Game report: Calgary 16 @ Toronto 8

The NLL is weird. We have a team that’s 4-2, in first place in the East, and has averaged 20+ goals over their last four games, and another team that’s 1-5 and second-last in the league in goals scored. Then the 1-5 team beats the 4-2 team and I’m not that surprised. Make no mistake, I didn’t expect a Calgary win on Saturday; I predicted another Rock victory. But we’ve already had the Bandits losing to the winless Stealth and then beating the undefeated Rush a week later. We’ve seen the powerhouse Rush start like they could go 18-0 and then show very un-Rush-like second-half collapses in consecutive weeks. A 1-5 team beating a 4-2 team just isn’t crazy enough to make the list anymore.

People in the know have been talking about Christian Del Bianco for a couple of years now, about how he’s going to be a star goalie in the NLL someday. In the year-and-a-bit he’s been in the league, we’ve seen flashes here and there of what he could be, but we’ve seen that before from other players. More often, we’ve seen him look more like a goalie that’s been brought up to the NLL level a little too quickly. But last week, he was great in the second half of their game against the Rush (I didn’t see the first half), and I read some comments saying we’re starting to see the same Del Bianco they saw in Junior. I never saw him play in Junior but I imagine that that’s what we saw on Saturday as well. He was simply outstanding all night. He played the angles well, anticipated passes and quicksticks, made all the saves you expected him to make and few you really didn’t. He’s not that big of a guy but he’s quick, athletic, and covers a lot of net.

Christian Del BiancoThat’s not to say the Rock’s lack of success in the offensive zone was all due to Del Bianco. The Roughnecks defense was strong all night as well, preventing the Rock from getting good looks or getting inside. Of course they had the advantage of knowing that their goalie was having a night, and so they could be a little more aggressive. The Roughnecks offense had a pretty decent game until the end of the third, when they suddenly began having a great game. Calgary scored the last nine goals of the game and kept the Rock off the board in the fourth quarter, which is exactly what Toronto did to New England last weekend.

Curtis Dickson scored a few “nobody could have stopped that one” goals and Dane Dobbie scored some beauties from crazy angles, but you kind of expect those. But Riley Loewen scored three and Holden Cattoni had a couple as well, and their transition players picked up a couple of goals and a dozen assists. If you get scoring from all over and are not relying on just one or two guys to do it all, you’re going to have success.

Toronto’s offense, on the other hand, was more flat than we’ve seen recently. The final score could have told you that, but they didn’t seem to have the crisp passing and seemingly magical knowledge of where everyone else was going to be. Again, props to the Roughnecks defense for pressuring the Rock into that situation. Rosey was Rosey for most of the game but his confidence seemed to wane in the fourth when the Roughnecks were scoring seemingly at will. Not all of those fourth quarter goals were his fault (the Rock D was a little more porous than we’ve seen the rest of the year), but not all were unstoppable either. That said, the game was pretty much over by then anyway.

So the Roughnecks got some confidence with their strong play against the Rush last week, and they played like we knew they could. The Rock fell back to Earth but it’s hardly panic time. Once again, parity in the NLL rears its ugly and beautiful head.

Other game notes:

  • Once again, Lintner scratched. Once again, the first four or five Rock players hi-fived the kids on the line and none of the rest did. Props to Brock Sorensen for not simply holding his hand out while running down the line – he made sure to give a fist bump to each and every kid in the line.
  • Second-year player Tyson Bell almost lost it and went after a Rock player but vet (and former Calgary captain) Mike Carnegie was very captain-like, grabbing Bell and calming him down before he took a penalty.
  • Adam Jones took a five minute spearing penalty for basically putting the head of his stick under a Calgary player’s chin and lifting it up. It was after the play and it was a controlled move so the description sounds worse than it really was. It wasn’t nice, but it was hardly intent to injure either and the Roughnecks player may have sold it a little. That said, I was OK with the call. Your stick should never be anywhere near someone else’s throat.
  • Nice crowd of over 10,000. First such crowd of the season.
  • Music: I heard Metallica, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Toto, AC/DC, Queen, and even Rick Derringer. And not dancy remixes of those either. 70’s classic rock FTW! Maybe I am the target demographic.
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Game report: New England 9 @ Toronto 21

