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.