Saturday, April 30, 2011
The third seeded Rochester Knighthawks (10-6) will take on the second seeded Toronto Rock (10-6) Sunday afternoon at the Air Canada Centre in the first round of the NLL playoffs and what is sure to be a very tough matchup for Rochester.
The Toronto Rock are among the toughest teams in the NLL to beat in their own barn as they have lost just one game at home all season. To make matters worse, the Rock have beaten Rochester in all three regular season meetings this year despite two of them being at the Blue Cross Arena.
The Rock have the most high-powered offense in the East with 187 goals scored and have outscored the Knighthawks 35-20 this season. What makes Toronto so hard to stop is that there are just too many All-Stars on their offense. Stephan Leblanc, Garrett Billings, Blaine Manning, and Colin Doyle all have over 70 points. Trying to shut down one of them just leaves more room for someone else to work.
If the Knighthawks can blitz the Rock with a flurry of goals in the first quarter like they did the Buffalo Bandits last weekend, then the K-Hawks stand a good chance of coming out on top. Rochester's offense is streaky and they will need to find a way to beat Bob Watson early so he can't get into a groove. If Watson has a chance to get on his game, it's over for Rochester. Watson finished the season out on somewhat of a low note being credited with losses to Philadelphia and Buffalo. Then again, he set the National Lacrosse League all-time saves record (surpassing Pat O'Toole) in the final game of the season against Edmonton.
Shawn Williams and Jarrett Davis are the only two Knighthawk players who have scored a goal against Toronto in all three games this season. Williams led Rochester with 77 points in the regular season and Davis is currently riding a hot hand after completing his first ever NLL hat-trick against Buffalo last week. These two forwards will likely play a key role in this weekend's playoff matchup.
The game starts at 3:30pm EDT on Sunday, May 1st. You can watch it online on the NLL Network.
(Originally published on Examiner.com)
Thursday, April 28, 2011
By Graeme Perrow
Since we did so well with our regular season picks (well, Alex and Avry did OK, but the rest of us...), we decided to do it again for each round of the playoffs. Don't worry – statistics will be kept, and a posting will be done after the Championship game to summarize how we did. The winner gets... um... bragging rights until next season.
|Bos @ Buf||Roc @ Tor||Col @ Cal||Was @ Min|
Yes, I stole the icon idea from ILIndoor.com. But see how I swapped the rows and columns? That's called creativity, is what that is. Actually it's not – our blog theme is such that having the table the other way was too wide.
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Our first battle has the Roughnecks St. Patrick's Day jerseys against the Edmonton Rush's "Alberta Cares" jersey.
The NLL has released the logo for the 2011 playoffs, so here it is:
Monday, April 25, 2011
The Rochester Knighthawks closed out their 2011 campaign on a high note with a convincing win over the Buffalo Bandits Saturday night. It was the third win in a row for the Knighthawks who have previously bested the Washington Stealth and the Philadelphia Wings.
Rochester started off the game hot, scoring the first six goals of the game before Buffalo could even get on the board. Backup goaltender Angus Goodleaf started in net for the Bandits but was quickly sent to the pipe after allowing four goals in the first five minutes of the game. Even Mike Thompson couldn't immediately stop the surging Knighthawks and Rochester held a commanding 7-1 lead after the first quarter.
The Knighthawks started to get in a bit of penalty trouble in the second quarter which allowed Buffalo the opportunity to mount a comeback. Thompson allowed just one goal against in the entire second quarter while Buffalo slowly but surely crept back into the game with goals from Tavares, Vyse, and two from Thenhaus. Going into halftime, Rochester's seemingly insurmountable lead had dwindled to 8-5.
Chad Culp opened the scoring in the third quarter to bring the Bandits to within two and suddenly it started to seem as if Buffalo really might be able to erase the early deficit. That was as close as they would get, however, as Rochester unleashed another barrage of goals to extend their lead once again. Head coach Mike Hasen must have had a few words for the K-Hawks at halftime because they did not take another penalty for the rest of the game. The same could not be said of the Bandits who surrendered two power play goals in the fourth quarter.
Leading the Knighthawks was rookie Cody Jamieson (3G, 4A) who was named Game MVP and had a career high 7 points. Shawn Williams (2G, 5A), Mike Accursi (2G, 3A), and Shawn Evans (1G, 4A) also had notable performances. Not to be outdone, first round draft pick Jarrett Davis also completed his first NLL hat-trick.
Seeing the Knighthawks handily defeat the top seeded Buffalo Bandits is an encouraging sign going into the playoffs. The offense will need to keep producing if Rochester hopes to win next week as they play the Toronto Rock in the first round. Toronto defeated Rochester in all three of their regular season meetings this year.
(Originally posted on Examiner.com)
Sunday, April 24, 2011
With the Rush out of the playoffs and unable to win the cup for the 13 billionth year in a row now, I decided I need a team to cheer for in the upcoming NLL Playoffs. Because of their awesome jerseys and the awesomeness of Ryan Benesch, I will become part of the hive for a few weeks!