The Rock just keep rolling. I really tried not to use that old cliché but it’s just so appropriate right now. The team had averaged more than 20 goals per game over their last three and still managed to increase that average. Meanwhile the defense managed to prevent Shawn Evans from scoring and kept their opponents to under 10 goals for the third straight game.

The Rock offense took a while to get going. After Rob Hellyer’s goal 36 seconds in, it was almost nine minutes before their next goal, and then another 5½ before their third. I guess that’s their 2018 season in a nutshell: took a while to get the offense going but once they did… look out. Adam Jones continues to look much more like the Colorado Adam Jones than the Saskatchewan one; he, Hellyer, and Tom Schreiber seem to really love playing together. Craig, McArdle, and Reinholdt continue to produce as one of the better secondary scoring teams around. On the other hand, Brett Hickey only had one goal and that was in garbage time. He has less than half the points of Hellyer, Schreiber, and Jones, so I’m not sure what’s going on with him. Maybe he’s struggling with the new system, or perhaps he’s playing the Kasey Beirnes role – more of a grinder, allowing the other guys to get open rather than scoring the goals himself. But his ten shots on goal tell a different story. I’ll have to pay some more attention to him and see.

Tom Schreiber continues to work his butt off on every shift. It’s not just his goals which range from long-distance bullets to acrobatic crease dives, but he sets hard picks, digs in corners, holds onto the ball despite being double-teamed, and makes pinpoint passes through traffic when a teammate is open. He is quickly becoming my early pick for MVP. We’re only a third of the way through the season so obviously a lot can change but the man does everything, and does it very well.

Brad Kri (photo credit: Graig Abel)The Rock as a whole were battling hard all night. Everyone was working for loose balls and intercepting passes (that happened a lot on both sides, actually). Even once they were up by seven or eight, they kept working hard – until they stopped. I’ll get to that in a bit.

Offense tends to get the glory, but Toronto’s defense had another strong game as well. In particular, I thought Brad Kri had an excellent game. Shawn Evans was frustrated all night that he couldn’t get clean shots and when he did all he could see was Rosey. He ended up with no goals, which is rare for Evans. The two Kevins, Buchanan and Crowley, managed to get open once or twice each and shot lasers past Rose, and former Rock forward Stephan Leblanc scored a couple as well.

Rose was strong most of the night, making a couple of highlight reel saves, though a couple of the goals he did allow were kind of soft and he probably wants them b… I mean they’re shots he probably should have stopped.

Aaron Bold didn’t have a great game at all, which should be obvious given the score. Glenn Clark left him in for quite a while – it was into the fourth quarter before Bold got the hook, and he’d already given up 16 goals. Doug Jamieson gave up five in 14 minutes so both goaltenders ended up with almost identical GAAs: 20.98 for Bold and 21.05 for Jamieson. Some of the goals weren’t the fault of the goaltenders though. When Adam Jones has the ball alone on the edge of the crease and has a couple of seconds to decide where to put it, that’s a defensive breakdown, not a failing of the goaltender. If you’re a baseball fan, that’s the “unearned run” of lacrosse.

One interesting thing I noticed about Bold: immediately after he allows a goal, sometimes before the ball is even retrieved from the net, he gets himself set up again and practices the moves that would have stopped that shot, like “here’s what I should have done”. He does that once or twice, then gets on with the game. Matt Vinc does this as well. Maybe that’s their way of not allowing a goal to get to them and affect their confidence – this is the mistake I made, here’s how I’ll stop it the next time, now we can move on. Nick Rose doesn’t do the “practice” thing but he’s also really good at not letting goals rattle him.

