With the Leafs off due to the Olympic break, the NLL's Toronto Rock had a rare chance to host a Saturday evening game. The Orlando Titans were the visitors coming of a double-OT loss to Boston the week before in what was the longest game in league history. The Rock were on a 2-game losing streak themselves but were still perfect at the ACC. These two squads were the top of the east so it promised to be a good game.
The Rock play at the Air Canada Centre, home of the Leafs and Raptors as well. It's located right by Union Station, so transit is your best option to get there. Unlike other NLL games I've attended, the upper seating bowl is also open, as the Rock reliably draw more than 10,000 per game. Tickets are not cheap here, with the best seats going for $72, more than double the price that the same seat would cost you in Orlando. I attended the game with an old college friend, and he preferred the end seats which were a more reasonable $46.
I'll refrain from a full review of the ACC here, I'd prefer to do that when I see a Leafs game and the arena has all of their facilities open.
The Rock had four goals in the first period, but two were called back due to crease violations. Meanwhile, Toronto keeper Bob Watson was strong, shutting out the Titans as the quarter ended 2-0 for the home team.
That was the highlight of the night for Watson, who turned into a lacrosse version of Vesa Toskala in the 2nd quarter, allowing 8 goals including a hat trick by Casey Powell. The final marker came with just 0.3 seconds left as the Titans went into the half with an 8-5 lead.
Toronto's Garrett Billings shoots
The third quarter was fairly even as the Rock outscored Orlando 3-2 to enter the final stanza down 10-8. But Watson fell apart in the 4th, allowing goals on the first four shots as the Titans stormed to a 6-goal lead. Watson was replaced but it was too late for Toronto. They did manage to close within 4, but Orlando added a 15th against replacement goalie Steve Dietrich and the Rock never threatened against Orlando keeper Matt Vinc (shown below making one of his 52 saves) as the Titans won 16-12.
Goaltending was the difference in this game. Toronto outshot Orlando 64-43 but Vinc was up to the challenge while Watson had a forgettable night. With the win, Orlando takes over first place in the East with a 4-2 record, while Toronto is second at 6-4. These two teams meet again in Florida at the end of March and that game could decide the eventual Eastern champion.
Sitting behind the net is quite interesting as you can see the play develop. It was impressive when the players were able to shoot the ball into the tiny openings left by the goalie. The view from section 102 is below.
I was also able to see how the line changes affect the game. From what I could tell, both teams had defensive and offensive lines that would change whenever the play moved from one end to the other. In some cases, a player would come off the bench, get the ball, shoot, and after the other team gained possession, return to the bench for a shift totaling 10 seconds.
There was a funny incident when Vinc saved a shot and the ball disappeared into his equipment. The referee and some players tried to help him find it, but it remained hidden. Finally they gave up and restarted the game; the ball did finally reappear during a break in the action.
The most annoying thing tonight was the loud music that was played constantly during game action. I don't understand the need to take away from the game itself, and want to hear the sounds of the game, not the Red Hot Chili Peppers!
Skipping the Raptors
I had planned to see the Raptors hosting the Cleveland Cavaliers the day before, but decided against it for a couple of reasons. The first is that ticket prices were simply too high. It was $264 (yes, over two hundred bucks) for a seat between the baskets, which is far more than I'm willing to pay for 48 minutes of action. There were some cheap seats available in the upper deck, but I've become a bit picky about where I sit for NBA games, as the field of play is so small that there are very few decent seats available. The other reason was Canada's semi-final game against Slovakia, which began at 9:30. I didn't want to miss the first period so went to a local establishment to catch all the action. Think it turned out to be the right decision as the Raptors lost in OT while Canada won a nailbiter over the Slovaks.