Game report: Buffalo 13 @ Toronto 8

We’ve all seen it before: the team that isn’t playing well starts getting frustrated and angry, and that leads to unnecessary penalties. That means they’re playing a man down for long stretches of time, and that doesn’t usually lead to anything good, so they get even more frustrated and angry, and so on. I don’t know what other people mean when they talk about “Banditball”, but that’s what that term means to me: the physical and undisciplined lacrosse that the Bandits became known for in the 2000’s. They generally don’t play that way anymore so the term is probably misleading and unfair now, but every now and again they revert back. But on this night, it seemed to serve them well.

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Could happen… 2017 edition

Round about this time of year, people think they have a decent idea of how the standings will end up, more or less. So far this season, Saskatchewan has clinched a playoff berth, but nobody else has. We think the Rush and Swarm will probably be at the top in their divisions, but it’s not guaranteed. Calgary and Rochester are currently at the bottom but both are only a half game back of the team in front of them. There’s enough time left for some really crazy things to happen, and every year I find it fun to look over the possibilities if the lower-ranked teams start winning and the teams at the top start losing. If everything falls into place, could we have a Calgary-Rochester final? Could the Swarm miss the playoffs? Let’s look at some scenarios that are unlikely but still possible:

Calgary finishes 2nd in the west

Calgary wins out, Saskatchewan loses to Vancouver, New England, and Toronto, and Colorado loses out. Then the Rush win the west at 10-8, Calgary is second at 9-9, and Colorado and Vancouver tie at 8-10. Vancouver would win the tiebreaker in that scenario with a 3-1 record against the Mammoth, so Colorado is out.
Calgary wins out, Vancouver beats Colorado, and Colorado loses one more game. Then the Roughnecks are 9-9 and the Mammoth are at best 9-9, but Calgary holds the tiebreaker.

Vancouver wins the west

Update: Can’t happen anymore.
Vancouver wins out, Saskatchewan loses at least three more, and Colorado loses to Rochester. Then the Stealth are at 10-8, the Rush and Mammoth are at 9-9, and the Roughnecks are at best 8-10.

All five teams in the east finish 9-9

Update: Can’t happen anymore.
New England beats Georgia and Saskatchewan and loses to Vancouver. Buffalo beats Calgary, Toronto, and Georgia twice. Rochester beats Colorado, New England, and Georgia twice. Toronto loses to Saskatchewan and beats Buffalo. Then all the eastern teams are 9-9 and we have the nastiest tie-breaker ever.

Rochester wins the east

Update: Can’t happen anymore.
Rochester wins out. Toronto and Georgia lose out. Buffalo loses to Calgary. New England loses to Saskatchewan and Vancouver. Then Rochester, Georgia, and Buffalo are 9-9 while Toronto and New England are 8-10. Rochester has a 4-2 record against Buffalo and Georgia and wins the east while Buffalo finishes second and Georgia third.

Buffalo wins the east

Update: Can’t happen anymore.
Buffalo wins out. Toronto and Georgia lose out. New England loses to Saskatchewan and Vancouver. Rochester beats New England and loses to Colorado. Then the Bandits are 10-8, Georgia is 9-9, and the rest are tied at 8-10. New England wins the tiebreaker and makes the playoffs.

Georgia misses the playoffs

Update: Georgia has now clinched a playoff spot.
Georgia loses out. Toronto beats Saskatchewan and Buffalo. New England beats Saskatchewan and Rochester. Buffalo beats Calgary and Toronto. Then Toronto and New England have 10 wins while Buffalo and Georgia are both 9-9. Buffalo would win the tie-breaker here and the Swarm are out.

Five players you didn’t know played somewhere else

Everyone knows that John Tavares played his entire career with the Bandits. Similarly, Blaine Manning played with nobody but the Rock, Andrew McBride with the Roughnecks, and there are a few others.

And then there are a number of other players who you might think are in the same boat because they’ve played so long with one team that you can’t think of them playing anywhere else. But they did. If you’re a long-time fan of the league, you may know all of these but I’d guess that for many of you, at least one of these will be a surprise. The first one was for me and led me to look around for more.

These are in no particular order.

