The National Lacrosse League pre-season got into full swing last night with three games involving two-thirds of the league’s teams. Edmonton downed Toronto 12-8 at the Toronto Rock Athletic Centre, Rochester edged Minnesota 11-10 at Blue Cross Arena thanks to a late penalty shot goal by Johnny Powless and Calgary dominated Colorado in a 20-11 win over the Mammoth at the Langley Events Centre. Each game presented interesting story lines, starting with the Rock’s first game at their new facility. The TRAC was packed to its 750-person capacity to see the hometown club take on the defending West Division champions.
Across Lake Ontario, Rochester fans certainly got more than their money’s worth with the thrilling finish to the game that was free to get in to. Sam Bradman and Kiel Matisz had a pair of goals each as Minnesota took a 10-9 lead late in the fourth quarter. Joel McCready, in his first game back with the Knighthawks after taking last season off while completing fire fighter training, scored a hat trick including the tying goal with 2:20 to play. A too-many-men penalty in the final two minutes set the stage for Powless’ dramatic winner.
The game was notable for a couple of other reasons, as well. It marked another return to the teal: Casey Powell played for Rochester after a year away from the league and more than a decade away from the team. “I feel like a young kid again,” the superstar told NLL.com. “I took a year off and it’s great to have this opportunity to play. I’m fired up. It was an awesome crowd tonight. It feels great to come away with the victory.”
It was also the first game the NLL has broadcast via YouTube.
Matisz told MNSwarm.com that he was happy to get his first NLL game action under his belt. “It was great to get the first game jitters out of the way. I thought in the beginning I tried to do a little too much, but once I settled down and worried about the team first I thought I played pretty well.”
While both defending division champions were winning their first games of this preseason, another pretty good club gave everyone a reminder that they’ll have to be reckoned with by anyone planning to hoist the Champions Cup in 2013. Calgary had the best record in the league last year. They were one goal shy of most in the league and gave up the fewest in the NLL. Last night, they looked like they were in mid-season form as they dumped Colorado.
Curtis Dickson and Jeff Shattler each scored five goals for the Roughnecks, who took advantage of numerous Mammoth penalties but were also deadly at even strength. With all the weapons around him along with the floor vision and passing touch he displayed again last night, Shawn Evans could challenge the all-time assists record that Garrett Billings set last year. Of course, it’s just one pre-season game, but when an offence has so much talent and plays such a movement-oriented team game, it’s going to be pretty hard to stop.
The turnout for the game was a disappointment for folks hoping that exhibition games in Langley could lead to an NLL team settling there for good. Province reporter Steve Ewen estimated the crowd at about 4,000 in an article in which Colorado President Steve Govett reinforced that the league would love to get a team back in the Vancouver area.
One thing that was clearly not disappointing was the webcast of the game. The picture was sharp and smooth, giving fans possibly the best online viewing option an NLL game has had.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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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