Friday, March 4, 2011

Real men wear pink

Game Review: Toronto 15 Philadelphia 10

By Graeme Perrow

I'm pretty sure Calgary used that "Real men wear pink" line a few years ago when they had their pink jerseys, but it's worth repeating. The Toronto Rock had their Black Out for Breast Cancer night at the ACC tonight, and wore their awesome black jerseys and bright pink helmets. A couple of the players even had pink string in the lacrosse sticks. This is an annual event that the Rock have done for a number of years, where fans can bid on the jersey of their favourite player, and the highest bidder gets to go onto the field after the game and get the actual jersey worn by that player. All the money raised (over $12,000) goes towards breast cancer research at Sunnybrook Hospital, and as the son, son-in-law, and grandson-in-law of three breast cancer survivors, I cannot think of a more worthy cause.

Anyway, the first-place Rock hosted the last-place (in the East) Philadelphia Wings tonight and beat them 15-10, but don't let the final score fool you – the game was closer than that score might indicate. The Wings didn't look to me like a last place team on this night, though it seemed to be a bit of a backwards night for them. It seems unusual for a team that's 4-5 to have a goalie starting the All-Star game, but that's exactly what Brandon Miller did. He's been a bright spot for Philly in an otherwise unremarkable season, but he looked downright ordinary tonight. He wasn't terrible but he did allow all 15 goals on only 46 shots. Bob Watson had another good performance in goal for the Rock, saving 40 of 50 Philadelphia shots. Both goalies made their share of great saves but each let in a few softies as well. Considering these were the two goalies in the East chosen for the All-Star game, you might have expected a better goaltending display tonight, but alas, it was not to be.

That said, defense was the name of the game early on, as the teams took turns stifling the other's scorers. Pat Maddalena scored his first of the season six minutes in and Blaine Manning followed with another less than thirty seconds later. Shortly after that, Paul Dawson managed to get a breakaway but ran too far and didn't shoot until he was actually in the crease. Watson made the stop, but Dawson kept going and fell into Watson, making completely avoidable contact with the goalie. That's a no-no, and the ref sent Dawson to his room without supper and told him to think about what you've done, mister. Garrett Billings scored on the PP to put the Rock up 3-0, but Alex Turner scored his first of two on a one-timer after a beautiful feed from a falling Drew Westervelt, and the first quarter ended with only four goals. Philly opened the second by scoring just 33 seconds in, before the Rock scored another three unanswered goals. Philly did not give up and scored three of their own sandwiched around another Billings goal to put the halftime score at 7-5. Philly's last goal of the second was a very nice play by tough guy Paul Dawson.

Just like they did in the second, Philly opened the scoring early in the third, with Athan Iannucci scoring his second of the night just 26 seconds in. Both teams traded goals until Matt Alrich silenced the Toronto crowd with a bullet over Bob Watson's left shoulder to tie the game at 9. The game was tied for almost five minutes before 18-year-old rookie Rob Hellyer, playing in his first NLL game, scored his first goal - and what a goal it was. Hellyer broke towards the net from the left side, had the ball knocked out of his stick by Bill McGlone (who would have been given a holding call on the play if Hellyer hadn't scored – the ref's arm was already up), but recovered the ball and threw it back over his shoulder and past Miller. Not only was it an amazing effort and goal, but it turned out to be the winning goal, as it put the Rock up 10-9, a lead which they would not relinquish.

In the fourth, it was the Rock who opened the scoring early, as Sandy Chapman scored 11 seconds in. The Wings seemed to run out of gas in the fourth, only scoring one goal while the Rock added another four. Toronto extended its home winning streak to 6 games this year, and nine going back to last year. The last time the Rock lost at home was an 11-10 OT loss to the Bandits on March 12 last year. They have the next two weeks off while the Wings travel to Calgary to play the Roughnecks tomorrow night.

Other notes:

  • There were a bunch of really nice goals tonight by both teams. Both of Alex Turner's were one-timers – kind of the alley-oop of lacrosse – and he missed on a third. Dawson had a nice one as I mentioned, Iannucci had a couple, and Hellyer's was awesome.
  • Pat Maddalena has put the ball in the net four times this season. Three of them have been challenged, and two of those resulted in disallowed goals.
  • As soon as Rob Hellyer scored his first-ever NLL goal, Pat Maddalena ran to the ref to grab the game ball for him. Classy.
  • Stephen Hoar had a shorthanded breakaway. Awesome.
  • Athan Iannucci is a very good lacrosse player. Yup, you heard it here first, folks. I'm still not sure he's back to the level he was at during the 2008 season, but even if he's 80% of that guy, that's still pretty damned good. He had a ton of shots and four very nice goals.

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