NLL Week 4-6

Week 4 had no games anyway, week 5’s were postponed, and week 6 was crazy busy. Here’s wassup.

Awesome

Ryan Benesch

Traded from Panther City to the Albany FireWolves, Beni joins his ninth NLL team (or eighth if you count the old Knighthawks and Halifax Thunderbirds together). Here’s how long Benesch has been around: when he was playing in his ninth season in the league, only one FireWolves forward (Joe Resetarits) had ever played a game in the NLL. There are only five franchises in the league he’s never been a part of: Philly (2.0), Rochester (2.0), Calgary, San Diego, and New York. He’s one of only 11 players to crack the 1000 career point plateau, and a sure-fire Hall of Famer. But more important than any of that for the FireWolves: he’s still an impact player who can help their offense. Benesch scored a couple in his Albany debut.

Image design: Dave SowdenColorado @ Vancouver

Vancouver started out with a 7-0 lead after less than five minutes. Dillon Ward wasn’t seeing the ball well, and everything the Warriors threw near the net went in. The over/under for this game was 21, and we hit that before halftime. But Colorado did the best thing they could have done – stay positive and keep chipping away at the lead. Before the third quarter was done, Colorado had tied it and taken a lead, and they ended up winning the game. Obviously the game (other than the first quarter) wasn’t awesome for the Warriors, but it certainly was for the Mammoth and for any non-Warriors fans watching.

Georgia @ Philly

After seeing a ton of goals scored on Friday night, we were treated to a defensive gem in a rare Saturday afternoon game in Philly. Only four goals were scored in the first half, and each team held the other scoreless in one quarter. Things opened up a bit in the second half but the game was tied at 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, and 10 before Ben McIntosh gave the Wings the lead with only a couple of minutes left. Lyle Thompson had five goals by that point, and the Wings wanted to make sure he wasn’t given the opportunity to score his sixth but to pay special attention to one player, you have to take your eyes off all the others just a little. Brendan Bomberry took full advantage of that and scored the game-tying goal with 0.6 seconds left on the clock. OT only lasted 15 seconds before Blaze Riorden scored to give the Wings the win, but the whole game was close and neither team was out of it until it was literally over, and you can’t ask for more than that.

Tucker out Lymphoma night

Not talking about the game here, just the event. (In fact, as a Rock fan, the game was definitely in the “not awesome” category. See below.) Hats off to the entire Bandits organization for doing this every year. Shawn Williams is one of the most well-respected players in league history, and what happened to his family must have been unbearable. But the Bandits have turned that tragedy into something positive for the Williams family, the lacrosse community as a whole, and the cancer hospitals that all the donation money goes to. It’s heartwarming to hear the players talk about it as not just another game, not just another fundraiser, but an important event. It really has turned into one of the biggest NLL events of the year, and it’s great to see the opposing teams (Toronto in this case) getting involved as well.

Every Child Matters

Speaking of important events… all of the NLL players wore special orange “Every Child Matters” shirts during warm-ups this past weekend. Panther City coach Tracey Kelusky even wore his under his blazer during the game. During halftime of all the games, there was an interview with Lyle Thompson talking about his family’s experiences with residential schools and why this day was so meaningful to them. This was a Halifax Thunderbirds initiative that the league adopted so shout out to the T-birds staff and all involved. If you don’t know anything about residential schools, go do some Googling and find out. If you’re not outraged when you’re done reading, go read it again since you obviously missed something.

These shirts are available for purchase so head over to the NLL Store and order one. FYI, I do not get commission or any kind of kickback for promoting that. I bought one myself.

Not Awesome

Pandemics

Yes, once again we have an entry that basically boils down to “Pandemics suck”. All three games from week 5 and one from week 6 had to be postponed due to the skyrocketing numbers of the omicron variant of Covid-19. Once again, it sucks but it was the right decision. In addition to the players who have tested positive, it’s starting to hit broadcasters as well, as both Brendan Glasheen and Pat Gregoire have tested positive. As a result, we had some guys have to come in and do the broadcasts on a couple of days notice, and one guy (Dave Leno) did two different games on the same day. That part is awesome (and he did a great job on the games too), but the fact that it was required because of Covid is not.

