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.

The NLL Experience: Buffalo vs. Toronto, Part I

I attended a recent Rock-Bandits game in Buffalo, and in my game report, I added an entire section about “Banditland environment notes”. Over the years, I’ve been to a number of NLL games in Buffalo, mostly Rock games. I try to get to at least one Rock @ Bandits game each season, sometimes more than one, and I’ve seen some other non-Rock games there as well. In fact, the first NLL game I ever attended was the Bandits hosting the Philadelphia Wings back in 2000. As for Rock home games, I’ve been at well over 90% of those since 2001.

I decided to write a whole article comparing the experiences of a Rock game in Toronto with a Bandits game in Buffalo. Then I reached out to my audience and twitter followers to see if they had any comments, and got a few. The article ended up getting kinda long so I split it into two. This first one is my own observations. The second one (coming tomorrow) will be other people’s comments as well as a summary.

I’m just talking about the game experience itself – I’m not talking about parking or food options or ticket prices or the quality of the cheese sauce on the nachos (mostly – I’ll touch on this stuff a little in Part II). I know these are all part of the whole “game-day experience” but there’s stadiumjourney.com for that (Toronto gets a 4.1, Buffalo gets a 4.6 – both reviews written by the same guy).

Please remember that when I say “Many fans are <whatever>” or “Many fans <do or don’t do something>”, I don’t mean ALL fans, I just mean “I see this occurring in arena A more often than in arena B”. This could be due to my own biases, or where I sit, or any number of other things. It’s also possible that since many more people generally attend games in Buffalo (13-18k this year) than in Toronto (8-10k), certain things just happen more often. Thus it may seem that something is more prevalent when it’s really the same. I’m sure you and your friends don’t do these terrible things. But others do.

As a rule I don’t generalize. But yes, I know there is some generalization here.

Buffalo

Pros

  • Very loud
  • Swennie (aka Chris Swenson, the Bandits PA announcer) is one of the best. He and the fans have catch phrases for specific players – Dhane Smith, Benesch, Tavares, Steenhuis – and specific situations. Swennie was asking “What’s he got?” on a big save long before they were doing it in Edmonton or Calgary. FYI: His nickname is not “Sweaty” as I once thought it was.
  • Fans really get into the game. Chants are sometimes started by fans and sometimes by Swennie. Far more often by the fans than in Toronto.
  • Way more fans dress up, colour their hair, wear face paint, hold up painted signs, etc. Very little of that in Toronto.
  • I’ve always liked their penalty chant. When an opposing player gets a penalty, they chant “B‑O‑X! B‑O‑X! To the box! To the box! To the box box box!” When I first started going to Bandits games, that was it. In recent years they’ve sped the whole thing up and added a “Woooo” to the end, but I don’t like it quite as much now because the “Woooo” seems to be the focus. Now it’s “B‑O‑X! B‑O‑X! Totheboxtotheboxtotheboxboxbox WOOOOO!
  • I don’t remember Swennie ever taking cheap shots at the other team or players like some other announcers do. Or did before they were let go by the Mammoth. Not to mention any names.

Cons

  • Very loud, which is a con if you don’t like that sort of thing. But then who goes to a pro sporting event hoping it will be quiet?
  • In my experience, there seem to be more “homers” in Buffalo, i.e. booing or screaming for a penalty every time a Bandit is checked (legal or not), booing every time a Bandit is given a penalty (deserved or not), that kind of thing. If I were an NLL ref, I’m not sure I’d like working games in Buffalo.
  • At the game that inspired this article, every time a Rock player was hit to the floor and needed the trainer to come out (it happened three times), some Bandits fans around us accused them of faking the injuries. I’ve seen this more often in Buffalo than in Toronto.

First Niagara Center

Toronto

Pros

  • Fewer fans as in previous years but the ones that are left are generally die-hards and are pretty lacrosse-savvy. They will applaud good defensive plays and penalty killing, not just good goals.
  • PA announcer Bruce Barker also doesn’t take shots at the other team or its players. The closest he’ll get is saying “Let’s crush the Rush!” or something to that effect, but even that he’ll say once at the beginning of the game and that’s it.
  • In playoffs games or overtime, I’ve heard the Toronto crowds get pretty loud. They’re not generally as loud as Buffalo, only in certain situations.
  • If an opposing player gets injured and is down on the floor for a while, there is almost always applause when he gets up, even if he has to be carried off the floor. I don’t generally hear accusations of diving or faking injuries, or at least not as many as I have in Buffalo. But that doesn’t mean they don’t occur. (Foreshadowing for Part II)