The game was quite entertaining for the most part, but it seemed that “garbage time” lasted quite a while. The Rock kept pushing the ball and playing hard until they got to 20 goals, and then they flipped the switch to keep-away mode. The Rock scored six goals in about four minutes at the beginning of the fourth quarter, and then only one more over the next 10+ minutes. As soon as they hit 20, each Rock possession took 29 seconds and they passed up a few obvious scoring opportunities in order to kill clock.  I certainly don’t blame them for this, running up the score any further was unnecessary, I just thought it was interesting how different the game looked the second they they hit the 20-goal plateau.

Other game notes:

  • Dan Lintner was scratched again. He played in the two Rock losses and watched all four wins. That’s gotta suck when you’re 25 and not injured. Seriously, I like his game and what he brings to the floor but if someone will give you a second-round pick for him, send him. Keeping him on the bench is unfair to him.
  • The announcer tried a couple of new things: when Rob Hellyer scored, he says “Robbie who?” and we’re all supposed to yell either “Hell yeah!” or “Hellyer”, it wasn’t entirely clear which. But “Johnny who?” “TAVARES!” was a call in Buffalo for many many years, and for anyone who’s seen a game in Banditland, this was a little familiar. Too soon, man.
  • The other thing the announcer did was after some goals he said something to the effect of “Rock fans: holler if you hear me!” which I didn’t understand. Perhaps he was just testing the microphone (“Is this thing on? Holler if you hear me”), or maybe it’s a reference to a song or movie or something that I’m too old to get.
  • Props to DJ Sweet Lou for playing The Tea Party and Metallica among the electronic dancy stuff. I’m not a big fan of the dancy stuff, though as I’ve said before, I’m not the target demographic either. But the world needs more Tea Party. Even better: add in a little Muse and Porcupine Tree.
  • Very clean game, which is unusual for a blowout like this. Only two penalties in the entire game, one to each team.
  • Dear Rock players: when there’s a group of kids standing on the restraining line as you are introduced, you need to give them a glove tap before you acknowledge your teammates. The first four or five players do this, and then the rest of the team doesn’t. It’s kind of sad to see these kids standing out there watching the Rock players run past them as if they weren’t there.
  • The Rock had the “Rock cheerleader alumni” perform at halftime. Some of those dancers were part of the Rock cheerleading squad 20 years ago – which means they’re in their 40’s now – and they did a great job.
  • Classy move by the Rock to acknowledge the contributions of Stephen Leblanc during the game. I saw a few Black Wolves players banging their sticks on the boards as well and one or two gave Leblanc a literal pat on the back.

Game report: Rochester 9 @ Toronto 17

After a rough 0-2 start, the Rock’s wining streak continued on Friday night with a 17-9 win over the Rochester Knighthawks. Or if you’re a Knighthawks fan, after a strong 2-0 start, the Knighthawks lost their second straight game on Friday night, a 17-9 loss to the Toronto Rock.

The Knighthawks did not look like the same team that demolished the Bandits a few weeks back. Their offense was haphazard – they actually looked a bit like the Rock in their first couple of games. That said, they were up against the Rock defense, who had a great game. A couple of the Rochester goals were scored from inside (I specifically remember Dawson’s goal – he basically ran straight up the middle almost untouched) but for the most part, they were all outside shots because they just couldn’t get to the inside.

Picture from Rock website, no credit availableAs good as the Rock’s offense and defense was, their transition game was on fire. It seemed that almost every time a Knighthawks possession ended, there was a Rock transition scoring opportunity – a two-on-one or partial breakaway. Burns, Rogers, Merrill, Caputo, Edwards, Sorensen, Harris, even Hostrawser were flying up the floor all night long.

Nick Rose played well in general, stopping most of the shots he should have stopped. He also stopped at least one shot he had no earthly business stopping at all, robbing the Knighthawks of a wide-open almost empty-net goal with an acrobatic stick save. Rochester scored on a very similar play later in the game, but we gave Rosey a pass on that one since you can’t expect that kind of miraculous save twice in one game.