By Graeme Perrow
Back in January, the writers of The NLL Blog all made predictions on the final standings. (Sorry about the formatting on that posting – long after it was posted, we moved domains and blog hosting companies, and changed the template a couple of times.) Here are the actual final standings:
So here's how each of us did in our predictions:
|Blogger||# Correct||# Off by one||# Way off|
"Way off" is my term for being wrong by 3 or more positions. Looks like Alex is the winner here with 4 correct and no predictions more than two off. Congrats Alex – your prize is that you do not have to lick a lacrosse ball. But props to Avry as well; he was second and the only other person to get more than one correct. Everyone else was pretty much tied for last.
Some picks looked pretty prescient in retrospect – Melissa somehow knew that Boston wouldn't gel as well as many thought they would and correctly picked the Blazers fourth while almost everyone else picked them first or second. Alex picked Calgary to win the west when nobody else had them higher than third. But Melissa also picked Philadelphia third, Colorado first, and Calgary last, and Alex picked Colorado second, when they barely made the playoffs.
Quote: "Can they [Dawson and Powell] both be the guy at the same time?"
Yes, I guess they can, seeing as how they finished #4 and #6 in league scoring. Josh Sanderson, however, didn't have a Josh-like season, finishing way down at 18th with only 63 points, his lowest point total since 2001. Sanderson has led the league in assists several times (including a couple of record-setting totals), but in 2011 he was third on his team despite having Powell and Dawson to pass to. I don't know how that happened. Anthony Cosmo was third in the league in GAA but the Blazers only finished at .500 and were in real danger of not making the playoffs for much of the season.
Buffalo had a solid defense, great goaltending (Watson was a lock for goaltender of the year until about 2/3 of the way through the season but Mike Thompson might have stolen that award with a much stronger finish), and lots of offense. They also played very physical. If any of these facts about Buffalo's season are surprising, you haven't watched much Bandits lacrosse in the past six or seven years. I thought they'd be good, but not number one or two in the league good.
I went way out on a limb and picked Philly to finish last. Nailed it. Iannucci did indeed have a good offensive season – not up to par with 2008, but you can't really expect that. He does seem fully recovered from his knee problems which can only be a good thing for the Wings in the future. Brandon Miller also had an outstanding season, and was the main reason the Wings stayed in it as long as they did.
Quote: "Can the Knighthawks replace the offense of John Grant, Jr.?"
Well, I guess the answer would have to be "yes", since Rochester finished second in the east in goals scored, and would have finished third in the high-scoring west. After an up-and-down season that saw the Knighthawks at .500 four times, but finishing with 6 wins in their last 8 games and ended up in a three-way tie for the best record in the east. Don't know if I'd have noticed this but I saw somewhere the other day (can't find it now) that the Knighthawks went 1-5 against division rivals Toronto and Buffalo and 9-1 against everyone else, which is why they ended up third in the east. The Rochester offense didn't really start to gel until halfway through the season – the Hawks didn't score 13 goals in a game until their ninth game, but then scored 15 or more in three of their last five. Newly acquired goaltender Matt Vinc had a season that was at least as good as (and likely better then) the Knighthawks could have expected from Pat O'Toole. Vinc finished with a GAA under 10 (good for fourth) and the third best save percentage. Both were off a little from last season, but that was an outstanding season while this one was just very good.
Toronto started off strong, lost a tough OT game in Buffalo and a low-scoring affair in Boston, and then won five in a row, looking like the Rock of old. But a three week layoff and a late season slide (Losing to Philadelphia? Giving up 18 to Edmonton? Really?) took the wind out of their sails. Watson was outstanding until that layoff (he allowed 8 or fewer goals in 5 of their first 9 games) but wasn't much better than pretty good since then and wasn't very good at all in the last game. They will have another three weeks between their last game and their division semifinal game against Rochester, so we'll see if Troy Cordingley and the coaching staff can turn the team around before the playoffs. The Rock swept the season series with the Knighthawks this year, but lost 4 of their last 5 while Rochester finished strong so this matchup will be interesting.
Quote: "Snider will pick up every face-off and loose ball available, and then pass to... who?"
Pretty much anyone, turns out. Jeff Shattler and Scott Ranger stepped up their games a couple of notches, Curtis Dickson had a dynamite rookie year, and Mike Poulin took the #1 goalie role and ran with it. The team believed in themselves even though nobody else did (or perhaps because nobody else did) and proved that they were not just Kelusky, Sanderson, and a bunch of decent players. They were Kelusky, Sanderson, and a damn good lacrosse team, and now they're just a damn good lacrosse team. Maybe even better than last year.
Who'd have thought that of the players involved in the huge trade last summer, Mac Allen would have the best season of all of them? He made the All-Star team and became the backbone of a very strong Colorado defense. And I said at the beginning of the season that the Mammoth goaltending would be better than last season despite trading Matt Vinc, since they picked up Matt King from Calgary. And I was right, sort of. The goaltending was better, but King did squat – Chris Levis turned out to be a far better #1 goalie than anyone expected. Colorado's offense was the problem here. Second-last in the league in goals scored. They scored ten goals or less in 11 of 16 games (though three of those were wins). John Grant finished fifth in the league with 83 points, but that's his lowest total in a 16-game season ever. Joel Delgarno was a nice pick-up from Washington where he was not being used, and Dan Carey has to be a lock for comeback of the year.