Cons

  • Fewer fans as in previous years. I wrote about this last month.
  • Quiet for the most part. They obviously shout when the Rock score and when they win and during fights and such, but just during regular play, there’s not much noise.
  • Barker does his best to get the crowd fired up but it doesn’t always work. Fans yell “Go Rock Go!” as long as Barker is yelling it over the PA, but once he stops, the crowd stops almost immediately. If Nick Rose makes a great save, Barker yells “Rooooooo-sey!” and sometimes the crowd yells “Roooooo-sey!” back, but sometimes not. But when Rose is having a really good game, the “Rosey”s are louder.
  • I’ve heard the crowd start “Go Rock Go” or similar chants by themselves with no help from Barker, but rarely. Usually only in playoff games. There is one that the fans do themselves – when the Rock score, a group of fans (mostly in section 118) stand up, chant the opposing goalie’s last name three times, and then add “You suck!” (This is quite amusing when the Rock score their fifth goal of the game in the fourth quarter while the opponents have 15 or so.) Also, earlier this year Nick Rose was having a spectacular game and a chant of “Rosey! Rosey! Rosey!” started from the fans.

 

In every arena in the league, there are stories about fans of the opposing team being harassed by home team fans, but as I mentioned above, I have never personally had any trouble at all in Buffalo. I have worn a Toronto Rock jersey to every Bandits/Rock game I’ve been to in Buffalo (except the “Tucker out Lymphoma” night this past April when I wore my “Braver than Brave” t-shirt) and have never been harassed in any way. In fact, after Canada won the hockey gold medal in the 2002 Olympics, I had Bandits fans see my Rock jersey and congratulate me on the victory. I also know some Bandits fans who sit with us at Rock games and they’ve never been harassed because of their Bandits jerseys, except once by Iggy but that was fun.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case. But that’s a story for another day.

Game report: Toronto 8 @ Buffalo 12

OK, so now it’s over.

To keep their playoff hopes alive, the Rock had to win both games this weekend (and keep winning after that). To their credit, they played a great game on Friday night but the Bandits didn’t play up to their standards. Anyone who’s watched the Bandits this season had to know that it wasn’t likely to happen twice. And it didn’t.

But early in the game, I thought it might. The Bandits started the first quarter missing the net a lot, just like Friday, and I wondered if we might see more of the same. But it was only an illusion. The Bandits did miss the net a few more times, but when they did get it on net, Brandon Miller just wasn’t up to the task. Miller allowed eight goals before being puller for Nick Rose, who was really good the rest of the game. Of course it raises the question of how the game might have gone if the Rock had started Rose instead, but (a) it’s all academic now and (b) going with Miller was the logical choice when you’re playing two games in two days.

Dhane Smith was kept to only two points on Friday night, but returned to normal on Saturday with five goals. No assists though, so the Rock defenders kind of kept him in check. Ryan Benesch made up for that with eight points. But who thought to keep an eye on Nick Weiss, who had only two shots and scored on both of them?

DiRuscio played a great game

As the game went on and it was clear that the Bandits were likely to win, the Rock, and particularly Brodie Merrill, got more and more frustrated and started taking unnecessary penalties. The Rock were called for two major penalties only forty seconds apart in the second quarter. They both happened at the far end of the floor from where I was so I didn’t get a good look at whether five minutes was really justified.  But Merrill took four penalties in the game – slashing in the first, a high-sticking major in the second, roughing in the third, and then he fought Steve Priolo in the fourth. He was then given a free bonus game misconduct because he got two majors in the game. Sort of a frequent-flyer thing. For a veteran like Merrill to spend so much time in the penalty box and then take himself out of the game entirely in a do-or-die game was inexcusable, especially when you consider how many players the Rock are already down.

But let’s get back to the two major penalties. To the Rock’s credit, they managed to kill off both of them while only allowing two PP goals, which isn’t bad for a 4½ minute 5-on-3. Then again it wasn’t actually a 4½ minute 5-on-3 because Dhane Smith got a slashing call early in the second penalty, making the next two minutes 4-on-3. During that PK though, huge props to Turner Evans who grabbed the ball in the Buffalo end and despite being triple-teamed, held the ball for most of the thirty seconds, looking like a young Blaine Manning or Mark Steenhuis.

The refs were all over this game, calling almost everything. Speaking of veteran players taking unnecessary penalties, the goalies aren’t immune either. In the second, Jesse Gamble managed to get around Alex Kedoh Hill, who swung his stick one-handed as we see players do all the time. But he hit Gamble square in the head and play continued, presumably because Gamble had the ball. A few seconds later Gamble passed the ball and then retaliated against Hill, and both players were sent to the box for roughing. Nick Rose tried to leave his crease to say something to the ref, who immediately pointed to him, saying “Stay in your crease”. Rose said something else and was immediately given an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Not smart, Nick. Luckily Mark Steenhuis was also feeling particularly mouthy and was given an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty (his second in five minutes) at the same time.

