the songs were either originals or covers (of various genres) sped up with drum machines backing them up. It sounded like we were at a dance club, and I haven’t been to a dance club for 25 years. Then again, a 48-year-old man who doesn’t dance is not likely his target demographic so I imagine he couldn’t care less whether I was impressed or not. The younger woman sitting next to me and the teenage girl a couple of rows ahead of me were dancing in their seats all night.
Advertisements

Pre-season game report: Rush 11 @ Rock 13

The NLL is back! After a long summer, we finally have NLL action again, even if it’s pre-season. In fact there’s lots of it: not only did the Rush take on the Rock at the TRAC on Saturday, the Roughnecks played a doubleheader at the LEC, playing the Mammoth in the afternoon and the Stealth later in the evening. I’m guessing that was a split-squad thing like they do in baseball.

I arrived late to the TRAC, only 10-12 minutes before game time. As a result, I got the honour of standing for the entire game, down in the corner near the scoreboard. I was right at the glass though, so it wasn’t so bad – see the picture below. I had a great view of half the game and a lousy view of the other half.

This being a pre-season game, both teams had some missing pieces: the Rush played four goaltenders, one for each quarter, none of whom were Evan Kirk. Chris Corbeil, Nic Bilic, and Jeremy Thompson were also missing, and Mark Matthews, Jeff Shattler, and Ben McIntosh only played the first half. At the other end, Adam Jones did not make his Rock debut, and Challen Rogers, Sandy Chapman, Stephan Leblanc, Brodie Merrill, Jeff Gilbert, Bill Hostrawser, Damon Edwards, and Nick Rose were out.

The Rush warming up

As I said, the Rush played four goaltenders, each looking for that coveted “backing up Evan Kirk and thus working the door for 95% of the season” position. This race started and ended strong, as Tyler Carlson was sharp in the first quarter and former Rock backup Zac Boychuk did well in the fourth though he was at the far end of the floor so I couldn’t really tell. Pete Dubenski played in the second and again, he was at the far end from me but Adam Shute was near me in the third. He wasn’t bad but did allow a couple of soft ones.

The Rock also swapped goalies, with Brandon Miller playing in the first half (and struggled a little – not quite the strong performance we saw at the Heritage Cup a few weeks back) and draftee Riley Hutchcraft playing in the second half. Hutchcraft came out wearing #1 in the third quarter, but was wearing #52 (with no name on the jersey) in the fourth.  I confirmed with the NLL’s Tyson Geick that it was still Hutchcraft, who must have changed jerseys. Hutch (I’m assuming his nickname is Hutch) allowed a couple of quick goals to start the third, but settled down and played pretty well after that.

Awesome

  • Mark Matthews. Mark Matthews is awesome. That’s all I have to say about that.
  • Jeff Shattler made his Rush debut and looked good, scoring one goal.
  • The Rush defense looked as strong as ever, despite being down a few regulars. By the time we were halfway through the first quarter, I had noted pass interceptions by both Dilks and Rubisch.
  • In the second quarter, a Rush player took a shot, which Miller stopped. The ball dropped and began rolling towards the goal line, but Miller couldn’t see it. Defender Brandon Slade did and grabbed it before it crossed the line. Nice play.
  • More D: During a Rush 5-on-3, Brad Kri and Latrell Harris both made some great plays to prevent goals. I believe the Rush did eventually score on the 5-on-3.
  • Near the end of the second quarter, the music playing on the PA suddenly stopped and all you could hear was the sound of the game. This was awesome, but they started up the music again a couple of minutes later.
  • At the end of the second quarter, Brock Sorensen found himself in front of the Rush crease with the ball while on the move. He scored a beautiful jumping goal… that went in about a half-second after the buzzer. It didn’t count, but it was a thing of beauty.
  • Tom Schreiber looked to be continuing from where he left off last season. I had to smile when I heard my first “Schreiber, from Hellyer and Hickey” call. I suspect I’ll be hearing those three names, in various orders, many times throughout the season.

Not awesome

  • Lots of dropped and missed passes on both sides. “Mid-season form” this was not.
  • Would have been nice to see Adam Jones. Looking forward to hearing my first “Jones, from Hellyer and Hickey” call.
  • One of Tom Schreiber’s three goals was assisted by Seth Laidlaw but the announcer said that Lyndon Bunio got the assist. It likely makes no difference at all but for the record, it was Laidlaw.
  • Robert Church did play but I barely noticed him. It’s possible he also only played half the game.
  • I will leave home earlier for next week’s game in the hopes of getting a seat. The seats at the TRAC aren’t that comfortable, but it’s better than standing for two hours.

