Saturday, January 30, 2010

Rochester Knighthawks 8 at Orlando Titans 13 - January 29, 2010

Professional box lacrosse has been around since 1987 in one form or another, but the National Lacrosse League didn't begin in its current structure until 1998. Since that time, only two teams have lasted all 12 seasons: the Rochester Knighthawks and Buffalo Bandits. The Bandits have actually been around since 1992, when they joined the fledgling Major Indoor Lacrosse League.

Every season in the NLL sees franchises folding or relocating, and 2010 is no different. Portland folded at the end of last season while the San Jose Stealth moved to Everett, WA and the New York Titans moved to Orlando. There are now 11 teams in the league, 5 in the Western Division and 6 in the East. With such far-flung teams and a limited 16-game schedule, NLL roadtrips are quite difficult.

Fortunately though, the scheduling gods were kind enough to place an Orlando Titans game one day after the Magic played, so I spent another day here and caught their second home game in team history as the Knighthawks were in town.

The team plays in Amway Arena, but the upper bowl is closed. As well, the arena is designed for basketball so there are no seats next to the glass that you would expect to find in a normal rink that is used for hockey.

The Game

The Titans finished first in the East in 2009 and defeated Rochester and Buffalo before losing to Calgary in the final, so they are not a weak expansion team. They were 1-1 while Rochester came in 2-1, although they were thumped 17-3 by the Toronto Rock the week before. As an aside, it's nice to see a Toronto team that actually wins some games; the Rock are 3-0 and lead the East.

The game was billed as Night of the Legends. Four of the all-time greats were here: Paul Gait is the coach of the Knighthawks, his brother Gary and John Grant Jr. are players, while Casey Powell plays for Orlando. The program equated these four to Jerry West, Bob Cousy, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan on the floor at the same time. Perhaps, but the local fans are new to the game, so for most of them, the comparison was lost. It didn't help that Gary Gait wasn't dressed either.

Orlando enjoys a power play

I'll avoid a detailed recap as the game was not that exciting. Orlando's Jordan Hall scored a shorthanded goal that required a lengthy video review midway through the first period to make it 2-1 Titans. Rochester seemed deflated by the ruling and allowed 5 unanswered goals, the 3rd of which chased starting goalie Pat O'Toole. However, a late goal by Rochester's Craig Point made it 7-2 at the half.

Rochester laid an egg in more ways than one

The Knighthawks seemed to use that momentum early in the 3rd scoring the first two goals but Orlando fought back and scored a back-breaker with 2 seconds left to go into the final quarter up 9-5. A 3-goal flurry by Orlando in 23 seconds early on salted the game away and the final was 13-8.

Hall scored 4 goals for Orlando and was the game's MVP. Titans' keeper Matt Vinc made 30 saves for the win, one of which is pictured below. Point tallied 4 himself in the losing cause. Here's the boxscore.

I think lacrosse is a great game, but tonight's battle wasn't that energetic. Rochester were out of it early and unable to fight back. Hall is an outstanding player though (he was Rookie of the Year two seasons ago) and someone worth watching. He's pictured below signing autographs after the game.

Other Thoughts

After the game, they opened the floor and allowed fans to come down to chat to the players. A good idea, and many took advantage of it as you can see above. They are really pushing the season tickets, but with only 8 home games and the schedule so spread out (the next home game here is not until February 20th), it's a tough sell. I hope the team can make a go of it in Orlando; it would be nice to see some stability in the league. But with so few games it will be difficult to keep the Titans in the public eye.

Orlando is a new team and trying to work the kinks out. In the first game, they brought the wrong uniforms and both teams wore white. There was an apology in the program for the snafu. Today, there were some issues with the clock running when it shouldn't have, but otherwise it went smoothly.

However, there was too much talking by the P.A. guy during the play. In particular, he wanted the crowd to shout the goalie's name whenever there was a save. The announcer would say "SAVE BY..." and the crowd would reply "VINC!!!" As the announcer was explaining this, Rochester moved down the floor and scored. Oops. Try again. On another occasion, Rochester scored and the announcer screamed "Orlando Titans Goal!!!!". Then a moment of silence. Then a muted "Pardon the interruption. Rochester goal by...".

Another annoying invention: thunderstix that glow in the dark. No need to even comment on this. Thankfully only a handful of the 7,367 on hand used them.

Surprised to see that the league has implemented a coach's challenge like the NFL. Both teams challenged a call, one was reversed and one wasn't, which cost the challenging team a timeout.

Line changes in the game are interesting. Players much enter the bench from one door and exit from another. Once the departing player reaches a point near the bench (marked on the floor), the player coming from the bench can jump on. This means that it's possible for one player to check an opponent running up the floor, head to the bench and have his replacement continue the check. Goalies can also come to the bench to be replaced, but they return to the net when there is turnover. This is because it takes time to run down the floor compared to hockey, where skating is obviously much faster.

The game itself is remarkably quick. For 60 minutes of action, it took just 2:15. Much better than the basketball last night, which lasted 2:51 for just 48 minutes of game play. Perhaps sports fans in the US like their games drawn out with plenty of commercial breaks. Might explain why the NFL and NBA are so successful.



1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the lacrosse update. I went to the home opener for the Mammoth a few weekends ago (watching them on TV now). Didn't notice the line change scenario you mentioned. I was simply trying to figure out the penalties.

    Enjoy the rest of your trip! Meg