A little less than an hour before the opening face-off and the teams just finished taking warmups and stretching before tonight’s National Lacrosse League Champion’s Cup tilt between the Washington Stealth and the Toronto Rock.
The atmosphere is expected to be the best of the season in Comcast Arena — the home the of West Division champion Stealth. The 8,300-capacity barn is close to sold out with just about 900 tickets currently available, according to NLL director of communications Doug Fritts.
Check back closer to game-time for more pre-game posts, including lineups.
Almost ready to go here at Comcast Arena in Everett, Washington for the National Lacrosse League Champion’s Cup.
First, a little background on these two franchises.
Toronto, a five-time Champion’s Cup winner, is in its first championship game since a 19-13 win over Arizona in 2005. The Rock (9-7 overall in the regular season) failed to make the postseason for the last two years, but made it back thanks to the leadership of veterans Colin Doyle, Blaine Manning and Bob Watson and the outstanding play of rookies Garrett Billings and Stephan Leblanc.
After falling behind 6-1 in the East Division semifinals against the Buffalo Bandits, Toronto pulled out a 13-11 win and went on to upset East Division No. 1 seed Orlando 15-10 in the East final.
“It’s great for their franchise that they’re back in the title game,” NLL commissioner George Daniel said prior to the game. “… I think this is their 12th year (in the league) and their seventh finals appearance, so it’s a tremendous record of success. … It’s exciting and they’ve done a lot for the league over the years.”
The Rock pack a lot of offensive firepower with Doyle (22 goals), Manning (35 goals, 47 assists), Billings (33 g, 50 a) and 2010 NLL Rookie of the Year Leblanc (36 g, 46 a). Don’t underestimate the Rock “D” either, with their pressure style and 2010 Defensive Player of the Year Sandy Chapman (86 loose balls, 49-of-119 on face-offs) anchoring the unit. Goaltender Bob Watson, a member of all five Rock titles recorded a league-best 9.31 goals against average this year.
Washington started the year on fire with a 6-0 record and earned the No. 1 overall seed on the last day of the regular season with a 14-9 win over Rochester.
No slouch on offense either, the Stealth have a bevy of players able to score on offense. If Lewis Ratcliff isn’t doing it (which he hasn’t in the playoffs, scoring no goals in two games after recording a league-high 46 in the regular season), it is Rhys Duch, Jeff Zywicki, Cam Sedgwick or Paul Rabil (who sent the Stealth to the final with an overtime winner 8 seconds into the extra frame).
Goaltender Tyler Richards has performed well in the playoffs with a .800 save percentage. Richards is in his second big title game after playing in the Mann Cup for the New Westminster Salmonbellies last summer.
“Obviously we’re very pleased with tonight,” Daniel said. “We’re very pleased with the success the team’s had this year. We’re coming to a new lacrosse market, a new NLL market, the sport is still emerging here. … We always thought this would be a great market.”
Rosters just came in, I’ll post those next. About 15 minutes remaining until game time and the arena is starting to fill up (already more people than any Stealth home game this season by my quick glance).
Daniel played it cool when prodded for a prediction. A consummate professional.
“I’m not in the prediction business,” Daniel said. “A big house and an exciting crowd and an exciting game, may the best team win.”
STARTING LINEUPS (7:23 p.m. PST)
Washington (11-5 overall, 2-0 playoffs)
Goaltender: Tyler Richards; Defense: Matt Beers, Kyle Hartzell, Eric Martin; Transition: Paul Rabil, Jamison Koesterer
Washington scratches: Tom Johnson (F), Brett Manney (D), Joel Dalgarno (F), Kory Kowalyk (F), Chris O’Dougherty (D)
Toronto (9-7 overall, 2-0 playoffs)
Goaltender: Bob Watson; Defense: Creighton Reid, Rob Marshall, Cam Woods, Stephen Hoar, Drew Petkoff
Toronto scratches: Brandon Doran (D), Anthony Lackey (D), Phil Sanderson (D), Scott Campbell (D), Geoff McNulty (F)
Comcast Arena is literally fired-up for the Stealth introductions. The team has two flame-producing units of some sort that shoot blasts of flame about 10-12 feet in the air as the Stealth players run in between.
Loud boos for the Rock as they’re introduced with music from “The Empire Strikes Back” playing.
GAME TIME. The crowd is loud an heavily pro-Stealth. There is a good contingent of Toronto fans that made the long trek for the championship. TSN is here broadcasting the game live in Canada as well. George Daniel just performed the ceremonial ball drop and we’re ready to go at Comcast Arena in Everett.
14:01 – LEWIS RATCLIFF scored through Bob Watson’s five-hole with a bouncer. A Stealth player used a good screen on Watson. 1-0 Stealth.
