By Graeme Perrow
So it's shortly into the third period and the Rock are leading by a couple. This is lacrosse, so this is by no means an insurmountable lead, especially against the likes of the Boston Blazers and The Big Three. I've written a few notes in my little notebook but not that much and nothing earth-shattering. It's been a pretty entertaining game thus far, but what am I going to write about when I get home? The first goal, which was really weird? The fact that Josh Sanderson was invisible for most of the game so far? No, really, I can't just say "here's the final score, and here's who scored the goals" – I need to write about something. This is a problem. I sure hope some interesting stuff happens in the second half.
The game started off with one of the weirdest goals ever. Stephan Leblanc fired it and hit the crossbar, and the ball shot straight up in the air. I'm not sure Anthony Cosmo knew where it was because when it came back down, he made no attempt to catch it, and it bounced in front of the net and went in. The refs reviewed it to see if it went off of Cosmo's back (which would have negated it), but it didn't touch him or anyone else so it counted. Kind of an ugly goal for Leblanc, but the ugly ones still count. This was not the first ugly goal I've seen Cosmo give up (nor would it be the last). During a game a bunch of years ago when Cosmo played for the Rock, he made a save on a fairly routine play, then stood up and looked down the floor for someone to pass to. He reared back to make the pass, then hesitated for half a second, and the ball fell out of his stick and bounced into the net. There were no opposing team players within 20 feet of the goal. The guy who got credit for the goal was sitting on the bench when it went in. Ugly. This wasn't quite as bad as that, but I'm sure Cosmo wouldn't mind having it back.
Rock sophomore Stephan Leblanc was on fire tonight, scoring five and adding four assists. The other Rock sophomore Garrett Billings only scored one but added six assists while captain Colin Doyle was only one-and-four. On the other side, Casey Powell was almost unstoppable, matching Leblanc's 5 goals and 4 assists. But he scored his 5 goals on 13 shots, while Leblanc only needed 12. So there. Josh Sanderson only had three assists, which might have been the difference, since Kevin Buchanan scored five and Dan Dawson added two more. If Shooter had been on his game, it wouldn't have been nearly this close. Maybe he wasn't happy about having daddy behind the other bench rather than behind his.
That said, Watson had a good night, despite giving up 14 goals. He wasn't quite as on as he was during the first two Rock games, but he made a bunch of great saves, especially late in the 4th and overtime. I made a point of telling my son that he was lucky to be able to watch the greatest goalie in the history of the NLL. Anthony Cosmo was equally good if not better in the second half – he had a span of over sixteen minutes during the third and fourth quarters where he only gave up one goal. I don't want to take anything away from Cosmo – he did stand on his head a number of times and was excellent in the second half - but an awful lot of the Rock shots missed the net in the 4th. It does seem weird to talk about how great the goaltending was when 29 goals were scored, but there you have it.
With a little over two minutes left, Colin Doyle grabbed a beautiful flip pass from Garrett Billings and tossed it backhanded into the little hole between Cosmo's leg and the post, putting the Rock up 14-11. But as we all know, two minutes is an awful long time in a lacrosse game, and no 3-goal lead is ever safe. Boston scored three in the final two minutes (two with less than a minute on the clock), to tie the game and send it to overtime.
The defense and goaltenders for both teams were outstanding during overtime, with a number of forced shot clock violations because nobody could get near enough to the net or open enough to shoot. At one point the Rock had three full 30-second possessions in a row and had no serious scoring chances in any of them. Then almost nine minutes into overtime, Stephan Leblanc tossed the ball towards Aaron Pascas who was in front of the net, but Pascas missed it and it bounced underneath Cosmo and into the net. Easily the ugliest goal all night (see video below), but as I said earlier, the ugly ones count too. The Rock celebrated and lined up for the handshakes, but the refs were reviewing the goal. The Blazers weren't about to concede anything so they never left their bench. After a minute or so the signal was given and the game was officially over. The weird thing is that Pascas quite obviously ran through the crease before the ball got to the net, so why did the goal count? He wasn't in the crease when the ball went in, but he did take a couple of steps through and I thought that was an immediate loss of possession. Perhaps it's only when the guy with the ball steps in the crease. Checking rule book now...
I have a copy of the 2005 NLL rules so it's possible that these have changed, but it says that a goal is disallowed when the ball goes in the net "when any part of the body of a player of the attacking team is in the goal crease area at the time". This was not the case, as Pascas was out of the crease before the ball went in. However, Rule 46 (a) specifically says "An attacking player may not be in the opponent's goal-crease area at any time". Strangely, it doesn't say what the penalty is but I doubt it's "any goal scored after this rule is broken will count".
So I think enough interesting stuff happened in the second half that I can find something to write about. Both teams showed why they were both undefeated going in. There was great defense and great goaltending but lots of offense as well. There was some rough stuff but no real fights. There were ugly goals and beauties on both sides. The game was close all night and overtime lasted almost nine minutes and was thrilling. All in all, not a bad way to spend a frigid Friday evening.
- It irritates me when players jump and dance around like they have to go to the bathroom during the national anthems, or leave the line before the songs are over. I get that they are warmed up and want to stay loose, but some players stand absolutely still during the anthems, and it doesn't seem to negatively affect them. Great players like Jim Veltman and Colin Doyle never jump around during the anthems, and Doyle even sings O Canada. It really makes no sense – you have all these players jumping around to stay loose, and the first thing the majority of them do when the anthems are over is go to the bench and sit down. Show some respect and stand still.
- When the shot clock is reset and the ten second countdown starts, why do the refs count the ten seconds themselves? (Yes, it is in the rule book. Rule 32 (b): "The time shall be kept by the trailing referee on the floor by a chopping wave of the hand for each second.") Do they not know that there is already a clock doing the counting for them? Just keep an eye on the shot clock and if it reaches 20 before the ball crosses the centre line, blow the whistle. There was one play tonight where the shot clock was at 16 before the Rock brought it over the line – the Boston bench was going crazy but no whistle was blown. I guess some refs say "Mississippi" faster than others.
- The second assist on Boston's 9th goal was originally given to Nick Rose. Pretty impressive for Rose, considering he's the backup goalie who never left the bench the whole game. They did fix the scoring a few minutes later but we got a good laugh out of it.
- Sandy Chapman's first goal of the season was a beauty. He grabbed the loose ball in his own end and ran most of the length of the floor with a defender stuck to him and two more a few feet behind, then dove through the crease and scored.
- Kevin Buchanan scored five, and none of them was fluky or cheap. I think every one of them was a laser shot from way out. Nasty.
- Speaking of nasty, Mr. Buchanan decked Patrick Merrill with a blatant crosscheck to the head with about 3 minutes left in the 4th. One ref was on the other side of the net so he didn't have a great view, but how the other ref missed it I do not know. Not only was there no penalty on the play, but the whistle wasn't even blown for five seconds while Merrill lay on the floor.
- Anthony Cosmo was seriously pissed about something. He was yelling at the refs starting in the 3rd and continuing for the rest of the game. Don't know what it was.
- The music guy at the ACC decided to play some upbeat music right at the beginning of OT. Unfortunately, the song he chose was the theme from Mission: Impossible. Perhaps not the best choice.
- In the last 2 minutes of the game and OT, the coaches cannot throw their little yellow flags to challenge goals. OK, fine, I get that. But is it really necessary to make a point of taking the flags away? The coaches know the rule so if they throw the flag just pick it up and ignore it, or throw it back. Maybe yell at them that challenges are no longer allowed. Why go over and collect the flag?