Jeff Shattler

Can you imagine Shattler in any jersey other than the Roughnecks? How about Bandit orange? Shattler played a single game with the Buffalo Bandits in 2006, where he picked up one assist and three loose balls. He was then traded to the Roughnecks along with a second round draft pick for Kevin Dostie. Shattler’s now in his eleventh season with Calgary, having played over 190 games and amassed over 700 points. He also won the Transition Player of the Year and MVP awards in 2011. Dostie picked up 157 points in 53 games over four seasons in Buffalo so it’s not like the Bandits got nothing back, but I’m going to call Calgary the winner on that one.

Incidentally, that second round pick that Calgary also picked up? They used it to draft Jamie Lincoln, who never played for Calgary but did see time with the Mammoth, Stealth, and Black Wolves.

Jeff Shattler

Mark Steenhuis

Steenhuis has been a Bandit his whole life, right? Wrong. He actually played a full season with the Columbus Landsharks in 2002, picking up 30 points in 12 games. He’s since played 233 games as a Bandit.

Bob Watson

Watson actually played for two different teams before the Rock, but one was the Ontario Raiders (who turned into the Rock after one season in Hamilton) so that doesn’t really count. But Whipper also played 268 minutes for the Baltimore Thunder in 1996, where he had a very un-Whipper-like 17.24 GAA. He took 1997 off entirely and returned to the NLL with the Raiders in 1998 and then played 13 seasons with the Rock, where he only had two seasons with a GAA above 12 (and one of them was 12.04). Oh, and two Goaltender of the Year awards, two NLL Championship Game MVP awards, six championships, and a Hall of Fame induction.

Jimmy Quinlan

Quinlan became the face of the Edmonton Rush from 2006-2013, playing over 125 games, many of them as captain. He then became an assistant coach with the team, where he remains. Many Rush fans can’t imagine the team without Jimmy Quinlan. But Quinlan picked up 10 points in 8 games, and a Championship ring, with the Toronto Rock in 2005.

Scott Ranger

Ranger was drafted by the San Jose Stealth and actually played parts of two seasons (11 points in 9 games in 2004 and 2005) there before heading to Calgary where he picked up more than 450 points in 137 regular season and playoff games over 8 years.

Game report: Buffalo 10 at Toronto 18

I kind of liked the awesome / not awesome thing I did for last week’s Rock game report, so here we go again:

Awesome

  • Dominant performance by the Rock. Nick Rose was… well, awesome. The defense was excellent, limiting the Bandits to only 48 shots. The transition was strong, and the offense looked great. Just a great performance all around.
  • Back during the Rock’s early-2000’s dynasty, critics talked about their power play as nigh-unstoppable but they really didn’t score a lot of goals 5-on-5. On Friday, the Rock scored 18 goals and 16 of them were 5-on-5. Of course, that means that only two were on the power play. Hmmm… (see below)
  • Tom Schreiber. Three goals, seven assists, tons of hustle, and he looks like he’s been playing box lacrosse all his life. As I read on twitter, imagine how good he’d be if he had been. Props also to Stephen Leblanc with two goals and seven assists, and I thought Dan Lintner had a great game as well.
  • I watched Brodie Merrill a lot during this game for some reason, and re-discovered why he’s considered one of the best in the game. Nothing flashy but he seems to see the floor so well and makes an awful lot of very smart plays. (Note that the picture below is not from last Friday’s game. Fighting Steve Priolo isn’t what I’d call a smart play, but props for having the cojones to take him on.)
  • Mark Steenhuis is still a beast on the PK. Give him the ball and he’ll just run around for 30 seconds, regardless of how many people are hanging on him.