Matt Vinc was not strong in the Rochester net and was pulled after only thirteen minutes. Note that he had already faced 17 shots by that point, but didn’t seem to be seeing the ball well. Angus Goodleaf came in and did a pretty decent job, finishing with a respectable save percentage of 77.8%, but the Rock offense took enough shots that saving 77.8% of them still led to 11 goals.

I know it’s only been a couple of games but trading Stephan Leblanc for Sheldon Burns is starting to look like a brilliant move. Burns is all over the floor, scoring goals and intercepting passes, and seems as much a quarterback of the transition as Brodie Merrill. As I’ve said before (I think), it’s not like Leblanc was a drain on the offense and getting rid of him has helped them. Their improvement over the first two games was just a matter of timing. They’ve simply adjusted after the addition of Hellyer and Jones and offensive coach Blaine Manning has them playing like a well-oiled machine. Guys like Reinholdt, McArdle, and Craig are contributing not only with goals but in getting inside and setting picks; Reinholdt did a particularly nice job with a pick that allowed Schreiber a wide-open look at the net for one of his four goals. The fact that they’re not missing Leblanc (or Lintner, see below) is not a statement on those players or their abilities, it’s a testament to the players they have.

Other game notes:

  • Dan Lintner was a healthy scratch for the third straight game. I feel bad for him – with the Rock’s offense scoring 61 goals in the last three games, the team is not likely to want to make any personnel changes unless they have to. You don’t mess with what’s working. But hopefully that doesn’t mean Lintner sits for significant time. I like what he brings to the team and IMHO he’s too good a player to sit that long.
  • Knighthawks rookie Austin Shanks played his first NLL game and played well, scoring two goals. I picked Shanks as one of my rookie of the year finalists and I stand by that (assuming he gets more playing time), though Zach Currier is making the strongest case for this award thus far.
  • Kyle Jackson scored a beauty, grabbing a rebound directly in front of the net and immediately flipping it behind his back into the goal. The Knighthawks tweeted that it was a “vicious BTB” and vicious was a pretty good word for it.
  • At one point, the ball went under a section of the carpet while three or four players were fighting for the loosie. The ref decided to hold another face-off, meaning that this is a rare case where the total number of face-offs in the game was NOT equal to four plus the total number of goals. This is only the fourth such game this season. Two of them featured a goal at 14:59 of a quarter, so presumably no face-off was held afterwards. This will be the first entry for my new Twitter account, @NLLObscureAndUselessFactOfTheDay.
  • Early in the game, a ref got hit in the shoulder by a ricochet after a shot; it knocked him flying but he got up and continued. Later, a ref was taken down by a collision with a Knighthawks player. Don’t know if it was the same ref but if so, he might have been the first one in the ice bath after the game.
  • Only 7101 people at this game, the lowest regular-season attendance (and second-lowest ever) in Rock history. However, the weather outside was frightful. It was 10-12 degrees and pouring rain in the morning, then the temperature dropped near zero by 2pm and everything froze, then an inch of snow fell before dinner time. By game time, it was ‑10. Those are in Celsius; if you’re a Fahrenheit person, the temperature dropped from 50 to 14 degrees in eight hours.

Game report: Buffalo 13 @ Toronto 20

That’s more like it.

When the Rock hosted the Bandits on Saturday night, nobody knew what to expect. Would we see a repeat of each team’s first game of the season when Toronto’s offense didn’t show up and Buffalo played great? Would Buque rebound from his tough outing against the Knighthawks last week? Would the Rock transition show the improvements that they hoped for with the additions of Challen Rogers and Sheldon Burns? The answers were no, no, and yes.