11:47 – GOAL! Make it two for Lewis Ratcliff. Ratcliff, who hadn’t scored a goal this postseason takes a pass from Rhys Duch and beats Watson to his far side. 2-0 Stealth.
8:37 – WASHINGTON GOAL! Paul Rabil takes a down-the-floor pass from goaltender Tyler Richards and beats Watson one-on-one to put the Stealth up 3-0.
Washington’s defense has played out of its mind so far, keeping Toronto for any really strong threats on goal. Leblanc faces heavy pressure any time he steps close to the goal.
Slow starts was something Rock head coach Troy Cordingley was afraid of when I talked to him on the phone earlier this week. I would be surprised if Washington can keep this going. They’ve blown their fair share of leads this year.
6:39 – Tyler Richards just came up with three big saves (two on Kasey Beirnes) … 6:19 – Beirnes took a hit and in on the floor in front of the Stealth goal. Washington’s Mike Grimes goes to the penalty box for slashing.
4:40 – Richards makes a huge save and falls into the net a little bit. Toronto challenges the ruling of “no goal” …
The ruling is NO GOAL.
There are still 23 seconds on the power play for Toronto. Richards is a force in goal right now stopping numerous Rock shots on the power play.
2:33 – TORONTO finally gets on the board when Beirnes streaks in front of the net and beats Richards with a quick shot. 3-1 Washington.
1:22 – GOAL Billings scores on a turnaround to pull Toronto within one. 3-2 Stealth.
21.3 – GOAL. What did I say about losing leads. Toronto pulls even with a Beirnes goal. Manning took the ball into the slot and fed it to Beirnes who was right in front of goal. 3-3.
3-3 after the first quarter. Washington took a 3-0 lead, but three Rock goals in the final 2:33 of the period tied the contest at 3-3. This one is headed for a tight finish. Just a hunch. Toronto outshot Washington 21-9 in the first quarter.
12:04 – Lewis Ratcliff heads to the box for delay of game after he holds onto the ball just a little too long after a shot clock violation. This is a big opportunity for Toronto.
10:03 – Things are getting a little chippy now as former Stealth player Cam Woods is checked into the Stealth bench. Woods and Eric Martin are headed to the box. Cam Sedgwick also into the box for the check on Woods.
9:47 – Blaine Manning scores on the power play with a bouncer close in on Richards’ right hand side. Toronto has its first lead of the night. 4-3
9:20 – GOAL! Toronto takes a two-goal lead as defenseman Rob Marshall takes a loose ball the length of the floor to beat Richards. 5-3 Rock.
7:48 – Defenseman Creighton Reid heads to the penalty box, giving the Stealth a man-advantage — their first of the night.
Toronto holds a 26-10 advantage on shots on goal as the Rock defense is starting to rattle Washington.
The Rock kills the penalty.
Toronto, which is looking to capture its sixth NLL title, has found its stride after a tough start. The crowd is a little quiet now that Washington hasn’t mounted much of an attack in the second half. … It looks to be a near capacity crowd … maybe just 400-500 empty seats.
3:45 – GOAL ROCK! Toronto’s Kasey Beirnes scores off a Stephan Leblanc rebound for the Rock’s sixth straight goal. 6-3 ROCK. Beirnes grabbed the rebound while it was still in the air to beat Richards.
2:50 – GOAL! After a big hit by defenseman Eric Martin, Rhys Duch corrals a rebound and beats Watson with a behind-the-back shot. The goal snaps Toronto’s streak of six unanswered. 6-4 Toronto.
1:37 – STEALTH GOAL! Ratcliff scores his third of the night to make it 6-5. Paul Rabil drew the defense down to the slot and Ratcliff scored on a scramble in front of the net.
50.1 – GOAL. Colin Doyle backs down a defender and puts a shot through Richards legs to give Toronto a 7-5 lead. Doyle is his first against his former team.
Toronto and Washington head to the locker room following a well-played second quarter. The Rock lead 7-5 after netting six unanswered goals in a nearly 15 minute span. Kasey Beirnes leads the Rock, who are outshooting Washington 30-23 on goal, with three goals. Lewis Ratcliff has three for Washington and Rhys Duch has a goal and two helpers. Colin Doyle, who captained the Stealth last season, scored his first goal with 50.1 seconds left to play. Toronto goaltender Bob Watson and the Rock defense improved as the half moved along. Washington tried to beat the 40-year-old with low shots, but Watson was rarely troubled except for two rebound goals late in the half.
Both defenses are crowding up the middle causing a lot of perimeter shots and deflections. Washington’s Lewis Ratcliff hit the post and goalie Tyler Richards and Toronto’s Bob Watson have both come up with a handful of saves.
