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Game review: Toronto 13 Edmonton 7

By Graeme Perrow

The Toronto Rock opened their 2011 season with a decisive 13-7 home victory at the Air Canada Centre last night. 2010 Rookie of the Year Stephen Leblanc led the Rock with 3 goals, while Garrett Billings, Kasey Beirnes, and rookie Aaron Pascas scored two each. Bob Watson was stellar in net, allowing only one goal in the second half. Whipper made 36 saves and his good friends the goal posts made a few each as well. Ryan Ward scored a pair for the Rush, who were simply outplayed tonight.

In recent years, it seemed like the beginning of the season always snuck up on the Rock. “What? You mean the preseason is over and we have to play tonight? Like, for realsies?” Because, you know, the schedule isn’t announced months in advance or anything. The first game of the year (and from 2007 to 2009, the second through sixteenth as well) always seems to feature dropped balls, missed passes, passes to teammates who aren’t there, or just dumb plays. Not tonight. The Rock seemed ready for this one from the get-go, even though they didn’t score their first goal until 11 minutes in.

Rush goalie Matt Disher was solid in net – he actually made more saves (43) than Whipper did, owing to the fact that the Rock took 56 shots at him while the Rush only took 43 at Whipper. Disher did give up a lot of big rebounds, though I think there was only one or two that led directly to a Rock goal. I didn’t think Edmonton’s defense was really all that bad, but Toronto played the pick-and-roll to perfection, or so my friend Steve tells me. He actually plays lacrosse whereas I do not, so I’ll take his word for it. I think Toronto’s win came mainly because they put that little round thing in the Rush net more times than the Rush put it in the Toronto net.

Brodie Merrill did not have his best game ever. He was dropping passes and occasionally looked lost, though he did end up with 18 loose balls – ten more than anyone on the Rock. He almost blew a gasket in the first quarter when he had a breakaway and the Rush coach called a timeout. He looked at the ref who blew the whistle and held his hands out as if to say “What the fuuuuuuuuuck?”, and the ref told him there was a timeout call. He slowly walked back to the Rush bench but didn’t drop his hands or close his mouth until well after he got there. He then said about five words (unlikely “Perhaps not the best time”) to the coach and went and sat down. In the fourth, Mike Hobbins and Brodie’s brother Patrick Merrill managed a 2-on-1 with Brodie as the 1. Hobbins ran around Brodie like he was standing still (which, in fact, he was) and passed to Patrick, who scored. Brodie certainly did not look like the better Merrill on that play.

Some other random notes from the game:

  • The opening Rock highlight reels showed a ton of fights, a number of solid hits, and the odd goal or save. I wholeheartedly disagree with this type of marketing. I’ve always told people that lacrosse is a rough game but it’s not a violent game. Don’t market the violence over a great passing play culminating in a score or the beauty of an over-the-shoulder goal.
  • The Rock unveiled their new mascot Iggy (short for Igneous Rock). Not terrible, but it didn’t do anything for me. Then again, I’m 41 so I kind of doubt I’m in the key demographic they were considering when they decided they needed a mascot. My 8-year-old son was sitting right in front of me, however, and he didn’t seem all that enthused either. But much to my chagrin, he doesn’t care much for lacrosse (or pro sports of any kind) anyway; he spent most of the game playing with the new digital watch he got for Christmas.
  • No dance team! I guess they replaced the dance team with Iggy. Personally, I’d rather watch a bunch of beautiful and scantily clad young women dance around than a man with a permanent grin on his big plastic head, flexing his pretend muscles. But that’s probably just me.
  • Colin Doyle had a breakaway in the second and once he got to the crease area, did he bury a laser into the top corner? Dive across the crease and shoot behind the goalie? Bounce a beauty between Disher’s legs? No, he took a weak shot directly at Disher’s chest. My friend Jeff immediately thought of Alex Ovechkin – he can score backwards from his knees with multiple people pounding on him, but put him in a shootout and he can’t find the back of the net.
  • Blaine Manning took a ton of shots in the first half but either missed the net or hit Disher square in the chest. He finally scored one in the third and ended up with 5 assists.
  • The Wave doesn’t show up at every Rock game, just now and again. It went around the ACC in the fourth quarter, but clockwise. In the past, and just about every time I’ve seen it, it’s always been counter-clockwise. My friend Faisal wondered if this is what it would be like to watch a sporting event in Australia.
  • Something happened in the fourth quarter that I’m pretty sure I have never seen before. At one point, both nets were empty. The Rock had possession in their end, and Garrett Billings was set up near the Rush net, with Disher on the bench. Note that play was stopped at this point, so Disher would have had time to get to the net, but did not. The Rock net was also empty, also for reasons that escape me. The whistle blew, the Rock player launched a pass to Billings, and he was hit by a defender a split-second before he shot, so he missed the net. The Rock came rushing (ha ha) down to the Edmonton end and another Rock player scored in front of a diving Matt Disher who had come charging off the bench. There were several minutes left in the quarter at this point, so I have no idea why either net was empty, let alone both.