Other game notes

  • Only one person on either team was listed as transition: Rush rookie Austin Murphy.
  • Rock rookies I noticed: Drew Belgrave looked very large, Connor Cole looked very fast, and Brett Ulbikas and Lyndon Bunio look like they need to be added to my name pronunciation guide. If Bunio makes the team, I apologize in advance for the number of times I will accidentally type “Bunion” instead.
  • The Rush didn’t have names on their jerseys so it was a little harder to spot the rookies.
  • Derek Keenan was not behind the bench for the Rush – he was upstairs in the press area. I imagine it’s a bit of a treat to watch your own team from afar without having to be involved in every decision.

Photo credit: me

2018 NLL Milestones

A number of player and team milestones can be reached this year. Here’s a list of the most likely:

Teams

Wins & losses

Rochester’s first win of the season will be the franchise’s 200th. Calgary needs three for 150.

Buffalo needs three away wins to give them 100 in franchise history.

Toronto’s next win at the ACC will be their 100th home victory.

The Vancouver Stealth will break into double digits in the “away win” category with their first win on the road. That’s right, after four full seasons in Vancouver the Stealth have only won 9 games on the road. Total.

Goals

Buffalo is 63 goals away from becoming the first NLL team to score 5000 goals. They are already 500 goals ahead of anyone else (Wings) and 700 ahead of any active team (Knighthawks). On the other end of the spectrum, Saskatchewan needs 36 goals to reach 500.

Colorado needs 3 at home to hit 1500, and 42 on the road to hit 1500. This also means that they need 45 total to hit 3000. If they give up 103, they’ll hit 3000 goals allowed.

Team Leaders

Dane Dobbie will take over the all-time Roughnecks lead in points from Jeff Shattler with his 18th of the year. Stephan Leblanc could pass Josh Sanderson for 3rd on the Rock’s points list with 77 points. Dhane Smith needs 22 goals to tie Mike Accursi for 3rd all-time in Bandits goals.

Small sidetrack: I’ve talked about John Tavares and his amazing numbers a million times here, and I’m going to do it again. After only five seasons, Dhane Smith is already third on the Bandits points list, but he’s 542 behind the still-active Mark Steenhuis, who’s 779 behind John Tavares. Steenhuis is second in Bandits goals but needs 371 to catch JT. To illustrate just how far behind that is, only 14 players have ever scored more than 371 goals in their career, and Shawn Evans isn’t one of them. In order to break JT’s record, Steenhuis would have to score as many goals as Shawn Evans ever has – starting now – and he’d still be short by 3.

Other combinations of players who don’t add up to Tavares’s goal total: Dan Dawson & Rhys Duch, Josh Sanderson & Ryan Benesch, and Paul Gait & Tom Marechek.

In case there was any doubt before now (and there wasn’t), Tavares’s records will stand for a long time. OK, back to the milestones for 2018.


Players

Goals

Player… Needs… To reach…
Dan Dawson 31 500
Shawn Evans 32 400
Ryan Benesch 38 400
Callum Crawford 24 300
Jeff Shattler 32 300
Cody Jamieson 1 200
Dhane Smith 15 200
Joe Resetarits 3 100
Curtis Knight 6 100
Brad Self 9 100

Assists

Player… Needs… To reach…
Shawn Evans 57 700
Mark Steenhuis 55 600
Rhys Duch 22 500
Ryan Benesch 25 500
Stephan Leblanc 49 400
Brodie Merrill 15 300
Mark Matthews 18 300
Corey Small 18 300
Rob Hellyer 8 200
Zack Greer 21 200
Robert Church 21 200
Logan Schuss 23 200

Shawn Evans

Points

Player… Needs… To reach…
Dan Dawson 39 1300
Shawn Evans 89 1100
Mark Steenhuis 100 1100
Ryan Benesch 63 900
Rhys Duch 31 900
Callum Crawford 11 800
Jeff Shattler 15 700
Dane Dobbie 34 700
Stephan Leblanc 2 600
Curtis Dickson 50 600
Cody Jamieson 72 600
Kevin Crowley 43 500
Adam Jones 69 500
Dhane Smith 72 500

Loose Balls

Player… Needs… To reach…
Brodie Merrill 15 2200
Mark Steenhuis 30 1500
Jay Thorimbert 72 1400
Shawn Evans 69 1200
Jeff Shattler 91 1200
Ian Hawksbee 35 1100
Jordan MacIntosh 40 1100
Sandy Chapman 12 1000

PIM

Player… Needs… To reach…
Billy Dee Smith 76 700
Mark Steenhuis 8 400

Games

Player… Needs… To reach…
Brodie Merrill 3 200
Shawn Evans 5 200
Billy Dee Smith 8 200
Matt Vinc 14 200
John Lafontaine 2 100
Frank Scigliano 2 100
Johnny Powless 5 100
Adam Jones 9 100

Goalie Minutes

Player… Needs… To reach…
Brandon Miller 199 8000
Aaron Bold 403 7000
Mike Poulin 752 7000
Evan Kirk 648 5000
Nick Rose 664 5000

Goals against

Player… Needs… To reach…
Brandon Miller 27 1600
Aaron Bold 70 1200
Evan Kirk 99 1000

Saves

Player… Needs… To reach…
Matt Vinc 533 7000
Mike Poulin 70 4000
Aaron Bold 223 4000
Evan Kirk 68 3000
Nick Rose 196 3000

Leaders

This section is for players who are close to passing a retired player on the career list in a particular category.