No goals at the 9:16 mark of the third. Washington has outshot Toronto 8-5 this quarter, but both defenses and goalie came out ready to play in the second half. Reports are that the crowd is a sellout, but I see a few empty seats here and there. Good crowd though, it gets noisy in this small arena.
9:16 – 2010 NLL Defensive POY Sandy Chapman gets a penalty for “illegal equipment” … Washington on the power play.
7:56 – Washington wastes a power-play opportunity when defender Tyler Codron goes to the box for an illegal cross check.
Now Toronto is on the power play.
There’s been no goals, but plenty of penalties. Washington defenseman Kyle Sorensen heads to the box.
5:59 – GOAL! Right after Sorensen heads to the box for slashing, Toronto’s Kasey Beirnes scores quickly on the two-man advantage. 8-5 Toronto.
5:00 – GOAL. Toronto’s Doyle scores again from the perimeter with the assist from Leblanc to give Toronto a 9-5 advantage.
Doyle was looking to pass to the middle and Richards must’ve lost track of the ball in the crowd and it slipped in over his right shoulder.
3:30 – STEALTH GOAL! Paul Rabil takes a long pass and beats Watson with a beautiful hesitation move while falling to his right. 9-6 Toronto.
2:07 – GOAL! Toronto’s Garrett Billings nets his second of the game on a “quick stick” to Richards’ right. Colin Doyle and Creighton Reid credited with the assists. 10-6 Toronto.
1:42 – Paul Rabil dives into Bob Watson on a shot, a scrum ensues in the crease and Rabil and Stephen Hoar head to the box.
Rabil — five minutes for goaltender interference … Hoar — five for roughing.
12.8 – GOAL! There’s been a Peter Morgan sighting for Washington. Morgan puts a close shot past Watson after taking a nice feed from Rhys Duch. 10-7 Toronto.
00.2 – GOAL! Toronto pulls Watson, Washington’s Eric Martin intercepts a pass and fires a shot down court that misses wide. Martin hustles to grab his own rebound and scores with 0.2 second on the clock. 10-8 Toronto after three quarters.
13:22 – STEALTH GOAL! Rhys Duch works his way around two defenders and rifles a 10-footer past Watson to bring Washington within one goal. 10-9 Toronto.
11:21 – TIE GAME! Rhys Duch beats Watson with a laser from the right side. Washington 10, Toronto 10.
Toronto has gotten called for two moving picks this quarter … tired legs from their active, pressure defense? Washington is starting to look a little sloppy on offense now as well.
7:51 – Toronto’s Stephen Hoar headed to the box again for a cross check. Washington on the power play for the third time tonight.
6:33 – GOAL! The arena erupts as Lewis Ratcliff nets his fourth of the game while rushing at Watson. Washington takes its first lead since the first quarter.
6:07 – STEALTH GOAL! Cam Sedgwick nets a shot from distance. 12-10 Washington.
5:48 – Timeout Stealth after stripping the ball from a Toronto player.
4:35 – GOAL! Lewis Ratcliff strikes again for Washington after a slick feed from Jeff Zywicki. Washington reclaims its three-goal lead.
Washington’s Kyle Hartzell hit the turf hard holding his wrist or shoulder. He just walked off with assistance. Unfortunately Hartzell’s night is done.
They just announced the attendance at 8,609 … a new Stealth record.
4:08 – GOAL! Washington’s Jeff Zywicki nets a goal with a far-post bouncer around Watson. Washington claims its largest lead of the night. 14-10.
2:53 – TORONTO GOAL! Stephan Leblanc nets his first of the night on a one-timer right in front of Richards. Then Washington’s Curtis Hodgson heads to the box. Power play ROCK. 14-11 Washington.
11.8 – GOAL! It’s all but over as Mike Grimes scores an empty-netter for Washington. 15-11 Stealth.
Washington captures its first Champion’s Cup in its inaugural season in Everett. Toronto squandered a four-goal lead.
The atmosphere on the floor after the game was, obviously, on of elation for the Stealth. I spoke to Lewis Ratcliff, the game MVP after the game and he deflected his championship game honors saying that “you could give the MVP to numerous guys … lots of guys had big nights, it was just my turn.”
Stealth head coach Chris Hall called the said the Stealth “couldn’t ask for a more Cinderella story.”
On the other side, the Rock were bemoaning the botched 6-on-5 that led to an Eric Martin goal with 0.2 seconds left in the third quarter. Martin’s tally made the score 10-8 Toronto, but swung the momentum to Washington.
“We made a mistake on the 6-on-5 and let them get that empty-net goal and I think that got their crowd into it and got momentum on their side and we didn’t recover and that’s on us,” Colin Doyle said.
Rock head coach Troy Cordingley added: “I’ve gotta blame myself for that. I didn’t give clear instructions on the 6-on-5 … they scored the empty-netter and we couldn’t match their intensity from there on in.”
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