As I mentioned, I have never played organized lacrosse, so perhaps someone can enlighten me on something I’ve seen a number of times, including at least once last night. Play is blown dead and before play resumes, the attacking team pulls their goalie. They have five attackers in the opposing team’s end, and another attacker with the ball way back in their own end. The whistle is blown, the guy with the ball starts running, passes to another attacker, and immediately runs to the bench. The goalie then runs out and goes back to the net. WTF? Why bother with the switch? Why couldn’t the goalie make the pass?

Both teams next see action next Saturday night. Edmonton travels to Boston, while the Rock head to Rochester.


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Rochester beats Minnesota in OT

By Alex Hinkley

The Rochester Knighthawks (1 - 0) started their 2011 season off on a good note as they defeated the Minnesota Swarm (0 - 1) Saturday night in an 11-10 overtime victory.

The Knighthawks gained the lead early and held on to it for most of the game. The first two goals were scored by two new additions to the Knighthawks roster - Mike Accursi and Pat McCready. Both teams initially took some time to feel each other out as well as build chemistry amongst their own ranks. Each team was able to shake off the rust very quickly, however, and several times the livestream commentators mentioned that they looked like they were in mid-season form.

New Rochester goalie Matt Vinc got off to a bit of a shakey start before turning in an elite-level performance. Vinc seemed to be uncharacteristically stationary in the first quarter. This new style somewhat resembled Pat O’Toole’s method of goaltending which relied more on positioning than the athleticism Vinc is known for. At the start of the second quarter, the “old” Matt Vinc resurfaced and he began to make some incredible stops. He allowed just one goal in the second quarter and only two goals against in the third.

The Swarm benefited from a momentum swing in the fourth quarter with four straight goals, Callum Crawford and Ryan Benesch started the scoring with a goal each. Rookie Cody Jamieson then headbutted a Swarm player halfway through the quarter and received a five minute vacation to the box for his troubles. Mat Giles capitalized on the opportunity and netted a power play goal for the Swarm which gave the team their first lead of the game. Giles then added another power play tally after a Shawn Evans slashing penalty. Suddenly the Hawks were down by two.

Shawn Evans wasn’t going to stand for this and reduced the deficit to just one goal several minutes later. Shawn Williams then tied the game five seconds later off the faceoff. The entire tide of the game had turned in favor of the Knighthawks as the two teams prepared for overtime. After a brief back and forth with Vinc making some key saves, Craig Point scored the game winner against his former team with a controversial goal. The Swarm challenged, alleging he was in the crease. The challenge failed and the Hawks earned their first win of the season.

Shawn Williams (1 G, 5 A) led the Knighthawks in scoring while Craig Point (3 G, 1 A) earned game MVP honors after completing his hat trick with the game winner. Much of the fan focus was on rookie Cody Jamieson. He had a decent NLL debut with two goals on eight shots.

Ryan Benesch (2 G, 3 A) led the Swarm in overall scoring. Andrew Watt (3 G, 1A) also had a notable performance, scoring nearly half the amount of goals he had in all of the 2010 season. Luckily for the Hawks, Aaron Wilson was unusually quiet and managed just two assists with no goals.

Scott Evans did not play as he is serving a one-game suspension left over from a fight with the Washington Stealth in the final game of last season. He and Kyle Laverty, who was also suspended for one game, should be back in the Knighthawks lineup next Saturday in Rochester’s home opener.