Now we just have to hope things quieten down a little or we might be looking at another… no, I’m not going to say it.

Rock and Rush offense

The Rock were without two of their top offensive stars, as Dan Dawson was on the Covid protocol list and Tom Schreiber was with his wife who’s expecting their first child. As a result, Rob Hellyer had to shoulder a lot of the load and Challen Rogers had to move up front. In addition, they decided to shake things up a little (more) by having one player, usually Rogers, stand behind the net and quarterback from there. You see this in hockey all the time but I haven’t seen it much in lacrosse. It didn’t seem to work though, as the Rock could only scrape together 6 goals. The whole game, it seemed like the Rock were killing a penalty, even when playing 5-on-5. It’s like they just couldn’t keep up with the Bandits. Nick Rose played well and other than the first quarter, the Rock defense also played well or this could have been a real blowout.

As for the Rush, they set a new team record by only scoring five goals against the FireWolves. Robert Church scored three but nobody else scored more than one and nobody else had more than 5 shots on goal. I didn’t see much of this game so I can’t comment on what went wrong. Obviously Ben McIntosh and Marty Dinsdale are missing from last season but the team has had some time to deal with that. However Jeff Shattler was also out due to Covid and that had a big impact as well. The Rush are 1-3 to start the season and it’s a little early to be hitting the panic button in Saskatchewan just yet, but I’m sure Jeff McComb and Derek Keenan are keeping an eye on things.

NLL Week 3

Three weeks into the season and now we have to wait TWO WHOLE WEEKS before there are more games. How can we survive without lacrosse for two whole weeks?! After surviving twenty months with no NLL, I think we can make it two weeks.

Awesome

Dane Dobbie

What more can we say about Dane Dobbie? Players always talk about giving 110% – well, if that’s true then Dobbie gives 120%. Maybe 125%. The man works his tail off on every shift, which is what you want to see from everybody, but it’s extra special when you’re as talented as Dobbie is. It sounds like there might have been some animosity between him and the Roughnecks (in a “getting to know you” bit at the beginning of the year, the Seals asked Dobbie his favourite colour, and he responded “anything but red”), so it’s not particularly surprising that he went off for seven goals against them.

Photo credit: unknown

Winning

You know, winning? It’s like, better’n losing? I put $10 on Mark Matthews to score more than 1.5 goals and he got three. My -161 over netted me a cool $6.21. Maybe I’ll treat the family with my winnings – a cup of tea and a box of Timbits may be about it, but dammit, I WON.

Austin Staats returns

One of the most exciting players in the game, Staats was expected to be out for a couple of months, if not half the season. But after missing only two games, Staats surprised everyone by returning early and scoring a couple of goals. That game was obviously the Dane Dobbie show, and it’s too bad it wasn’t in front of the San Diego fans, but it’s great to see Staats back and healthy. His passion for the game is evident whenever he plays, and it’s obvious how much fun he’s having. They play different styles but he reminds me of Lyle Thompson in that respect – they both look like there’s absolutely nothing in the world they’d rather do than play lacrosse. They both have a fair bit of talent too.

End of the Saskatchewan / Vancouver game

Last week it was the second half of the game in Saskatchewan, this week it’s the second half, primarily the fourth quarter, of the game in Vancouver. I gave props to the Warriors last week for being 2-0, and even though they lost this game, they were right in it until the very end, which is saying something against the Rush. The TSN games of the week thus far have all been down to the wire and very exciting, so hopefully (a) that trend continues and (b) it brings in new fans to the league. Speaking of bringing in new fans…

Awesome-ish

Goalie fight in Albany

I struggled with this one – is it awesome or not? I don’t like fighting in lacrosse, so I thought about putting it under Not Awesome. But then it’s getting a ton of press, which could bring new eyes to the sport. Many people who don’t watch lacrosse at all will see the odd highlight here and there and if all they ever see is the fighting (goalie fights, line brawls, etc.), that’s all they think the sport is. I have some friends who are surprised by my interest in lacrosse because “it’s just guys hitting each other with sticks, right?” But we’re getting more and more highlights on ESPN and TSN these days that are goals rather than fights. The “bring new eyes to the sport” bit is important, and maybe a lot of those new people will appreciate that the game is so much more than that and stick around. New fans sticking around is awesome, but there’s no way to know how many people would appreciate the game but are turned off by the fighting and the way that people glorify it, so maybe those uncountable no-longer-interested people qualify as not awesome..

