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.
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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

Game report: Georgia 11 @ Toronto 8

It started off so promising.

The Rock and Swarm played each other twice this season. Each team was 1-1 and both games went to OT, so we knew the teams were pretty evenly matched. So when the Rock didn’t allow a goal to the strongest offense in the league until six minutes into the second quarter, it seemed like the Rock’s ability to handle the Swarm offense was going to continue. They only scored one goal themselves in the first quarter, but when they took a 4-1 lead in the second quarter, it still looked pretty good. And then the wheels kind of slowly fell off.

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Game report: New England 10 @ Toronto 18

The Rock hosted the New England Black Wolves on Saturday night for the right to lose to play the Georgia Swarm in the division finals. In the lowest-attended Rock home game ever, the Rock fought off the strong Black Wolves attack in the first quarter and turned a close game into a blowout.

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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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Game report: Colorado 14 @ Toronto 11

Let’s see… entertaining game? Check. Home team played pretty well but lost? Check. In front of not very many fans? Check. Did I move to Vancouver without knowing it?

Awesome

  • I liked the Rock’s green St. Paddy’s Day jerseys. Not sure about the gold helmets.
  • The Mammoth offense in general was great and scored a bunch of beautiful goals. Callum Crawford in particular scored a couple of nice ones. He tried at least two “face the other way, jump, spin, and shoot while still in the air” shots, and one of them worked.
  • Early in the game, Eli McLaughlin found himself with the ball right on the edge of the crease. He faked low, waited for Rose to drop, and tossed it over him. Smart play. Then late in the second quarter, Stephen Keogh did almost the same thing, but from a little further out. He faked the underhand shot (pictured below but from a different game), causing Rose to drop again, then scored over Rose’s shoulder.
  • Later on, Keogh picked up the ball in the Rock zone and was immediately triple-teamed by Rock defenders. A few seconds later, a fourth Rock defender joined the fray, but Keogh kept the ball for at least ten seconds. He even managed to get a half-decent shot off but missed the net. It looked like he was killing a penalty but he wasn’t. Given the amount of work he put in, I almost wanted him to score. I heard other Rock fans applauding him too as he returned to the bench.

Stephen Keogh

Not awesome

  • Kieran McArdle scratched again. I thought he’s played well enough recently to stay in the lineup, so perhaps he had work commitments or something.
  • Only 8597 at this game. Only ten Rock home games ever have had lower attendance, and three of those have been this season.
  • The Mammoth defense did a great job containing Tom Schreiber. He had nothing to shoot at all night. I put this under “not awesome” because I’m a Rock fan, but if I were a Mammoth fan, I’d have put it under “awesome”.

Other game notes

  • The Rock brought out a pipe band to help celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, a day where we celebrate Ireland. What song do they play as the enter the arena? Scotland the Brave.
  • There’s a big gap between the Watson and Doyle banners at the ACC. Just enough room for a third that says Veltman.
  • In the fourth quarter, I tweeted the Mammoth, asking if they wouldn’t mind not scoring because the Rock were trying to tie the game. They responded by hitting the post twice on empty nets. Thanks for trying!
  • Callum Crawford is becoming one of my favourite players because he’s so dynamic. He’s a great passer but can also shoot from anywhere – inside, outside, in close, from distance, even from above the goalie when he does his signature “leap in the air and then bounce it five hole from twelve feet up” move. I’m also a big Stephen Keogh fan. And Joey Cupido. And Ilija Gajic. And Dillon Ward. And Alex Buque. And… Hold on… am I becoming a Mammoth fan?