(Source: examiner.com)


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Game preview: Edmonton at Toronto

By Graeme Perrow

The Toronto Rock and Edmonton Rush begin their 2011 seasons this Saturday night at the Air Canada Centre. The Rock are coming off a very successful, if streaky, season. They started off 6-1 and then lost five in a row before pulling it together again and winning three of their last four. Despite finishing with a mediocre 9-7 record, the Rock got hot in the playoffs and returned to the Championship game for the first time since winning it in 2005. They lost to a superior Washington Stealth team, but a number of Rock players had never been to the finals before and got a taste of what it’s like to get there – and what it’s like to lose. They will be hungry to get back there again and this time, take home the trophy.

The Rush had their most successful season by far in 2010. They finished above .500 for the first time and made the playoffs for the first time. In fact, it could be argued that they just didn’t suck for the first time. The Rush missed making it to their first ever Championship game by one overtime goal. The long-suffering Rush fans were treated to an exciting season, and hopes are high in Edmonton that they can repeat their success in 2011.

The Rock and Rush met twice last year and split the series, with each team winning at home. In February, the Rock demolished the Rush 16-7 in Toronto, as Blaine Manning scored 5 goals and added 5 assists. A week later, Ryan Powell scored 4 and added 4 helpers as the Rush held off the Rock 14-13 in Edmonton.

When the Rock won the Championship in 2005, they were an offensive powerhouse, with Colin Doyle, Josh Sanderson, and Blaine Manning all finishing with over 100 points. Last year only Sanderson (then on Calgary, now on Boston) hit the century mark, but the Rock had four players over 80 points – the only other team to have more than two was the Minnesota Swarm who had three. (Yes, the Swarm. I checked it twice.) Two of those four were rookies so as long as the sophomore slump doesn’t hit both Billings and LeBlanc, the Rock should still be right up there again in the goals scored department, especially after adding Pat Maddalena to the mix.

On the other side, the Rush tied for the most goals allowed last year so in the off-season, they were looking for ways to cut down on opposing attackers getting good shots on their goaltenders. Given the sheer size of the Rush defense, the Rock attackers may have trouble even seeing Matt Disher at all, let alone shooting at him. Only one player on the Rock roster (Tim O’Brien, who typically doesn’t see much floor time) is listed at over 215 pounds, while the Rush have five, including three (one of which is Disher himself) at 260. And I’d like to see a Rock player try and pull the old swim move on 6-foot-10 David Morgan.

The big story of this game is Brodie vs. Patrick – the battle of the brothers Merrill. According to edmontonrush.com, the pair have only met in an NLL game once before, when the New York Titans (remember them?) featuring Patrick beat the Portland Lumberjax (remember them?) featuring Brodie back in 2008. Patrick is a tough defender and drops the gloves occasionally, while Brodie is the NLL’s reigning Transition Player of the Year (two years running) and knows his way around both ends of the floor. Brodie is obviously one of the premier transition players in the game, but if anyone has ideas on how to shut him down, it might be his brother.

Given the fact that only one team scored more than the Rock last year, and nobody got scored on more than the Rush, you might think this will be a cakewalk for the Rock. It’s hard to compare between divisions though – the Rush scored 11 fewer goals and allowed a whopping 45 more goals than the Rock last year, but ended up with a better W-L record. Personally, I’m predicting a Toronto win but I’ll be surprised if it is a cakewalk.


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Game preview: Rochester at Minnesota

By Alex Hinkley

The Rochester Knighthawks are heading to Minnesota to open their 2011 NLL season this weekend against the Swarm. Both teams had disappointing 2010 seasons (Rochester was 7-9 and Minnesota 5-11). Rochester missed the playoffs while Minnesota was still able to make a first round appearance. Only one of these teams will start 2011 off on the right foot.

The Knighthawks faced the Swarm just once last season, edging them out by a single goal in a close 12-11 game. John Grant had six points in that game and has historically done very well against Minnesota, scoring nine goals and adding eight assists in the last three games against them. It will be interesting to see how well the Knighthawks will do against Minnesota without Grant’s contributions. Rochester is 7-4 against the Swarm in their lifetime.