After being a goal away from the Championship game last year, big things were expected from the Rush this year. One of those big things was not to suck. Unfortunately, it was not to be, though they had their moments of non-suckage. They started 0-5, won back-to-back games over Washington, then lost their next four. A couple more wins brought them within sight of the playoffs, but two critical losses against Colorado (during which the Rush scored a total of twelve goals) gave the Mammoth the final spot. And then, inexplicably, they crushed the Toronto Rock in their season finale, a game that meant nothing to the Rush but cost the Rock top spot in the East. Corey Small was the surprise point leader after Ryan Ward's production dropped off and Gavin Prout was traded, and Scott Evans helped the offense out as well, but the Rush just couldn't get it going for long enough stretches to avoid last place for the fourth time in six seasons.
OK, be honest. Who saw Ryan Benesch leading the league in scoring? Top ten or even top five wouldn't have surprised me at all, but I didn't see him at the top spot, so kudos to Benny. The Swarm won three of their first four games and three of their last four games, but only two of the middle eight. Luckily they came together at the end to end up hosting last year's Champions in the first round. The Swarm didn't make a lot of changes during the off-season, but Mat Giles and rookie Andrew Suitor made big impacts, though the Zack Greer experiment ended with his trade to Edmonton. They also acquired Jamie Shewchuk from Colorado for some extra offense. Yet another pretty-good-but-not-great season from Minnesota.
Last season, Tyler Richards and Matt Roik formed the best goalie tandem the league has seen in years, and Washington won the Champion's Cup. This year, the Stealth decided that Richards was the guy, despite the fact that his 2010 GAA was almost a full point higher than Roik's. That decision didn't work out so well. Richards' GAA was well over 11, good for 9th place among goalies, and Roik's ballooned to over 12. As a result, despite Washington leading the league in team scoring and Lewis Ratcliff and Rhys Duch finishing 2-3 in the league in player scoring, the Stealth were second in the league in goals allowed. They were never more than a game over .500 the entire season and finished third in the west. Losing two in a weekend to the lowly Edmonton Rush didn't help.
Sunday, April 17, 2011
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
By Graeme Perrow
I don't like fighting in lacrosse. There, I said it. They say that admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery, though I really don't consider this a problem. (Yeah, I know. Denial.) Let me clarify my position here. I do not think fighting should be banned from the game entirely, i.e. one fight and you're out for the season, or anything like that. I think the current penalties are fine, though I wouldn't be opposed to an automatic game misconduct for a fight. I absolutely do not want to take the roughness away from the game. I simply don't like fighting. I think it's rarely necessary, and despite being "part of the game", I think the game would get along just fine if it were removed entirely.
I know that this is not a popular opinion. Whenever I'm at a Rock game and a fight breaks out, the crowd instantly stands to get a better view, and the cheering volume reaches levels not usually reached outside of overtime. I generally don't stand up, but I know I'm in the minority.
Note that a number of places in this article talk about hockey rather than lacrosse because there is a lot more talk about hockey than lacrosse out there, and the fighting pros and cons are very similar.
OK, fighting enthusiasts, start up your pro-fighting excuse machine – here, let me help you by listing the most often-heard ones:
This is lacrosse, not ballet dancing. It's a rough game, suck it up.
I know that lacrosse is a rough game – that's one of the things I love about it. I talk to a lot of people who know nothing about lacrosse and think it's basically people who hit each other with sticks, and occasionally toss a ball around if it happens to come near them. I try to convince people unfamiliar with the game that it's a rough game but not a violent one, certainly no more violent than hockey. And what happens to bring lacrosse to the forefront of the local sportscast? An amazing behind the back pass from Tracey Kelusky to Chad Culp who dives across the crease and scores a beautiful goal? No, a bench clearing brawl between Toronto and Buffalo in a meaningless game. (You want to know how much I don't like fighting in lacrosse? The video of this brawl is all over Youtube and features my favourite team but I have never watched it.) Just about the only time the NLL makes it onto SportsCentre is when there's a huge fight. Thanks for supporting my claim, guys. Now I'm a liar, and the unfair reputation of lacrosse players as thugs in uniforms is cemented in more and more people's minds.
And no, it's not ballet dancing. But that doesn't mean it needs to be the WWE either.
Lacrosse players are passionate and sometimes that passion for the game spills over and things get rough.
Hogwash. Not that lacrosse players aren't passionate about the game, absolutely they are. But where is it written that passionate people cannot control their emotions? Seems to me that football players are pretty passionate about their game, and football is a far rougher sport than lacrosse or hockey. (Note to international readers that I'm talking about American/Canadian football here, not what we would call soccer. In soccer, the players don't fight, the fans do.) In fact, one could argue that football is the most violent team sport there is – almost every play ends up with numerous people being tackled and thrown to the ground - but you rarely see fights in football games. In the Super Bowl a couple of months ago, I watched a play where a player was tackled (legally, as far as I could tell) and got up and gave the opposing player a swat in the head. Rather than retaliate, the guy that was hit immediately got ran off. Call him a pussy or whatever you like but because the tackled player was not able to control his emotions, he (and therefore his team) was penalized and they now had an extra five yards to make up. If the other player had retaliated, which would have been totally accepted (and expected) if this were hockey or lacrosse, both players would likely have been penalized and both teams would have been worse off.