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Pre-season game report: Black Wolves 10 @ Rock 13

Saturday night featured the final game of the pre-season, the New England Black Wolves visiting the Toronto Rock. After a strong first quarter, the Rock gave up the lead in the second and were down 7-5 at the half. New England continued their strong play in the low-scoring third, taking a 9-6 lead, but Toronto’s offense suddenly came to life in the fourth. They scored four goals in about a minute and a half to take the lead. New England tied it up at 10 but two more goals by the Rock plus an empty-netter gave the Rock a 13-10 victory.

Aaron Bold started in net for the Black Wolves, and I was interested to see how he’d perform for his new team. The answer: pretty well. He only allowed five goals, and made all the stops he was expected to make. He wasn’t super-energetic but wasn’t really tested much so he didn’t have to be. Doug Jamieson played the second half and despite giving up more goals, I thought he was better than Bold. He faced an Adam Jones penalty shot, where he waited Jones out and then prevented the last-second dunk attempt, and stopped a Latrell Harris breakaway as well. He did allow the four goals in 90 seconds but besides that short blip, Jamieson was great.

Nick Rose played the entire game for the Rock and was solid. One move he seems to be making more this year is when a shot comes in low, he stops it and flips the ball high in the air, then either catches it or reaches up and scoops it. Seems like a dangerous move to me; I’d rather have him just catch it, but it’s better than giving up a rebound.

The Black Wolves warming up. Photo credit: me

Both teams were without one or two of their top scorers: neither Shawn Evans nor Kevin Crowley played for New England and Tom Schreiber was missing for the Rock. Evans was there and participated in the warmups but didn’t play in the game. I thought Kyle Buchanan and Reilly O’Connor played really well on the offense and David Brock on the D. I was sitting near friends and/or family of Wolves transition player Colton Wilkinson, and he also played well, even scoring a pretty transition goal.

For the Rock, I saw Dan Lintner a lot, and Hellyer / Hickey / Jones looked pretty good though there were some sloppy plays here and there – someone passing to where someone else was a few seconds ago, or where they thought they should be rather than where they are. I also noticed Drew Belgrave and Brock Sorensen on the defensive side. Belgrave’s got some speed and made a few nifty moves on some Wolves defenders while waiting for the offense to get onto the floor. If the Rock are going to be without Jesse Gamble this season, Belgrave looks like he might be a pretty decent replacement.

Scorers: for New England, Kyle Buchanan (3), O’Connor (2), and singles by Oakes, Chaykowsky, Bomberry, Coyle, and Watkinson. For Toronto: Hellyer (3), Hickey (3), Jones (2), Lintner (2), Reinholdt (2), and Caputo (who still doesn’t have his name on his jersey) had one.

Other game notes:

  • The Rock’s game summary featured this description of Reid Reinholdt’s goal in the fourth: “Reinholdt scored on a backhand shovel shot that would have made Rock legend Colin Doyle proud.” I didn’t think about it at the time but they’re right – I can totally see Colin Doyle taking that shot.
  • Props to Black Wolves rookie Nick Chaykowsky, who stood his ground as the 6’4″ Brodie Merrill was coming up the floor in transition. Merrill hit Chaykowsky square in the chest but it was Merrill that bounced back – Chaykowsky didn’t move.
  • Dan Lintner scored a goal in the fourth quarter that looked like what I’ll call a “crease-diving alley oop”, which may or may not be a thing. It was on the net furthest from me so I didn’t have a great view, but someone passed him the ball and he dove across the crease and scored. But the timing was such that it looked like he received the pass while already in the air sideways. This would have to be a set play and the odds of it working are almost zero so I’m sure I just got the timing wrong or something. Nice goal though.
  • The Black Wolves were wearing orange jerseys (without names, grrrrrr) with black numbers on the back (see above). Had to remind myself that they weren’t the Bandits.
  • No diet pop at the TRAC! Not all of us are athletes who need Gatorade ya know! Though the bottle of water I ended up having was healthier than the Coke Zero I wanted, so thanks, I guess.

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.

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