National Lacrosse League division semis make for a wild and wacky weekend of lacrosse, plus the links
In the topsy-turvy world that has been the National Lacrosse League’s 2012 season, nothing should surprise us anymore. But come on. Minnesota goes in to Colorado and downs the Mammoth 14-10? Okay, that’s understandable. The Swarm have been playing well and beat Colorado last week. That’s not shocking. The lowest-scoring team in the league, Edmonton, going into the Saddledome and dropping 19 on the stingiest defence in the league in a 19-11 win? That’s pushing it. And what transpired in Toronto? Even in this year when it appears that anything can happen, that just can’t happen. But improbably, stunningly, it did.
First, the Bandits, who have struggled all year, get out to a 4-0 lead through the first quarter. When John Tavares scored at 10:57 of the second quarter, they led 4-2, the score that would still be on the board as the teams left the floor at the half. There was no further scoring deep into the third quarter. Anthony Cosmo was outstanding in the Bandits’ goal as the Rock eventually began to pour shots at him. At the other end of the floor, nothing was getting by Nick Rose anymore.
Except it looked like one ball may have. A shot hopped behind Rose and, from high above the Air Canada Centre floor, looked like it was in the net, just across the line in the air and quickly scooped out, but in the net. Unfortunately for the Bandits, Rose was at the far end of the floor from their bench and they had no way of seeing where the ball was in that split second. Just moments later, Garrett Billings scored to pull the Rock within 6-3.
Still, Buffalo had a three-goal lead with 17 minutes to go in the game. Surely, in this low-scoring affair, one more goal—two at the most—would do the trick. But the goals weren’t coming, and then Kasey Beirnes scored at 13:20 of the third and Toronto’s window of opportunity was nudged just a little bit wider open.
Then Beirnes struck again at 2:11 of the fourth. And again at 5:17. The crowd grew louder, the Bandits offence looked less and less cohesive, and Nick Rose looked more and more like a brick wall. Neither team could score. Neither goalie would buckle, although there were some decent scoring chances. There certainly wasn’t a good scoring chance with a minute and a half to go as Brendan Thenhaus, scooped up by the Rock after being released by the Bandits earlier in the year, scooped up a bouncing ball just outside the crease. He took a peek at the shot clock and realized he didn’t much time, so as he was moving away from the net he shovelled the ball one-handed toward the Buffalo cage.
The ball rolled along the floor, somehow found a hole, and sauntered into the back of the net. Thenhaus was credited with eight loose balls and three shots on the night, but you could be forgiven if you hadn’t noticed he was playing. Now, suddenly and stunningly, he had the biggest goal of his career and the Rock had their first lead of the game.
Buffalo tried to press but weren’t getting much going. Then, with 7.5 seconds to play, the whistle blew. Penalty, Toronto. Bill Greer, holding the stick. Just the Rock’s second minor penalty of the game (more on that later) and with the goalie pulled the Bandits had a six-on-four advantage for one last play. So naturally they went with the flying V. Five Bandits formed a wedge and escorted Luke Wiles towards the net. He found Tavares breaking free to Rose’s left. The ball barely touched Tavares’ mesh before it was bouncing past Rose and into the net for the tying goal. Overtime! Buffalo hadn’t scored since Tavares’ last marker at 10:57 of the second quarter. Now they had tied it and the game was going to sudden death.
But hang on a second. The officials were checking the replay. No problem for the Bandits. Watching the play, you could see digits still winding down on the clock after the ball was in. It was clearly a goal. The referee came out of the review booth, strode to the edge of his semi-circle, and waved the goal off. The Rock and their fans went bonkers. The Bandits were stunned. Surely something was wrong. There was clearly time left on the clock when Tavares scored. What no one had noticed, with all the attention focused on Tavares, was that Sandy Chapman had pushed Tracey Kelusky into the crease. No goal. Goodbye Buffalo. Book the ACC for next weekend’s East Division title tilt against Rochester, Toronto.