Now, sometimes you do see this in lacrosse – one player attempts to drop the gloves but the opposing player opts not to. I don't think that anyone would question that Geoff Snider is one of the best fighters in the game. But in a recent game, I saw an opposing player (David Morgan of the Rush, I believe) give him the old "You wanna go? You wanna go?" and a few shoves. Snider basically ignored him, Morgan went to the box for roughing, and the Roughnecks went on the power play. I don't remember if Calgary scored, but I do remember thinking that that was a very smart play by Snider. He didn't let his emotions get the better of him, and helped his team in the process. He did more for his team by not fighting that he would have if he'd dropped the gloves.
Sometimes you need to fight to get your team fired up.
If this is true, then this is a sad statement on your sport. First off, your coach deserves to be fired because it's his job to motivate his players. Plus, what happened to this passion that lacrosse players have for the game? Why would such passionate people need a fight to get them going? These are the best lacrosse players in the world playing at the highest level of their sport – if they can't get motivated to play their best without watching a fight, then they don't deserve to be there.
Fighting is payback for dirty hits and is useful for protection of star players.
If this is your argument, I have two words for you: Todd Bertuzzi. Bertuzzi (and the entire Canucks team) said publicly that Steve Moore would have to pay for his hit against Markus Naslund in a previous game (a hit that was perfectly legal, by the way) and Bertuzzi ensured that he did pay – with his career. You could certainly argue that what Bertuzzi did was not a fight and was far cheaper and dirtier than what Moore did, and you'd be right. But Bertuzzi was trying to pick a fight, even if we went about it the wrong way. (If you're trying to pick a fight, you skate in front of him and challenge him. You don't skate up behind him and slam his head into the ice.) If fighting wasn't so embedded in the hockey culture, or if the punishment for fighting was a multi-game suspension, Bertuzzi wouldn't have thought the way he did and the incident never would have happened.
Having said that, I can see the desire for revenge after a dirty hit, especially on a star player. In my opinion, however, a revenge fight needs to follow three rules:
- It must be done during the same game as the dirty hit. Once the game's over, that's it.
- This only applies to hits that are not penalized. If the player gets a penalty for the hit, that should be it. Though if Joe Superstar leaves the game with a possible concussion or broken leg and the player that hit him from behind gets nothing more than a two minute penalty, his teammates may feel that this was insufficient. I can't really blame them, so I'd be willing to waive this rule in some cases.
- You cannot get revenge for a legal hit. It always puzzled me why Dave Semenko would go after anyone who checked Wayne Gretzky with a legal check. Wayne's a big boy and a pro hockey player; he can handle being bodychecked.
Fighting builds team cohesion.
OK, this one I agree with. I remember a game back in early 2010 where Boston's Paul Dawson got into a fight with Toronto captain Colin Doyle. While both players were in the box, four different fights broke out at the same time and a bunch of people were tossed. As I wrote at the time: 'The unmistakeable message from the Rock was "You will not touch our captain."' Was it necessary? No. Was it over the top? Yes, four fights at once was too much. Did it handcuff the team for the rest of the game? Yes. But did it send a message? Yes – to Doyle. His teammates were telling Doyle that they were willing to fight for him, not because he couldn't do it himself (he actually held his own pretty well against Dawson, a seasoned fighter), not because he got pounded (he didn't), not because he's a superstar, and not even because he's the captain - just because he was their teammate. Again, it wasn't necessary, but that's the kind of team building that's just not the same as buying a round of beers after the game.
It's part of the game and always has been.
So what? Beheading the captain of the losing team was once part of the game too. Sports evolve over time. Rules change. Things that used to be part of the game are removed, and things that were never part of the game are added. Have you ever seen a lacrosse game without a fight? Sure you have. Did you walk away thinking "Wow, that game would have been much better if there had been a fight"? Probably not. If you are in any way familiar with lacrosse, I'm sure you would argue that it's certainly possible to have an intense, hard-hitting, and entertaining game with no fights whatsoever. So why again are they necessary?
For the most part, fights don't happen in Olympic or international hockey. Did you hear anyone complaining that the hockey during the Vancouver Olympics was boring? (Just mentioning hockey here because international lacrosse games are too few and far between and Olympic lacrosse is non-existent.) It's fairly well-documented that fights don't happen nearly as often in the playoffs as they do in the regular season. If fighting is so integral to the game, why does it disappear during the most critical games?
Hockey and lacrosse are the only North American team sports that allow fighting. If there are fights in a baseball game, multi-game suspensions are handed out. There was a fight in an NBA game a couple of months ago and while only a couple of punches were thrown, each player was suspended a game for the fight, and the instigator had to sit for an extra one. Note the penalty for instigating: not two minutes, an entire game. There was a fight in an NFL game back in November, and while neither player was suspended, each was fined $25,000. One of the fighters, Tennessee Titan Cortland Finnegan, had this to say after the fines were announced:
"This is the NFL, not the NHL, and it's a higher standard," Finnegan said. "That's the NHL. They fight. They get penalized for that. The NFL, it's not even heard of ... you do that, you're suspended. Hands down. That's what I've been taught."
"It's a higher standard." What does that mean? It means that pro football players look down on the NHL because of the fighting. Where are the people telling him that this is football, not ballet dancing?
Baseball and basketball get along just fine without fighting. Now neither is as full-contact as lacrosse or hockey, so perhaps that's an unfair comparison. But nothing is as violent as football, and even they get along fine without fighting. So why can't hockey or lacrosse players?