Photo credit: Bill Whippert

Not Awesome

  • Rock power play. Only two PP goals when it seemed the Bandits spent half the game in the box. They had a full two minute 5-on-3 and couldn’t score.
  • Bandits offense just couldn’t get it going. No Bandit had more than three points, and the Rock kept Dhane Smith to 2/0 and Ryan Benesch to 1/2.
  • Lots of penalties, mostly by the Bandits. Brett Hickey got a penalty for something (though I missed what) and Billy Dee Smith got one for punching Hickey on his way back to the bench. Thing is, at least two other Bandits punched Hickey while he ran by their bench. That’s also “intentional contact – dead ball”.
  • Not all of the penalties were warranted. Kedoh Hill got one for goalie interference that looked entirely unintentional to me. Mitch de Snoo got a five-minute major for a high hit but I didn’t think it was worth 5 minutes.
  • Attendance. Only 8319 at this game. Games against the Bandits (located close, long rivalry) should draw more, shouldn’t they? Read last night that this was the 6th lowest attendance in Rock history and something like five of the lowest eight were against the Bandits. I don’t get it.

 

Other game notes:

  • Dhane Smith got called for “Delay of game: checking through the crease”. This is rule 67.4: “Attacking player in crease to gain advantage on defender”. I have a blog post coming up soon describing rule 67 in detail, but I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen this one called.
  • The Bandits did not line up on the restraining line for the national anthems; they stood in a group around the net. I actually thought this was kind of cool.
  • My friend Jeff told me to call my buddy Jamie (Rock owner Dawick) and tell him to tell the video guy not to show replays of Buffalo goals, or close Rock goals. Sorry Jeff, it’s a new league rule: replays of all goals must be shown. I can only assume that the league read this article from last year and acted accordingly.

2017 NLL Predictions

Here are my predictions for the final regular season standings as well as the major annual awards. The “Dark Horse” predictions are my “not as likely but could happen” picks.

Final Standings

East

  1. New England
  2. Buffalo
  3. Georgia
  4. Toronto
  5. Rochester

West

  1. Saskatchewan
  2. Colorado
  3. Calgary
  4. Vancouver

Individual Awards

MVP

Winner: Mark Matthews
Short list: Shawn Evans, Dhane Smith
Dark horse:  Adam Jones

Goaltender of the Year

Winner: Aaron Bold
Short list: Dillon Ward, Nick Rose
Dark horse: Frank Scigliano

Robert HopeDefensive Player of the Year

Winner: Robert Hope
Short list: Ryan Dilks, Kyle Rubisch, Graeme Hossack
Dark horse:  Mitch de Snoo

Transition Player of the Year

Winner: Karsen Leung
Short list: Alex Kedoh Hill, Chad Tutton, Chris Corbeil
Dark horse:  Challen Rogers

Rookie of the Year

Winner: Ryan Keenan
Short list: Challen Rogers, Mike Messenger
Dark horse:  Kieran McArdle

Les Bartley Award

Winner: Troy Cordingley
Short list: Derek Keenan (though you could put his name here every year)
Dark horse: Jamie Batley

GM of the Year

Winner: If the Rock are above .500 and make the playoffs, Jamie Dawick. Otherwise, Steve Dietrich
Short list: Derek Keenan (though you could put his name here every year)
Dark horse: Curt Styres or Doug Locker

This was a tough one since the Rock, Knighthawks, Swarm, and Stealth made a lot of moves but I’m not terribly confident in them. Most other teams didn’t make many at all.

2017 NLL: Who’s in, who’s out

Here’s a complete list of all the roster changes for each team.

Note that these are the changes as of the final roster from last season, so a player might be listed as “In” even if he played for that team during 2016.

BanditsBuffalo Bandits

In: Craig Point, Brad Self
Out: Chad Culp, Tyler Ferreira, Jay Thorimbert
IR: Bryce Brochu, Craig England, Adam Will
PUP:
Holdout:
Practice Roster: Tim Edwards, Justin Martin, Kevin Orleman, Blaze Riorden

The Bandits have the fewest changes of any team in the league. They went to the finals last season, so that makes sense. Added to the lineup are veterans Craig Point and Brad Self, while Culp and face-off specialist Thorimbert head to New England and Tyler Ferreira to the rival Knighthawks.