All things considered, I have convinced myself that this is a good thing. A great many of the people who saw that video will ignore it entirely. There are probably some who might have become lacrosse fans but have been turned off by the fighting, but there are others who may start watching more. The loss of potential fans is outweighed by the gain of actual fans.

One part of this that is not awesome is that TMZ tweeted out a video of the fight and if you look at the re-tweets, a lot of them are from lacrosse people tweeting “OMG, TMZ tweeted about lacrosse!” This whole “they’re talking about us!” thing always happens when lacrosse is mentioned, however tangentially, in a TV show (OMG Simpsons!) or movie (OMG American Pie!). I don’t know why it bugs me so much, but then again I do it too when I see a lacrosse stick in a movie.

Not Awesome

Evan Kirk out for the season

Due to work commitments, Knighthawks goalie Evan Kirk will miss the rest of the 2022 season. Kirk is starting police college and while the Knighthawks knew about this, it sounds like the new Omicron variant of COVID-19 forced his hand and made him choose between college and playing in the NLL. While I’m sure Kirk would love to do both, I’m not going to criticize him for choosing his future outside lacrosse over the NLL. It’s not awesome he was forced to make that decision, and it’s not awesome for the Knighthawks that after making one of the biggest free agent signings of the offseason, they only got two games from him.

Vancouver’s offense

The Warriors have looked really good this year, as good as we’ve seen the team since the Washington Stealth days. Keegan Bal and Mitch Jones have been excellent (18 goals in 3 games between them), and Reid Bowering has been all he was hyped to be. But look at the rest of the offense: Marty Dinsdale has three goals. Killen has two. Schuss has one. McBride has one. Charalambides has also looked really good but has also only scored once. Riley Loewen has none. We’re only three games into the season and they’re 2-1, Buque has been fantastic, and the D in front of him has been great as well so all is not lost. But the offense can only go so far if one or two guys are doing all the scoring. If their secondary scoring kicks in, the Warriors could be a serious threat in the West.

Covid-19

Hot take: Covid-19 is not awesome. So far this season, it hasn’t negatively affected the NLL an awful lot, other than killing attendance (5,000 in Toronto Hamilton? 7,000 in Buffalo? 9,000 in both Calgary and Saskatchewan?), unlike the NBA, NFL, and NHL. But a few big-name players have been added to various teams’ Covid lists, including Jeff Teat, Corey Small, and Tom Schreiber. Hopefully the two-week break over the holidays is enough to allow those who might have it to either start showing symptoms or at least get tested before spreading it around their teammates.

NLL Week 2

After two weeks of NLL action, the Rush are 0-2 and the Warriors are 2-0. Just like we all predicted. Of course, it’s way too early in the season to extract anything really significant out of that. Good teams have started slow before (including said Rush), and a 2-0 start doesn’t mean you’ll make it to the finals.

Here are my choices for the awesome things and the less awesome things that happened in week 2.

Continue reading

NLL Week 1

Finally, the NLL is back! In previous years, I wrote an article on each game I attended (last season, not so much) but I saved the commentary on other games and such for the Addicted to Lacrosse podcast, which I hosted for about eight years along with Tyler Fitch and Melissa Dafni. We’re not doing that anymore, so I need a place to vent talk about the goings-on in the league, so that’s here. I’ll do a wrap-up article each week, summarizing my thoughts on what happened the previous weekend.

I’m going to do this using an Awesome / Not Awesome format like we used to do on Addicted to Lacrosse. Awesome is, obviously, things that were awesome. Not awesome is everything else – not necessarily things that suck, though they’d be included, but there may also be things that happened that I’m just not sure about. In general, I try to be positive and have more awesomes than not, but I can’t guarantee that.

Continue reading