I almost made it through this entire article without even mentioning the injuries brought on by fighting. In December of 2009, an OHL hockey player named Don Sanderson died after falling and hitting his head on the ice during a fight. (To my knowledge, he is not related to the numerous Sandersons currently or formerly in the NLL.) This was, obviously, a huge story at the time and it seemed that rules may change because of it, but to my knowledge, nothing ever came of it. You could argue that it had nothing to do with the fight – his injury came because he fell. But if not for the fight, he would have been wearing a helmet. In early March, it was announced that the late hockey fighter extraordinaire Bob Probert had brain damage (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) because of his years of fighting. I'd be very surprised if the Troy Bonterres, Tim O'Briens, and Geoff Sniders of the NLL didn't pay serious attention to those findings.
Recently, the NHL has considered banning any hits to the head to try to avoid concussions and it's become a serious issue in the NLL as well – just ask Ken Montour or Merrick Thomson. Stephen Stamp wrote an excellent article about the problems that players face after experiencing a concussion – the article is quite long, but well worth the time.
With the proposed changes, if you hit someone in the head with your stick, even if it's accidental, you'll be suspended for at least a couple of games. But if players deliberately take their helmets off and pound each other in the head with their bare fists – five minutes.
Fans like fighting so it helps attract fans.
This thinking led to the old joke "I went to a fight the other day and a hockey game broke out". I can't disagree with the fact that many (if not most) fans enjoy fights. Does it actually bring people into the building that wouldn't otherwise come? Would fans stop coming to lacrosse games if they knew they would not see a fight? Personally, I'd say no to both of these questions, but I have no stats either way.
What a pansy.
Oh yeah? Ya think so? You wanna go? Huh? You wanna go? Actually, I can't right now. I have a quiche in the oven. It's almost ready.
He's never played lacrosse. He doesn't get it.
You're right. I haven't. And I don't.
Monday, April 11, 2011
In the Colorado Mammoth's rout of the Edmonton Rush last weekend (13-6), the Mammoth had an unlikley hero. He made him self known on the offense for the first time with perfect timing. I'm talking of course, about John Grant Jr..
He scored 3 goals and added 2 assists after being put on offense to help out the struggling unit a few games ago. In those games before he had looked good, but hadn't had the production he had on the weekend.
"I'm just glad to help out and grab a win" said a humble Grant after the game.
Grant first came to the Mammoth in a minor trade in which they sent off their back-up goaltender to Rochester .The trade didn't get a ton of press in the summer, but it looked to be a good one, with Colorado finding a diamond in the rough.
Back with the Knighthawks, Grant was a frequent scratch as a defensive specialist. He got his big break when he was sent out West with all of the top lax players.
Grant will be able to further learn the offensive game now that he can watch and play against guys such as Scott Ranger, Ryan Ward, Luke Wiles, and Aaron Wilson. Colorado has their own supply of potential teachers such as Dan Carey, Brain Langtry, and Joel Dalgarno.
"The West defiantly has the cream of the crop on "O". I will definitely learn a ton"
The Mammoth are hoping Grant can keep this up, to help them with their playoff push. A win next weekend clinches a spot.
Saturday, April 9, 2011
By Graeme Perrow
Wow, did that game ever suck. The Toronto Rock squandered an opportunity to clinch first place in the Eastern division and keep pace with Calgary for first overall, losing 11-8 to the Buffalo Bandits, who move ahead of the Rock into first in the East. The game was the final home regular-season game in Bob Watson's hall-of-fame career, and the Rock organization celebrated it with a ceremony before the game, as well as video tributes from current and former Rock players including Kaleb Toth, Dan Stroup, Josh Sanderson (and his dad Terry), Sandy Chapman, and Pat Campbell. Captain Colin Doyle, Rock owner Jamie Dawick, and Watson's own daughter Sydney gave short speeches, and Watson acknowledged his teammates, Rock ownership and management, coaches, trainers, as well as the fans.
As for the game itself, I thought I was heading to a Rock/Bandits game, but must have missed the paper handed out in the lobby saying "For tonight's performance, the role of the Toronto Rock will be played by the Colorado Mammoth". Good goaltending, with periods of great goaltending, solid defense, and absolutely no offense to speak of. I don't want to take anything away from the Buffalo defense, which was also solid, and Mike Thompson was great (with periods of outstanding), but the Rock O was just not there. They missed passes all over the place, frequently decided to pass rather than shoot (at one point Kyle Ross had nobody between him and the goalie five feet away, and still passed), and were just generally anemic all night. The Bandits offense wasn't an awful lot better – there were more dropped balls and passes to nobody in particular on both sides than you'd expect from 8-4 and 10-4 teams and as a result, this was not a very entertaining game.
After the touching ceremony for Watson, the Rock and the Bandits got down to business. The Toronto crowd of over 15,000 was pumped and it was nice to see that level of attendance again. The Rock haven't announced the attendance at a game in a couple of years, and haven't hit 15k for at least that long. It didn't take long to make the crowd happy, as Jon Harasym was given a bogus cross-checking penalty less than two minutes in, and Kasey Beirnes scored his first of three on the resulting power play. Pat Merrill scored on a breakaway a minute later, and it seemed that the Rock were also pumped and might just run away with this game. Not so fast. At 4:48, that was it for the Rock scoring in the first quarter. Tracey Kelusky scored 30 seconds after Merrill's goal to get the Bandits on the board, and Brett Bucktooth tied it a couple of minutes later. John Tavares and Chad Culp scored to give the Bandits a 4-2 lead before the Rock finally got their third goal (about 22 minutes after their second), and their fourth goal was a beautiful passing play. Colin Doyle passed to Kasey Beirnes standing on the left side of the goal, but rather than one-time it in from there (which Thompson expected), he passed it cross-crease to Stephan LeBlanc who buried it. Props to Thompson who managed to change direction quickly and actually have an attempt at stopping the shot.