SwarmGeorgia Swarm

In: Liam Byrnes, Bryan Cole, Jordan Hall, Mike Poulin, John Ranagan, Connor Sellars, Leo Stouros, Sean Young
Out: Reid Acton, David Earl, Zack Higgins, Jesse King, Jordan MacIntosh, Drew Petkoff, Johnny Powless, Joel White
IR: Jesse King, Jordan MacIntosh, Johnny Powless
PUP:
Holdout: Laughlin Elder
Practice Roster: Brayden Hill, Warren Hill, Drew Petkoff, Adam Shute

A few big names start the season on the injured list for the Swarm. Newcomer Jordan Hall should help boost the offense and Mike Poulin gives the Swarm a solid #1 goalie, something they haven’t really had since… well, a long time ago in a state far, far away. Defender John Ranagan joins from New England and five rookies also made the team.


BlackWolvesNew England Black Wolves

In: Chad Culp, Doug Jamieson, Seth Oakes, Reilly O’Connor, Scott Self, Matt Spanger, Jay Thorimbert
Out: Dan Ball, Tye Belanger, Phil Caputo, Jordan Hall, Stephen Hoar, Mike McNamara, John Ranagan
IR: Derek Searle
PUP:
Holdout:
Practice Roster: Dan Ball, Connor Brown, Joel Coyle, Mitch McMichael

A couple of fairly significant changes for the Black Wolves. The versatile Jordan Hall is now in Georgia, while Jay Thorimbert and Chad Culp bring their veteran smarts from Buffalo. Reilly O’Connor also arrives from Calgary, and Scott Self helps to shore up an already-strong back end. Hopefully Evan Kirk has another strong year, since backing him up with be rookie Doug Jamieson instead of Tye Belanger. Then again, Evan Kirk’s rookie year was rather impressive so the fact that Jamieson is a rookie may not matter.


KnighthawksRochester Knighthawks

In: Josh Currier, Jarrett Davis, Tyler Ferreira, Kyle Jackson, Luc Magnan, Joel Matthews, Quinn Powless, Wayne Van Every
Out: Adam Bomberry, Cody Jamieson, Mike Kirk, Mike Manley, Craig Point, Derek Searle, Brad Self, Scott Self, John Sullivan, Ty Thompson, Cory Vitarelli, Joe Walters
IR: Andrew Suitor, Cory Vitarelli
PUP: Adam Bomberry, Cody Jamieson
Holdout:
Practice Roster: Luke Laszkiewicz, Dan Lomas, John Rae

Lots of changes for the Knighthawks, some of them temporary. Joe Walters is out for the year after committing to the MLL. Also out is Craig Point, who only played four games last year but amassed 18 points, good for the third highest points-per-game average on the team. Jamieson, Bomberry, and Vitarelli will hopefully be returning to the lineup before long, and the oft-injured Andrew Suitor would be a welcome addition as well but also starts the year on the IR. In the meantime, Jarrett Davis returns from out west and Quinn Powless hopes to play a full season. NLL sophomores Luc Magnan and Tyler Ferreira help to strengthen a defense that is missing both Self brothers, John Sullivan, and the retired Mike Kirk.


RockToronto Rock

In: Connor Buczek, Damon Edwards, Steve Fryer, Latrell Harris, Brett Hickey, Mikey MacDonald, Kieran McArdle, Challen Rogers, Tom Schreiber, Matt Sawyer (head coach)
Out: Kyle Aquin, Jamie Batson, Colin Boucher, Colin Doyle, Rob Hellyer, John Lovell (head coach), Luc Magnan, Rob Marshall, Brandon Miller, Kevin Ross, Josh Sanderson
IR: Rob Marshall, Patrick Merrill, Brandon Miller, Brock Sorensen
PUP: Rob Hellyer
Holdout:
Practice Roster: Jordan Magnusson, Reid Reinholdt, Brodie Tutton
Protected: Paul Rabil

Where to start?

When you lose two of the top four offensive stars of all time in the same off-season, who do you replace them with? How about Americans who have never played a box lacrosse game in their lives? Doesn’t sound like a great plan but having watched Kieran McArdle and Tom Schreiber in the pre-season, it may not be that bad. But losing Doyle and Sanderson isn’t even the biggest loss for the Rock, points-wise. Rob Hellyer scored 27 points more than Doyle and Sanderson combined in 2016, but will miss all of 2017. Brett Hickey returns from an injury that cost him the last six games of 2016, so that will certainly help, and Mikey MacDonald has looked really good in the pre-season as well.

