Bandits Steal One As Rock Lose Home Opener

Accompanying photos courtesy of M40 Images

It might sound a little cliche to ask, but only two games into the 2009 NLL season, could there be a “critical” game between two teams?  In the NLL, I think so.

The Toronto Rock opened there 2009 Home season against the ’08 Champs from Buffalo.  Both teams came in having won their first game on opening weekend.  And many believe that if Buffalo is going to get knocked from their perch, Toronto might be the only team in the Eastern Division that has the potential to do it.  With Philly missing Athan Iannucci, Rochester having gone through all the injuries and changes, and Boston being the new kid on the block, that only leaves Toronto and New York to challenge in some eyes.

Well for round one anyway, the Champs will stay put.  They scored an impressive road victory, handing the Rock an 8-6 loss in front of 15,923 and the Air Canada Centre on Saturday night.

The game was really a defensive battle all night, and as we had suggested prior, a real grind from two teams very dominant with box lacrosse players.  It is not as though the respective goalies, Bob Watson and Ken Montour weren’t without work on the night having faced 47 and 44 shots respectively.  This was just a good old fashioned slugfest, minus the fisticuffs.

Buffalo’s Mark Steenhuis opened the scoring on a long range beauty that found its way to the bottom right corner of the net at 1:59 of the 1st quarter.  A couple of minutes later, Rock newcomer Bill McGlone scored to tie it before Billy Dee Smith would catch Toronto on a change,  using his speed to run the floor and deposit one around Watson.  Before the 1st quarter would end, Kasey Beirnes would score his first of three on the night after finding himself alone in front of Montour and receiving a slick pass from Blaine Manning.

Manning, Beirnes and Mike Accusrsi would score 2nd quarter goals, and in what I anticipated to be an all out scoring spree, the score at the half was a paltry 4-3 for Toronto.

Buffalo would battle back with the next three, notching two in the 3rd quarter, and then Toronto would get two in the early fourth quarter, leaving the game locked at six apiece with under 6 minutes to play in the game. 

That is when John Tavares would launch a shot from the shooter left side and beat Watson on his short side for what was the eventual game winning goal.  But under a minute later, Steeenhuis would score a similar goal to his marker that opened the scoring, this time to the top right corner instead.  Toronto would incur a too many men penalty and Buffalo showing some discipline was able to kill the final two minutes of the game on a Power Play.  The Bandits recovered several loose balls off of shots, and Toronto did not touch the ball.

Overall, this was a good game, but not the lights out scoring fest I thought it would be.  But I did notice something, while sitting with Jeff Garlin, Eastern Scout for the Boston Blazers.  Toronto played the game with only six offensive players (Beirnes, Manning, Ratcliff, Crosbie, Wiles, and McGlone) and ten defenders.  And in looking at last weeks game against New York it would appear that they did so then too.  I’m not sure that this isn’t going to hurt the Rock over the long haul.  While I admit, it might appear to be less tiring playing offense, it still will take a toll in a 60 minute game, and I think it did Saturday night.  I am wondering why guys like Marshall, Hoar and even Driscoll would not have played a little in the offensive end, allowing the others a breather every now and then.

Other Game Notes
– for some unknown reason both teams wore their White Home jerseys on the night. It did get this guy a little confused at points throughout the game
– a good contest by both teams, I think these two will slug it out all year
– Kasey Beirnes is on fire with 6 goals in two games this season; he is tied with Blaine Manning for the team lead
– Casey Powell aside, is anyone more valuable to their team right now than Mark Steenhuis?
– Buffalo was 1-5 on the PP, Toronto was 1-4
– Last night was the 1st game for new NLL official and local boy Jason Wiswell. I guess he did an admirable job, seeing as nobody noticed him 🙂
– Toronto’s tandem of Luke Wiles and Lewis Ratcliffe were 0-19 on shots with Wiles getting 11 and Ratcliffe 8
– A very emotional opening to the game with the Rock honouring Jamiseon Kuhlmann and his family. Jamieson lost his life on the lacrosse field in Newmarket last May (08).

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2 Comments

  1. I thought Driscoll played more offense in that game than he has in the past couple of years. But it’s just too bad that the Rock don’t have another legitimate scoring threat that could have played. Say, someone who has scored over 50 goals in the past two seasons. Someone who was Rookie of the Year a couple of years ago. It’s too bad that the Rock don’t, apparently, have anyone like that.

  2. Graeme makes a couple good points.

    -Driscoll and Hoar did stay out with the attack unit a few times

    -After they traded frigging Colin Doyle to get the guy, you’d think they could maybe find a way to get Benesch some floor time. In this case, all you’d have to do is bench one surplus defender (cough, Ladouceur, cough).


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