The Bandits got great goaltending performances from all three of their goalies this weekend. As I mentioned about Friday’s game, Cosmo and Steve Priolo made saves at crucial times, and in Saturday’s game it was Davide DiRuscio. The Big Fish was great on Saturday, frustrating the Rock offense all night. I’ve said it before this season – when Anthony Cosmo decides to retire, Bandits fans have good reason to be optimistic about their goaltending future with DiRuscio. And Priolo, of course. 

So the Rock are out of the playoffs, the only team currently eliminated. They can still play spoiler though – if Vancouver wins their remaining games AND Toronto beats Calgary, the Stealth are in the playoffs. So say it with me Stealth fans: Go Rock Go!

Other game notes:

  • Brandon Miller started and allowed 8 goals in 23 minutes. Nick Rose took over and allowed 6 goals in 36 minutes. The Rock were already losing when Rose was brought in and never regained the lead or even tied it, and yet Rose was credited with the loss. I’m not sure how they decide who to give the loss to, but it’s wrong.
  • Billy Dee Smith is one intimidating dude. While defending against a Rock forward, I saw that he was yelling constantly and the look on his face was terrifying. There was an eight-foot wall of glass between me and him and I was still nervous.
  • Leading 12-5 in the fourth quarter, the Bandits music guy ironically (and quite intentionally) played We Will Rock You. I imagine that song wouldn’t have been played if the Rock were winning, or even if it was a close game.
  • After the Priolo-Merrill fight in the fourth, Bandits fans started chanting “Steve Pri-o-lo <clap> <clap> <clap>-<clap>-<clap>” (i.e. in the same rhythm as “Let’s go Bandits”).
  • When Nick Rose got his unsportsmanlike penalty, Kevin Ross took his place in the box. I told my son it’s because of their names: Ross and Rose are only different by one letter. He didn’t believe me.
  • I read later that Josh Sanderson left the game in the second after a hit to the head. I did wonder where he was at one point but didn’t make actually look for him so I figured I just didn’t see him. It just wouldn’t be a Rock game in 2016 if someone didn’t leave the game early because of an injury.

Other Banditland environment notes:

  • I think this every time I go to a game there but damn, it’s loud in Buffalo. I think all Toronto fans should be required to take in a game in Buffalo now and again to see how it’s really done. Sometimes chants and cheers start by themselves without the announcer’s help, which is exceedingly rare in Toronto.
  • It being Tucker out Lymphona night in Buffalo, Shawn Williams made a nice little speech thanking the fans for their unwavering support. Obviously the crowd’s applause was thunderous but it was also great to see applause from the Bandits & Rock players on the floor and even the refs.
  • The guy sitting a couple of seats down from my older son wore sunglasses the whole game. Public service announcement: if you think wearing sunglasses indoors makes you look cool, you are mistaken. You look silly.
  • Front row people: what is the point of pounding on the glass when there’s a play going on in front of you? We were in the second row and the people in front of us would stand up and pound on the glass whenever there was something happening close to them. Why?
  • FYI when Dhane Smith scores in Buffalo, the announcer yells that the goal was scored by “#92, great Dhane Smith!” after which the crowd barks. Like a Great Dane, in case you missed the reference there.
  • Several times, a Rock player was hit to the ground and stayed down for a few seconds (at least twice for Kri and once for Merrill – and that was just in our end), getting a whistle and play stoppage. Every time, the Bandits fans around us booed and accused the player of diving and/or faking injury. This is idiotic. How the hell can you possibly know if he’s faking an injury? Some serious injuries come from innocent-looking hits or just missteps on a slightly bumpy carpet. You simply can’t tell how hurt someone is by the force (or legality) of the hit. Luckily for the Rock, none of these players had to be removed from the game or carried off the floor like we saw on Friday night. These kind of boos and accusations are absolutely classless.
  • Buffalo fans also don’t know physics. The Bandits scored what looked like a goal but Nick Rose kicked it off of the goal line. During the review, they played a replay of it on the Jumbotron. You could see that the ball was bouncing on the line (only a few inches in the air) but never crossed it. Easy call for the ref. But many of the fans around us (and all around the arena) were shouting because it looked like the ball crossed the line. This is due to a thing called perspective. When the ball is bouncing straight up in the air, it looks like it’s actually behind things that are directly underneath it. This is very simple physics that the refs understood but many Bandits fans did not. An overhead camera shot would have made this obvious but we never saw one.
  • Yes, I’m aware that I’m generalizing. I’m sure there were plenty of Bandits fans who understood the perspective thing and didn’t think the Rock were faking injuries. But none of those Bandits fans were sitting near me at this game.