Challen Rogers will join the returning Damon Edwards, Brodie Merrill, and Jesse Gamble to form one of the best transition units in the league. Another question is in net where Steve Fryer, with all of 60 minutes in his NLL career, replaces Brandon Miller who’s recovering from hip surgery.

Oh, and the Rock are the only team to make a coaching change this season. Seems like there isn’t much about the Rock that didn’t change.


RoughnecksCalgary Roughnecks

In: Holden Cattoni, Chad Cummings, Christian Del Bianco, Riley Loewen
Out: Garrett McIntosh, Pete McFetridge, Riley O’Connor, Mike Poulin
IR:
PUP: Vaughn Harris
Holdout:
Practice Roster: Garrett McIntosh, Keegan Rittinger, Bob Snider

Just a couple of changes for the Roughnecks. Riley Loewen joins from the Rush replacing Riley O’Connor, who was traded due to league rules that prohibit two Rileys on the same team. Peter McFetridge is now in Vancouver and veteran goalie Mike Poulin signed with the Swarm. Frank Scigliano and second-year-player-but-still-a-teenager Christian Del Bianco will likely split the goaltending duties.


MammothColorado Mammoth

In: Greg Downing, Zack Greer, Jacob Ruest, Taylor Stuart
Out: Jackson Decker, Adam Jones, Mike Mallory, Mike Woods
IR:
PUP: 
Holdout:
Practice Roster: Brent Adams, Zach Herreweyers, Mike Mallory, Nick Ossello

One big change for the Mammoth: Adam Jones was sent to the Rush for constant scoring threat Zack Greer. Losing Jones hurts but who has Greer score the most points against in his career? The Mammoth. They’ll be glad to have him on their side for a change.


RushSaskatchewan Rush

In: Matthew Dinsdale, Adam Jones, Ryan Keenan, Mike Messenger
Out: Jarett Davis, Zack Greer, John Lintz, Riley Loewen
IR:
PUP: 
Holdout:
Practice Roster: Matt Hossack, Matt MacGrottty

The best get better? Possibly. Adam Jones scored two fewer points than Zack Greer last season, but played two fewer games because of work commitments. Hopefully playing in Canada will eliminate those missed games. Ryan Keenan was the first overall draft pick for a reason, and it sounds like the Rush players are very excited about his presence. Highly-touted rookie Mike Messenger replaces John Lintz in the Rush defense.


StealthVancouver Stealth

In: Keegan Bal, Tye Belanger, Brendan Fowler, John Lintz, Pete McFetridge, Tommy McKee, Ryan Wagner
Out: Garrett Billings, Mitch McMichael, Jeff Moleski, Eric Penney, Cliff Smith, Rory Smith, Jarrett Toll
IR: Garrett Billings, Cory Conway, James Rahe, Jarrett Toll
PUP:
Holdout:
Practice Roster: Brandon Clelland, Justin Goodwin, Evan Messenger, Eric Penney

Having Billings and Conway on the IR to start the year won’t help, but from Teddy Jenner’s interview with Conway a week or two ago, it sounded like his debut in the Stealth lineup wouldn’t be delayed for long. McMichael was traded east, Moleski retired, and Cliff Smith will miss at least part of the season due to work commitments as he attempts to start a career in law enforcement. The revolving door of Stealth goaltenders continues as Tye Belanger gets the nod as Tyler Richards’s backup.

Grabbing a solid veteran defender from a division rival isn’t easy but Doug Locker did it twice this off-season. John Lintz and Pete McFetridge will make a big difference in the Stealth back end.

The NLL Experience: Buffalo vs. Toronto Part II

This is part II of a short series comparing the lacrosse experience in Buffalo and Toronto. Part I was my own observations. This second one contains other people’s comments as well as a summary.

As I mentioned in the previous article, I have never been harassed in any way wearing my Rock jersey in Buffalo, and none of my Bandit-supporting friends have had bad experiences in Toronto. But unfortunately, that’s not true for everyone.