The Knighthawks head into the new season with a completely revamped roster. Ten new players joined the team during the off-season including elite goaltender Matt Vinc and the return of some familiar faces in Mike Accursi, Troy Bonterre, and Pat McCready. This weekend will also mark the National Lacrosse League debut of first overall draft pick Cody Jamieson. The K-Hawks got rid of Grant in large part to make room for Jamieson who is to be their new franchise player. Jamieson has been a dominating member of the Six Nations Chiefs of Major Series Lacrosse so expect big things.

There are plenty of the big guns on the Minnesota Swarm to worry about including former Knighthawk Aaron Wilson who finished the 2010 regular season 5th in the league in scoring with 89 points and 3rd overall in goals with 40. Callum Crawford could also prove to be a problem as he had a breakout year with 96 points last season (3rd overall). The Crawford, Wilson, Benesch tandem can be very dangerous. Despite their poor record in 2010, Minnesota should not be taken lightly.

The ball drops at 8:30 PM Eastern Standard Time on Saturday, January 8th. Can’t make it to away games? No problem! You can catch all the action online via the Knighthawks Livestream.

(Source: examiner.com)


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2011 NLL Predictions

By NLL Blog Staff

Just for fun, each of the writers at the NLL Blog have made predictions on the final standings of the 2011 NLL season. The rosters have been set and the season starts in just a couple of days, so here they are. Make sure to bookmark this article so you can check on how we did at the end of the season! Note: tumblr does not allow HTML tables within postings so each writer’s predictions are listed separately. I (Graeme) created a table that’s easier to read and posted it on my own personal blog.

Melissa Dafni

NLL East

Toronto
Buffalo
Philadelphia
Boston
Rochester

NLL West

Colorado
Washington
Edmonton
Minnesota
Calgary

Alex Hinkley

NLL East

Buffalo
Boston
Toronto
Philadelphia
Rochester

NLL West

Calgary
Colorado
Washington
Minnesota
Edmonton

Avry Lewis-Macdougall

NLL East

Buffalo
Toronto
Boston 
Philadelphia
Rochester

NLL West

Washington 
Edmonton
Minnesota
Colorado 
Calgary

Kevin Neibauer

NLL East

Boston
Buffalo
Rochester 
Philadelphia
Toronto

NLL West

Washington
Edmonton
Calgary
Minnesota
Colorado

Graeme Perrow

NLL East

Toronto
Boston
Buffalo
Rochester
Philadelphia

NLL West

Washington
Colorado
Edmonton
Calgary
Minnesota

Mike Wilson

NLL East

Toronto
Boston
Buffalo
Rochester
Philadelphia

NLL West

Washington
Edmonton
Colorado
Calgary
Minnesota

Consensus says another Toronto-Washington final. The Stealth had four first place votes out of six, and only one person had them finishing as low as third. Not much love for Philly or Rochester in the East or Minnesota in the West. Calgary, Colorado, and Toronto got both first and last place votes. We’ve got an interesting season ahead!


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Roughnecks for Sale! Get ‘em Before Everybody Realizes They’re Terrible!

By Mike Wilson

Yes the Calgary Roughnecks are for sale. 

Now ‘necks owner Brad Banister is trying to keep the team in Cow-town and has lobbied the NHL franchise, the Calgary Flames, to buy the team. The Flames gave them a big “N” to the “O”. 

Well what he actually said was:  “We have been very supportive of Brad and the Roughnecks but are very focused on our team challenges going forward, so we’re not considering it at this time,” 

Banister then answered with :“It doesn’t have to be the Flames. Anybody can have some fun. It’s a lot of work to run this team, but it’s a lot of fun at the same time, Really, It’s a business and you’ve gotta treat it like a business and some people are more capable of taking it to the next level than others. Obviously, the Flames are very good at what they do, but you can’t make anybody buy them. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink.”

Then again, you can’t really blame the Flames when the owner of the team for sale comes out and basically says the team is not making money.

Banister told reporters Wednesday that after this season, it will be” time to get a real job and time to go back to making some money again.”

After that he basically says that it’s not worth it.

“It was my choice to do it. I spent my money where I wanted to and I spent my money on this team and I probably spent a bit too much on this team.”