Player… Needs… To tie… For…
Shawn Evans 15 goals Kasey Beirnes/Tracey Kelusky 13th
23 goals Mike Accursi 12th
Ryan Benesch 21 goals Kasey Beirnes/Tracey Kelusky 13th
29 goals Mike Accursi 12th
Rhys Duch 32 goals Kasey Beirnes/Tracey Kelusky 13th
40 goals Mike Accursi 12th
Dane Dobbie 3 goals Chris Gill 18th
Curtis Dickson 2 goals Kaleb Toth 23rd
5 goals Pat Maddalena 22nd
Dan Dawson 55 assists Colin Doyle 3rd
Shawn Evans 65 assists Shawn Williams 6th
Callum Crawford 6 assists Lewis Ratcliff 12th
13 assists Blaine Manning 11th
Rhys Duch 15 assists Jim Veltman 14th
Ryan Benesch 18 assists Jim Veltman 14th
Dan Dawson 86 points Josh Sanderson 4th
Ryan Benesch 85 points Gavin Prout 11th
Rhys Duch 4 points Blaine Manning 13th
Callum Crawford 34 points Tracey Kelusky 16th
Jeff Shattler 2 points Kasey Beirnes 21st
Matt Vinc 134 goals against Bob Watson 4th
Matt Vinc 4 saves Bob Watson 2nd
Mike Poulin 45 saves Matt Roik 12th
Brodie Merrill 39 LB Jim Veltman 1st
Mark Steenhuis 46 LB Pat McCready 5th
Shawn Evans 22 LB Phil Sanderson 10th
Jeff Shattler 10 LB John Grant 12th

Brodie Merrill will break Jim Veltman’s career loose ball total of 2417 early in the 2018 season. I predicted this back in 2011, though you’ll notice I assumed Merrill would play in all 16 (not 18) of his team’s games every year, and I did not foresee Geoff Snider’s retirement.

NLL Rule changes 2018

As always, the league has made a number of rule changes for the upcoming season. One affects the playoff format, and that’s kind of a big deal. The rest of the changes to the rule book are either not rule changes at all (just clarifications) or are very minor changes that nobody is ever likely to notice.

Last season, when the league released their list of changes, they released a document that contained just the changes, and they also released the entire rule book with the changes in bold text. This year, they just released the new rule book. All 134 pages of it. There was no guidance on how to find the changes (some changes were in bold, but not all), so I went through the 2018 and 2017 rule books and compared them page by page and paragraph by paragraph. This is the kind of dedication you’ll find here at NLL Chatter; I do the hard work because of my passion for giving you, dear reader, the information and analysis you demand and expect. Plus, Criminal Minds was a repeat this week. Continue reading

The beep test

NLL training camps will be starting in a month or so. This is the chance for the young players to strut their stuff and get noticed, the veteran players to get back into the swing of things after some time off (a month or so if they played in MLS/WLA/MLL, as many as six months if they didn’t), and the oldest players to see if they have just one more year left in their aching bodies.

During the camps, one thing you may hear about is the beep test. I had never heard of this until a couple of years ago, when numerous players being interviewed on various lacrosse podcasts kept talking about it. It turns out my sons had both done it a few times during their phys ed classes. If you are as unfamiliar with this as I was, allow me to enlighten you.

Continue reading

The 2017 draft: Anthony, Jordan, Jake, Zack, Mitch, Mitch’s dad, Aaron, and Bryan

The 2017 NLL draft was this past Monday so as I always do, I made my way down the QEW to the TRAC to sit in the crowd. I’m sure Stephen Stamp will do a comprehensive write-up on IL Indoor before long on who went where, what teams did well, and what teams didn’t. I’ll touch on the draft results themselves a little bit but this article will mostly describe my experience there.

Anthony, Jordan

We had one trade announced before the draft started. BC boy Anthony Malcom was sent to Vancouver along with the 12th overall pick (Ottawa’s Ryan Fournier) from Buffalo, who received Ontario boy Jordan Durston. Both players now play closer to home, so they both win. As for the teams involved, the Stealth picks up a righty who averaged 3.4 points per game in 2017 while the Bandits get a lefty who averaged 2.4. I imagine Evan Messenger is quite pleased about the new opening on the left side that he may be able to fill. There was talk that the Bandits picking up a lefty immediately before the draft might indicate that they were going to pass on lefty Josh Byrne at #1. They didn’t, so after the very first pick, the Bandits had strengthened their left side with two players.