A player’s wife told me a story of when she was cheering for her husband (who played for the visiting team) while in Toronto a couple of years ago. Her husband had been hurt and was down on the floor, but she didn’t know how bad it was. The woman behind her was shouting things like “get up you f**king pussy”. The player’s wife was there with their toddler who was already upset that daddy was hurt. She turned around and politely informed the screaming lady that it was her husband who was hurt and that their child is quite upset, and asked her to stop. The lady simply told her AND her crying child to f**k off. Nobody around her said a word to this obnoxious woman.

She acknowledged to me that this was a rare incident and that not all Rock fans are like that, but she hasn’t been back to a Rock game since and it’s hard to blame her. Not only am I shocked at the douchebag who yelled at her and her child, but I’m surprised that other fans around her didn’t step up and tell this lady to STFU.

Air Canada Centre

A few thoughts from other fans:

@TimNThen: “Probably biased, but Buffalo is better. Swennie is more into it. More basic fan interactive. Have had probs with Rock fans.”

@hardison34: “Rock season tic holder. Buffalo is what Rock games were like at Maple Leaf Gardens. Very envious. Rock lost 7000 fans somehow!”

@hardison34: “By the way, Bruce Barker has been increasingly repetitive and annoying. Toronto..do you want another,always when opp. has ball”

[GP: I figure this is because after the goal there’s a faceoff, and Toronto usually loses those. So by the time Barker has finished announcing the goal and asks “Do you want another?”, the opponents already have the ball. This has been much better this year, thanks to Brad Kri.]

@kevinmad: “not a fan of either team, but have been to both. Toronto was a awesome experience with great fans. Buffalo not so much #khawks”

[GP: The lone dissenting opinion.]

Steve Lorimer: “Buffalo atmosphere is way better! Probably because they’re owned and operated under NHL ownership! Toronto rock should be too! There’s more fans in Buffalo and most people are covered head to toe in bandits clothing! The announcer is even better! What’s he got? NOTHING! Toronto has nothing! Gotta change things around here but fans doesn’t want or like idea if mlse owns the rock…”

[GP: I’m not sure I agree with MLSE owning the Rock being a good thing, but that’s a whole ‘nother article…]

Extras

I said in Part I that I wasn’t going to look at food or ticket prices, but I will mention them briefly. Not only are the tickets cheaper in Buffalo but the outdoor parking lot right next to the arena is $10 – parking that close to the ACC would be $20 at least. There’s a parking garage connected to the FNC which is a little more expensive ($15 I think, still not terrible) but it’s a nightmare to get out of after the game. We walk the three minutes past it to the outdoor lot and we’re generally on the expressway in no more than ten minutes. Five minutes after that, we’re at the border.

The food and beer options are different but I can’t really compare them. When I’m at games, I rarely buy anything more than a Coke Zero (or a Diet Coke in Buffalo since they don’t have Coke Zero Sad smile), and maybe popcorn if my kids are there and hungry. Depending on timing we sometimes get dinner at the arena, and usually opt for a pizza slice or hot dog; we don’t get the more expensive pulled pork sandwich or beef on a weck. Thus I can’t compare the food quality in the two arenas other than to say the popcorn is comparable.

One other issue in Buffalo (other than the Diet Coke fiasco): my younger son isn’t a big fan of soft drinks but the only other option we could find for him was water or unsweetened iced tea. Did you know: it’s a scientific fact that you can’t add sugar to unsweetened iced tea and make it taste good.

Conclusion

Of the people I talked to, just one person preferred the Toronto experience to Buffalo, and it wasn’t me. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Rock and have no plans to stop going to Rock games. For me, the game is the main thing and the atmosphere is fine. But I do love going to games in Buffalo. The game is still the main thing for me but it’s just so much fun – it feels like Toronto did in the early 2000’s when we were getting 17,000+ to every game. But even then, 10,000 fans in Buffalo were louder than 17,000 in Toronto.

I wish I could point to something and say “Hey Jamie Dawick, here are a couple of things you could do to bump attendance and improve the game experience!” Because you know, he probably hasn’t had teams of people looking into that for years. Also, what might work in Buffalo might not in Toronto, and vice versa. But as long as the Coke Zero is available, you’re on the right track.