For the rest of the game, it seemed that the Rock were trying to replicate that goal, and passed the ball as much as possible rather than take shots. Unfortunately for them, this led to a bunch of wasted possessions, as they just passed until the shot clock ran out. For a Rock fan, I'm giving props to the Bandits quite liberally today, but they deserve them – this time they go to the Bandits defenders who seemed to read the Rock attackers really well, and just put their sticks in the air and blocked I don't know how many passes. Once or twice the ball went into the stands and give the Rock a fresh 30, sometimes they actually intercepted the ball and had a transition chance, but most of the time they just deflected it harmlessly away from the Rock players.
The Rock took a two-goal lead early in the third, and then things fell apart. The Bandits scored seven unanswered goals to take a 11-6 lead. The desperation set in early for the Rock, and they started pulling Watson for the extra attacker with four or five minutes left in the 4th. It did pay off, as Garrett Billings and Kasey Beirnes scored with under a minute to play, but it was way too little and way too late. Once again, the Rock went about 24 minutes between their sixth and seventh goals.
Not exactly the way Bob Watson likely envisioned his final regular season game at the ACC, but he wasn't the reason for this loss. The good news for the Rock is that they already made the playoffs. The bad news is that they no longer control their own destiny with respect to home playoff games – if the Bandits win out, they grab first in the east regardless of what the Rock does in their one remaining game. If the Rock lose to Edmonton next week and Rochester wins out, Toronto could even find themselves in third, and could potentially have no home games. The Bandits are in action tonight against the Knighthawks, then Boston next Saturday and Rochester again the week after that.
Other game notes:
- Watson was the first Rock player through the post-game handshakes, and it was nice to see how many Bandits players took an extra second or two and said something more than just "good game". Many even gave him a hug or a stick bump. Classy.
- When the team started their "victory lap", which they do regardless of whether they win or lose, Colin Doyle stopped and let Watson go first. Again, classy.
- At least three Bandit names were mispronounced by the Rock announcer. He pronounced Kelusky two different ways on the same goal announcement, and also got Harasym and Tavares wrong. How does anyone familiar with the NLL over the any part of the last twenty years say Tavares wrong? What we need is a list of frequently mispronounced names and their correct pronunciation. Oh wait, we have one. Tracy Kelusky is not on that list though – I believe it's "kuh-LUH-skee", not "kuh-LOO-skee".
- Why do they still have TV timeouts even when the game is not televised?
- The Bandits had a 5-on-3 power play for about a minute and a half in the first, and Bob Watson made some outstanding saves. Creighton Reid did a nice job on the PK too, getting the Bandits to chase him around the floor and eating up time.
- I'm all for being optimistic and playing a full 60 minutes, but when you've been playing like the Rock were, you're down by five, and there's only a minute left in the game, I'm not sure pulling the goalie for the extra attacker is really necessary. Yes, the Rock did score twice within the last minute, but is it realistic to even dream of three more in the last 33 seconds?
Thursday, April 7, 2011
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Sunday, April 3, 2011
The Rochester Knighthawks beat the Boston Blazers last night by a score of 19-8 in one of the most dominating performances by the Knighthawks this season.
Rochester opened the scoring as Shawn Williams netted his first of four goals on the night. Boston kept the game close throughout the first quarter and were able to take a 2-1 lead going into the second. That's when things started to run away from them as Rochester scored the next five goals of the game (and scored a whopping eight in the second quarter).
The Blazers attempted to make a comeback but penalties kept sapping all of their momentum and they just couldn't establish any flow. Five of the Knighthawks nine power plays came in the second half and Rochester made Boston pay for their transgressions with six power play goals. The Rochester offense never let up as they continued to pour on the scoring into the final minutes of the game. Ten of their goals came in the second half of the game.
It seemed as if Boston goaltender Anthony Cosmo gave up early in the fourth as he began to look towards the bench after being scored on. No relief came for him, however. Cosmo had the lowest GAA in the league coming into the game (8.98) but gave up over double that number of goals last night. It was the most goals he has allowed this season and perhaps even in his career.
Rookie Cory Vitarelli (3G, 1A) had another great game with his first professional hat trick. Vitarelli has been an amazing addition to the Rochester lineup in the recent weeks. Shawn Williams (4G, 3A), Jordan Hall (4G, 0A), Shawn Evans (2G, 5A), and Craig Point (2G, 3A) also all had notable performances. The only Knighthawks forward without a goal last night was Mike Accursi. Despite this tremendous offensive showing, it was a goalie that won game MVP. Matt Vinc took these honors after turning aside 27 of 34 shots faced.
The game was very chippy all night long with four fights and lots of frustration-driven penalties. Pat McCready, Sid Smith, and Joel McCready each dropped the gloves for Rochester (Joel doing so twice and being thrown out of the game as a result).