Want even more reasons why the Flames took a pass on the ‘necks? NLL Blog Writer Graeme Perrrow wrote on his twitter account “If you’re going to sell your NLL franchise, might be a good idea to do that *before* trading away your two franchise players. <headshake>” 

I couldn’t agree with Graeme anymore then I do right now.

One of the first articles written on this website was about how much in disbelief I was that Calgary had traded their 2 franchise players in Josh Sanderson(Now in Boston) and Tracey Kelusky (Now in Buffalo). Didn’t make sence lacrosse wise then, and looking back, it doesn’t make financial sense now.

I’m not predicting a good year in Calgary, but the official picks will come later this week.

I’m hoping the team stays in Calgary. Not because I like them, I don’t. I just don’t feel like writing an article on another fold in the NLL.

Follow Mike on twitter @WilsonNLLBlog



Mike Wilson

This is so cool. The Minnesota Swarm getting their floor set up for Saturday.



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Mike Wilson

The “X” is an exclusive look into the Buffalo Bandits Training Camp, Practice and Locker room. This is part one of a four part series on http://www.bandits.com/

If this is the first move by IMG I am impressed. This shows the fun side of lacrosse and the personality of the players. This should be done for all teams, not just the Bandits. As a fan, I love this kinda stuff. 



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Saying goodbye to two Knighthawk greats

By Alex Hinkley

Before the Knighthawks’ 2011 season officially opens this weekend against the Swarm, it is only fitting for Rochester fans to say goodbye to two Knighthawk greats that retired last year - Regy Thorpe and Steve “Chugger” Dietrich.

Regy Thorpe was an original Knighthawk that played with the team during their inaugural 1995 season. Back then the league wasn’t even the NLL yet, it was still the MILL. He stuck with Rochester for 15 seasons and never played for another team during his career. Thorpe was a hard-nosed defender that was also a great leader on the floor. When team captain Mike Hasen (who is now the Knighthawks head coach) went down with a season-ending injury in 2007, Thorpe took over for him. He would help lead the team to a Champion’s Cup victory that year.

Regy actually already retired in the past when he was named General Manager of the Knighthawks in 2008. Before the 2009 season started, however, he signed a new contract and became the first ever player-GM in league history. Thorpe stepped down from office after the season and re-signed with the Knighthawks as a player for one more year in 2010 though he never played during the 2010 season.

Thorpe was always fun to watch when he had the ball. He played 193 games in his career and managed to score 5 goals during that time. When Regy was able to put one in, the crowd would always go crazy. He officially retired on December 4th, 2010 and will be missed.

Steve Dietrich was also an original Knighthawk. He played seven seasons with Rochester and helped them win the Championship in 1997 where he was named the Championship game MVP. He was a great goaltender that could have been with the Knighthawks for many more years if he had not suffered a season-ending injury during the 1999 season.

Dietrich thought the ref was calling a delayed penalty and so he ran to the bench. When the ref seemed to put his arm down and the other team got the ball with no whistle, he sprinted back into the net. The other team took a shot from half rink and Dietrich dove to stop it. Considering this happened 11 years ago and I was just a kid, it’s hard to remember exactly what happened but I like to think that Chugger made the save. He tore something in his knee during the process and the Knighthawks were forced to sign another goalie, Pat O’Toole, to replace him. Considering O’Toole would play 12 seasons in Rochester and set a National Lacrosse League record for all-time saves, things ended up working out.

O’Toole and Dietrich played on the same team for a couple of seasons before Chugger was eventually traded to Buffalo in 2001. It was ironic because O’Toole was a former Buffalo Bandit so it was like the two teams just switched goalies.

Dietrich went on to have an illustrious career with the Bandits. He was named NLL Goaltender of the Year in 2005 and 2006 and was the first goaltender to be named NLL MVP after posting a league low 9.97 goals against average during the 2006 regular season. In the final three years of his career, Dietrich played for three different teams: the Calgary Roughnecks, Edmonton Rush, and Toronto Rock. He retired on November 22nd and became the Toronto Rock’s goaltending coach. A job Pat O’Toole also currently holds in Rochester.

(Source: examiner.com)


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