“I kind of feel like they were playing not to lose [in the second half], so they weren’t taking a lot of chances, which in the first half they were doing so well and getting scoring opportunities” Chapman said of the turnaround that saw Buffalo not score in the game’s final 34 minutes. “They started to play conservative and we started to pressure and Rosie made the stops when they did get open.”
“This year was a lot of ups and downs but I felt we turned things around coming into this game. I thought we played well enough to win,” said Bandits captain Chris White. “We just couldn’t seem to solve Rose in the second half and the referees. I’m not one to make excuses but we certainly need to see some more level consistency out of the referees, that’s for sure.”
Buffalo coach Darris Kilgour said they shouldn’t have let it come down to needing that last goal to tie, but echoed White’s sentiments about the officiating. “I’m going to get another memo from the league apologizing because the refs missed the calls. For the third year in a row we come in here and lose by a goal and I’ll get a memo.” The Bandits had two major points of contention, both of which were clearly valid. In the first half, Ian Llord was checked from behind into the boards. He left the game with a separated shoulder and no penalty was assessed. White said the refs told him they hadn’t seen the foul.
The second was in the second half while Toronto was mounting its comeback. Glen Bryan lost his helmet, in which circumstance a player must immediately leave the floor. He continued to play defence for several seconds, even pressuring the ball, but, bafflingly, no illegal equipment call was made. One of the refs even picked up Bryan’s helmet and returned it to him on the bench.
Despite the obvious reffing mistakes, however, Buffalo players acknowledged that they couldn’t expect to win a game when they couldn’t score in the second half. Scoring wouldn’t be a problem in Calgary, however, for a team that managed just 167 goals in the regular season. Edmonton fired six goals in the first quarter and had nine by the half, leading the first-overall Roughnecks 9-6 at intermission. They added five more in each of the third and fourth quarters to pull off an improbable upset against a team they hadn’t beaten in the past two regular seasons.
Ryan Ward and Corey Small each had five goals for the Rush, with Ward adding six assists and Small three. Tom Johnson also notched a hat trick while Aaron Wilson added six points and Shawn Williams and Zack Greer five each. Scott Ranger scored four goals for Calgary. Dane Dobbie chipped in seven points (3g, 4a) and Shawn Evans six points (2g, 4a) in the losing effort.
Riggers’ goalie Mike Poulin, a leading candidate for goalie of the year, was pulled after giving up 13 goals on 46 shots. Both teams took ample advantage of their power play opportunities: Edmonton went 4-6 and Calgary 3-4.
The win means Edmonton will travel to Minnesota a most unlikely West Division final next weekend. The Swarm, actually, aren’t really surprising anyone anymore. The speedy young squad jumped out to a 5-1 lead and traded goals with Colorado the rest of the way in their 14-10 win.
Ryan Benesch led the way with three goals and four assists and four other Minnesota players contributed a pair of goals each. Evan Kirk stopped 37 of 47 shots he faced to earn the win. John Grant, Jr. scored five times for the Mammoth and added a pair of assists, but it wasn’t enough. Adam Jones chipped in with a hat trick.
plus the links
Nate Lawlor says communication has been a key to his Elora Mohawks improving their defence, and it showed in their OLA Jr B win over the Guelph Regals Saturday night. “”I think they got at least seven goals against us [on cross-crease passes] in our first meeting, but we did a good job of taking that away from them tonight,” he said. “The defence has been working on its communication, helping one another know where their guys are. We’ve started rolling – I think what really got us going tonight were a few long passes that led to some break-aways. Getting those few quick goals really helped us out.” (cw67.com)…The Brooklin Redmen were good last year. They could be better this year. As Brian McNair points out, “This is a team, after all, that despite being the youngest in the league a year ago, finished a surprising second in the standings with a 13-7 record and won the first two games of the playoffs against the eventual Mann Cup champion Brampton Excelsiors.” The question, as it is every summer, is who’ll be coming to play? (durhamregion.com)Stamp is a TV sports announcer and lacrosse lover whose skill set made him a defender but who always dreamed of being a goal-scorer. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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