Rochester clinches a playoff berth with the win yesterday. They will return home next weekend for their final home game of the regular season against the Buffalo Bandits in what could be a precursor to a playoff matchup between these two clubs.
(Originally published on Examiner.com)
Saturday, April 2, 2011
Edmonton and Colorado faced off last night in game one of an important 3 game series, this one at Rexall Place in E-town. To the victor, a playoff spot. If you missed the game, here's the recap:
Goalltending was the story for the Rush in this game. Matt Disher stood up and made some huge saves early, letting Edmonton steal the momentum. Scott Evans started his big night off with a goal on the powerplay, while Cory Small started his with a face-melting shorthanded tally. At the end of the first, it was 3-1 for the home team.
The second was a quarter was one in which both teams scored 3 goals. John Grant Jr. topped off a hat trick for the Mammoth who trailed going into the locker room.
The Cory Small show continued in the third. Small is usually an outside shot kinda guy, but last night he used the picks to get to the net and dance Chris Levis's jock strap off. He wasn't the only one, Zack Greer scored his only goal of the night on a jaw-dropping move. The Rush lead continued as they went into the 4th quarter with a 11-6 lead.
The 4th quarter was a slower one, with the feeling that the game was over. The Rush used their offensive possessions to kill the clock and capture game one of the playoff series by the score of 14-10.
The 3 Stars:
3. EDM: Scott Evans- Evans used the screen shot effectively and came away from the game with 4 goals and 2 assists.
2. EDM: Cory Small- Young Small was the star on "O" last night. 3 goals and 5 assists gives him the team lead with 50 points.
" I thought I had a pretty good game. We stuck to our game plan and and executed. I had a 2 game drought there without any goals so it was nice to get a couple" Cory said after the game.
1. EDM: Matt Disher- Disher played at playoff level turning away 47 balls and only allowing 10.
Coach Derek Keenan told the media "When he gets hot he's really really good." . Rush fans are hoping he can stay hot.
COL: Alex Gajic and John Grant Jr.- Alex and Jr both left the game with 4 goals and 2 assists
Here's John Grants take on what the Mammoth need to do tonight to get a win:
"Score more goals. Stop more."
I think he found a winning strategy.
By Graeme Perrow
The Rock kept hold of first place in the East with a thrilling 13-12 overtime victory over the Washington Stealth in Toronto last night. Toronto has made it known throughout the season that they had "unfinished business" to take care of thanks to the Stealth stealing the Championship last year – not that the Stealth didn't deserve the victory, but that they were the only team standing between the Rock and their sixth Championship. This rematch was not only important to the Rock to stay in first in the East, but as a little payback.
Colin Doyle led all scorers with 2 goals and 5 assists, while both Garrett Billings and Rob Hellyer had 5 assists. Blaine Manning was held to a single assist and was having trouble hitting the net. He had 15 shots and the scoresheet says that 10 of them were on net, but I don't think so. Lewis Ratcliff led the Stealth in scoring with 3 and 3, while Paul Rabil (holy crap, he's good) got a goal and four assists and Rhys Duch had two goals and two assists. Ratcliff also had a game high sixteen shots on net – nobody else had more than 11.
As I said in last week's game report, I've tried to hold back on complaining about NLL refs. I've tried to give them the benefit of the doubt for years, but I'm starting to lose my patience, and last night's game didn't help. The Rock had seven power plays (scoring 5 PP goals) and the Stealth four, but a number of the calls made little sense. Craig Conn was given five for an illegal cross-check, but two would have been sufficient. Once out of the box, Conn then punched Kyle Ross in the face after the whistle right in front of the ref who called nothing. When Troy Cordingley expressed his displeasure with that, the Rock were given a penalty, leading to several beautiful Watson saves before Matt Beers buried one with 5 seconds left in the first half. There were people on Twitter saying that the refs were trying to give the win to the Rock, but that goal lands squarely in the other court. Five minutes into the third, a Jeff Moleski was approaching Stephen Hoar, who had his stick turned, ready to make a (completely legal) cross-check on Moleski's arm or mid-section, when Moleski suddenly dropped his head and tried to go around Hoar. Hoar's stick made contact with Moleski's head and Hoar was given an illegal cross-check penalty. It should have been obvious what happened – I saw it from the other side of the arena 17 rows up. I just watched it again (thanks to TSN!) and it looked the same – a total accident with no intent. What's the point of penalizing Hoar on that play?
Bob Watson had another good outing, and will be a serious contender for goaltender of the year. Only once has a goaltender ever been named league MVP, that being Steve Dietrich in 2006, but if Watson leads the Rock deep into the playoffs, that could be a possibility as well. At the other end of the floor, Tyler Richards faced 66 Toronto shots, and had a better game than the 13 goals scored against him might indicate. Not that 13 goals against is terrible, but I can think of several unbelievable saves Richards made that kept this game from being an 18-12 Rock win – particularly one on Kasey Beirnes in the second when Beirnes was right on the edge of the crease with a wide open net and Richards somehow got a hand up and deflected the ball into the crowd. Richards made another save in the 4th that actually made me and others near me applaud. Note to Richards if he's reading this – it seemed to me that a lot of the Rock goals went in over your left shoulder. May want to look into that.