Jake, Zack

After Byrne went first, we all knew what was coming next. In the words of the commissioner: “With the second pick in the 2017 entry draft, the Rochester Knighthawks select… wait, what? Is this right? Curt, are you sure about this? Um… he’s nodding. OK then. The Knighthawks take Jake Withers” That may not be verbatim, I don’t remember exactly. There are always surprising picks in the draft but Rochester skipping over Zack Currier was one of the bigger ones. The biggest question prior to the draft was whether the Bandits would take Byrne or Currier first overall and the assumption was that the Knighthawks would take the other one second. To see Currier drop to third was surprising and I’m sure there were mini fist pumps all around the Roughnecks table.

KnighthawksDraftThe picture here features the three Knighthawks first round picks: Eric Fannell, Austin Shanks, and Jake Withers (left to right), all Ohio State boys. See the ghostly image behind the guy in green at the back? That’s me.

I mean no disrespect to Jake Withers, who was ranked #3 in Stamper’s list, so it’s not like the Knighthawks selected some nobody. But considering Currier’s performance in the Mann Cup just last week and the fact that his brother is already a Knighthawk, that seemed like a perfect fit. Then again, how many really dumb lacrosse decisions has Curt Styres made since taking over the Knighthawks? Not many.

Mitch, Mitch’s dad

I was sitting in the back row of the stands, and talked a little to the guy sitting next to me. He mentioned that his son was in the draft pool, and was hopefully a late-rounder. They were from BC and his son played for the Jr. Langley Thunder. The dad was clearly a big lacrosse fan and told me when certain teammates, former teammates, or opponents of his son were drafted. In most cases he had positive things to say but there were a few cases where he obviously wasn’t too impressed.

As the night went on and his name wasn’t called, his son got more and more anxious, texting his dad “This is tough” after hearing yet another teammate get picked. He came back to sit with his dad in the fifth round or so. I didn’t talk to him directly, but I started to feel bad for the kid. What if he doesn’t get picked at all? What do I say to them after the draft when I’m leaving? “Nice talking to you, have a good trip home, sorry your dreams didn’t come true”? I started to get a little nervous about what I’d say but remembered that however bad I felt, he’d feel worse.

And then it happened. “With the 53rd selection, the Calgary Roughnecks select Mitch McDole”. The kid simply whispered “YES” and got up and headed to the front. Before I could even wish his dad congratulations, he was off following him, just like I would if it were my kid. Just like Jordan Kanscal two years ago (who also went to Calgary), I was excited when his name was called. Congratulations Mitch, I will be watching for you at the Calgary training camp.

Aaron

One other thing that Mr. McDole reported was that at the previous weekend’s combine, there was a 42-year-old goalie. He said he wasn’t very good… at all…. but hey, kudos to him for trying out. I agreed with that. The next day I found that the 42-year-old goalie was none other than Aaron Freeland, formerly known as Meathead on the IL Indoor message board. I met Aaron once in Rochester (he’d had a few large green drinks by that point so probably doesn’t remember), but have talked to him numerous times on the message board and on Twitter. He posted something on Facebook saying that he applied on a whim and fully expected to get rejected. When he didn’t, he decided to get out there anyway because why the hell not. Not everyone would have the guts to get out there at age 42 and face shots from 20-year-old lacrosse players, so I’m impressed. Nice job Aaron.

Other notes:

  • There were a few trades throughout the evening but other than the Malcom/Durston deal, none involved players. I believe every trade announced was team A sending the very next pick to team B for a pick in the same round in 2019 or 2020. Team B is now on the clock.
  • One of the reasons I love going to the draft is sitting near the families of players selected. Watching and hearing the parents, siblings, and girlfriends standing up, applauding, and cheering while the player walks to the podium is heartwarming.
  • That said, it’s really heartbreaking to see hatless kids sitting during the sixth round, as the possibility of their being drafted dwindles.
  • At 7:56pm, Nick Sakiewicz announced the 14th overall pick for the Rochester Knighthawks. A minute later, the NLL twitter account tweeted out the 4th pick. Way to keep up, guys.
  • The 2018 NLL Pronunciation Guide is already underway, thanks to first rounder Anthony Joaquim. His last name is not pronounced wa-KEEM as one might expect, it’s actually JOKE-em. No JOKE.
  • At the previous drafts, they broadcast Stephen Stamp’s and Andy McNamara’s analysis over the speakers but this year they did not. Instead, they had some classic rock playing quietly over the PA. They played Bryan Adams, Men At Work, the J. Geils Band, John Mellencamp (Black Wolves GM Rich Lisk is a fan), the James Gang, Tears for Fears, and a bunch more. Jack Goods even reported JT singing JB.