By Graeme Perrow
The battle of the first place teams is over, and the better team won. On this night, anyway, Calgary was indeed the better team in a 14-9 victory over the Toronto Rock. The Roughnecks dominated the entire game and while Bob Watson is having a career year in his final season, he was outplayed by his former backup Mike Poulin.
The Rock and Roughnecks traded goals early before Kasey Beirnes scored six minutes in to give the Rock a 2-1 lead. Dane Dobbie erased that only twelve seconds later with his first of four, and the Roughnecks never trailed again. Calgary had a much more balanced attack than the Rock – thirteen different Roughnecks got points to the Rock's seven. Dobbie and Jeff Shattler led the scoring with seven points each, while Curtis Dickson got a hat trick and Scott Ranger had four helpers. On the Rock side, Colin Doyle was the only multiple-goal scorer with 3, with LeBlanc, Billings, Manning, Maddalena, Beirnes, and Marshall all getting one each.
I thought Toronto's transition was a big part of their downfall – far too many times a defender would grab the ball and race up the floor looking for a breakaway or 2-on-1, which almost never happened. They'd take a shot from a bad angle or through traffic, Poulin would make an easy save if the ball even got to him, and the Roughnecks offense would come back up the floor again. Rob Marshall scored one, but no other defense or transition players even had assists, a sure sign that your transition is not working.
Pro: The game was on TSN2 in high definition, which was really nice for those of us not in Calgary. Dave Randorf is great on the play-by-play and Brian Shanahan, while he needs a new haircut, really knows his stuff. My wife declared that their ties didn't match either, though I have to say I did not notice that. I have to say, though, that the Calgary announcer needs to STFU during play. Trying to get the crowd going and announcing goals and penalties is fine, but keep the Supercuts ads for breaks in play. They also need to turn his mic down – he was drowning out the TV commentators.
Con: the game was tape-delayed at least 30 minutes so that TSN2 could continue their March Madness coverage. Now if they were covering a game that went long, and tape-delayed the lacrosse game to finish it, I could understand that. They should have put a banner across the bottom of the screen saying this. But that's not what happened here. The game they were covering was over, and they showed half an hour of James Cybulski and Jack Armstrong talking about that game and some other upcoming ones, and then showed the first ten minutes or so of the Ohio State / someone else (Kentucky? Florida? Don't remember, and don't care enough to go look it up) game. No banner indicating the change in scheduling was shown. Then at the end of the coverage, they finally said that the Rock / Roughnecks game was coming up, but Cybulski added insult to injury by stating that their March Madness coverage would continue over on TSN, so you want to change the channel.... now. Right, because nobody really wants to watch lacrosse, do they? Remember that Rock owner Jamie Dawick pays to have the Rock games on TSN2, so I can't imagine he's too happy with how things played out last night.
Now if they had had Kate Beirness (who apparently went to the
non-existent "University of Ontario") doing the basketball coverage, I would have been able to forgive TSN a lot easier. I'd watch half an hour of her reading the phone book. I might even PVR it so that I could revisit the subtle intricacies of her performance. <shakes head> Sorry, where was I?
I'm afraid I'm turning into one of those people who complain about the refs after every game. I've tried to be good and give them the benefit of the doubt, and I know it's a hard job and I couldn't do it and all that, but still. As I've mentioned before, Grant Spies takes every penalty he calls as a personal affront to him or to the game or something, and there were a number of phantom or "You called that? Really?" penalties on both sides. The weirdest call was a no-goal on Kasey Beirnes in the 3rd. Replays clearly showed that his goal was good, but it was waved off. Troy Cordingley immediately threw the challenge flag only to be told that the call was not reviewable. I have no idea why not, but the call stood. Another weird one had happened in the second when the shot clock whistle sounded just before a Roughnecks goal, but I have to give the refs credit on that one – it appeared to be the wrong call, but it was actually correct. The shot was taken just before time ran out and Watson made the save, resetting the clock. Dobbie then grabbed the rebound and buried it. It happened fast enough that it looked like the goal shouldn't have counted, but it should have and did.
The game was a little chippy but not really rough until the end. Blaine Manning was getting pretty ticked by the end of the game, and according to Claude Feig, Manning wanted to go out and fight Andrew McBride but Cordingley wouldn't let him. The coach didn't have the same restraints on Patrick Merrill or Kyle Ross, however, and both got into completely pointless fights with under a minute in the game. Merrill took on Mike Kilby and I'd have to call that one a draw, and then Ross took on heavyweight Geoff Snider. Ross went right after Snider and even took him down almost right away. But Snider did a smooth tuck-and-roll and got back up, landed three punches, and it was over. Snider was the clear winner there.
Both teams are done for the weekend and play at home next week. The Rock host the Washington Stealth, while the Roughnecks play the Minnesota Swarm.