The Rock are idle for another <checks watch> three hours and play in Philadelphia tonight, while the Stealth head down the QEW to Buffalo for a battle (aren't they all?) with the Bandits. Hopefully Cam Sedgwick makes it to the game – according to a couple of his teammates on Twitter, he left his passport in the hotel in Toronto and the team bus was delayed at the border.
Other game notes:
- Early in the 4th, Cliff Smith scored a goal while falling into Watson. The goal counted and Smith was given a goaltender interference penalty. WTF? If there was goaltender interference before the goal, the goal shouldn't have counted. If it was after the goal, unless it was an intentional punch or something, there should be no penalty. I just watched the replay again and it was a complete accident – Smith fell into Watson after a nice diving goal. Again, what's the point of this penalty?
- Weird rule: In the NHL, a shot on goal is loosely defined as any shot that goes in the net or would go in the net were it not for the goalie stopping it. In the NLL, a shot that hits the post or crossbar and doesn't go in is also considered a shot on net. This is probably because of the shot clock – so they can simply say that any shot on net resets the clock. The weird thing is that in this case the goalie (who was beaten) gets credited with a save. I guess they decided that any shot on net must result in either a goal or a save, so if they're going to make hitting the post a shot, they also need to make it a save. Still weird.
- After goalie Tyler Richards left his net to set a pick on Jeff Gilbert (what was Gilbert doing at that end of the floor?), Gilbert pushed him down. Chris McElroy took exception and jumped Gilbert, getting two for instigating, five for fighting, and a game misconduct. Gilbert was given two for goaltender interference and five for being the recipient of several punches. Isn't it true that you are allowed to hit the goalie if he's out of the crease? If it's not, it should be. The goalie has a "safe zone" where nobody can touch him and if he makes the conscious decision to leave that safe zone, he should do it at his own peril. Plus, he's the most heavily padded guy on the floor.
Friday, April 1, 2011
The Rochester Knighthawks (6-5) head into Boston tomorrow night to take on the Blazers (6-7) for the third and final time this season. Tomorrow night's game represents the rubber match between these two teams as the series is currently tied at one game apiece.
It is a very important game with playoff implications for both clubs. The Knighthawks could clinch a playoff berth with a win as they would then have tiebreakers over both Philadelphia and Boston. A loss for the Blazers means they would be competing for the last playoff spot in the East. Their poor record comes as a surprise to many fans considering they were early favorites to win the division.
Each of the "Big Three" have had dominating performances against Rochester in both of the previous meetings this season with a combined for 40 points between them. While Boston won the last game against Rochester by a score of 16-7, the Knighthawks did win last time the two played in Boston (albeit in overtime).
One thing that will be working in favor of the Knighthawks is Anthony Cosmo's shaky play. Although Cosmo has the lowest GAA in the NLL and has posted solid save percentage and goals against average statistics in the last two games against Colorado and Washington, he hasn't looked like himself. Cosmo has allowed goals on outside shots in key situations and hasn't won a game since February. He was even chased from net two weeks ago against Buffalo after allowing 6 goals on just 17 shots. The Blazers as a whole are on a four-game losing streak.
The K-Hawks have also made some additions to their lineup since playing Boston last. Scott Ditzell has been back in the lineup on defense and may help to contain Sanders, Powell, or Dawson. Cory Vitarelli had 2 goals and 1 assist in his NLL debut against the Wings last week and he could prove to be a difference maker tomorrow as well.
The ball drops tomorrow night at 7:30pm EDT. Can't make it to the game? Watch it on the Knighthawks livestream page.
(Originally posted on Examiner.com)
By Loof Lirpa, special correspondent to the NLL Blog
The drama is finally over. A spokesman for the Calgary Roughnecks announced this morning that the team has been sold and will relocate for the 2012 season. Following in the league's decisions to try new markets and to move to smaller towns outside of major cities (Hoffman Estates IL, Everett WA, Glendale AZ), the Roughnecks have been sold to a Mexican company called Ándale Arriba. The president of Ándale Arriba, S. Gonzales, has already stated his intention to move the team to Chimalhuacán, a town of just over half a million people near Mexico City. The team will begin play in the 2012 season, and will be known as the Mexico City Menudos.
NLL Commissioner George Daniel said that he is "sorry for the Roughnecks fans in Calgary who have to watch their team leave, but at the same time, very excited for the people of Chimalhuacán and Mexico City. This is a big step for our league, and we are happy for the mill— um, thous— um, dozens of Mexican lacrosse fans who will be able to watch the best lacrosse players in the world right in their own back yard. Seriously, until the arena gets built, Mr. Gonzales will be hosting the games in his back yard. Not much in the way of seating, but the tequila and burritos are really cheap. And I guarantee that snowstorms on game nights will be less of an issue than in Calgary."
After a private meeting with the players, Menudo captain Andrew McBride issued the following statement on behalf of himself and his teammates: "We're going where?"
In an exclusive interview with The NLL Blog, former Roughnecks owner Brad Bannister explained his financial reasoning and how he came to the difficult decision that this was the right move for the franchise: "Some dude gave me a coupla hundred grand and a bottle of Cuervo Gold. More than the Flames offered."
The movement for next season may not be over yet. There are rumours that the NLL may become the first professional North American sports league to have a team in Iceland, as the Rochester Knighthawks become the Reykjavík Hrútspungars. We will keep you updated on this story as it develops.