For some odd reason, the Colorado Mammoth have struggled to win the game during their Blackout Cancer promotional event. Despite a controversial call that could have easily derailed them, the Mammoth were successful both with the game as well as their fund raising, bringing in over $10,000 dollars for cancer research.
The Mammoth continued to struggle with lack of rebounds at the crease, but the Minnesota Swarm struggled to capitalize on any of the Mammoth mistakes. The Mammoth however were able to capitalize on the Swarm’s. The Mammoth scored on four of their five power plays, and on a penalty shot with less than a minute remaining in the game.
While John Grant Junior was once again the goal leader, there was a lot more ball movement this game than last week. Instead of the focus seeming to be, pass the ball to JGJ, he’ll score, there were a lot of shots and goals from the rest of the offense. However, one thing the Mammoth really need to keep an eye on, too often their passing gets predictable. When they shake it up, they do a great job throwing the goalie and opposing defense off their game, but frequently it looks like warm-ups where even a novice can spot where the ball will go next. The Mammoth did do a good job of breaking their defenders this game to get clear shots on net. Something they have struggled with so far this season.
I have been told a few times over the years by both fans, and those who have played, or do play that just knowing your position is secure (relatively speaking), can have a huge impact on a goalie’s mindset. Knowing you are the starter and that the team is behind you can be huge. I will admit, having never played I cannot fully understand this, but, the Matt Roik that played in net for this game looked nothing like the Matt Roik that has played in the previous three.
Despite, longtime Mammoth goalie and fan favorite, Chris Levis being cut and the signing of Dan Lewis, many fans speculated, myself included, that Roik probably wouldn’t be too far behind. Especially once Tye Belanger is able to be taken off the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. If last night’s performance is any indication of what we will see the rest of the season, the rest of the league needs to watch out. Roik played a lot more confidently, even shaking off a three goal Swarm run early in the game and again in the third quarter that in previous games might have resulted in him being pulled because it would have turned into many more goals.
Not since longtime referee Chet Couture took away a goal during halftime that he had previously called good upon review several seasons ago have I seen a referee make a truly controversial game changing call that was saturated with confusion.
From the official Colorado Mammoth webpage:
“He said it was an add-on to the glove,” said Hamley, referring to the official who gave him an explanation on the bench. “We’ll get it straightened out this week, and it didn’t hurt us so we’ll move on.”
Initially when the Mammoth coach spoke to the official, the discussion indicated that Roik’s glove was deemed legal. But after a conversation with the Swarm bench, the official opted to err on the side of caution and appeared to change his mind.
From the official National Lacrosse League webpage:
With six and a half minutes remaining in the contest, Mammoth goaltender Matt Roik was given a two-minute penalty and a game misconduct for an illegal equipment violation. After officials determined that he had modified one of his gloves, Roik was ejected from the game and finished with 35 saves on 43 shots for the night.
“I noticed that he had what I deemed to be an ‘add-on’ to his right glove,” said Swarm head coach Joe Sullivan. “The league provides brand new gloves every year and that looked like it was an older glove. We typically wouldn’t make that call but we were down by five [goals]. We were on the power play so worst-case scenario, if I lost the challenge, we would go 4-on-4.”
From what I saw, it appeared that our new favorite ref Gregory Hart, he of the ‘how do I signal no goal’ fame in Week 3 against the Calgary Roughnecks, looked over at Roik as play started, he looked at the field, looked over at Roik again longer, looked away and blew his whistle stopping play with 6:29 left in the game and a score of 13-8 on the scoreboard. He talks to Roik, and starts to walk him over to the Penalty Box. Everyone looks clueless as to what’s going on from both benches to the fans and it seemed the refs as well, although the television commentators speculated it was Andrew Suitor who called for the check.
Hart continues to talk to Roik pulling him all the way over to the box so that it actually appeared he was going to be serving a penalty of some kind. Then he tells Roik to stand outside the Ref Circle while he converses with the other referee. They talk for several minutes. They call Roik back over, Roik is holding up his stick, so it appears they’ve decided to do a goalie stick check, but no, that is not the case. He holds his hands out, they look at his gloves, but do not pull out anything to measure them. They again send Roik away and converse briefly, the stadium announcer mentioned that before everything was done the refs had taken eight minutes to converse. Apparently a decision has finally been made.
Hart goes to Captains Andrew Suitor and Gavin Prout to explain things, and apparently referee Gregory Pepper directs Roik back to his net as he heads over to it. Hart finishes with the Captains and goes over to explain the situation to Mammoth head coach Bob Hamley. After a lengthy amount of time, everything seems ok. Hart then goes over to talk to Swarm head coach Joe Sullivan who on the jumbo tron (and again when I watched the television feed) looked confused and it appears he asks the ref what’s going on.
After their discussion, Hart goes back over to the Mammoth bench and starts talking to Hamley. During all of this Roik had come out of net, gone over to the Swarm bench, yelling at the bench, many assume he was yelling at Andrew Suitor, and his teammates drag him away, he goes back in to net. After another lengthy period of time, Hamley straight up loses it to the point that he turns around steps up on the bench and slams the glass before coming back to talk to Hart some more. Discussion finished, Hart walks over to Roik in net and escorts him over to the Mammoth bench where he exits through the tunnel. It is announced that Roik has received a 2 minute minor for Illegal Equipment as well as a 10 minute Game Misconduct that has caused his ejection. The Swarm were also given a 2 minute minor for Unsportsmanlike Conduct however, nobody seems to quite know what the Swarm penalty, which was given to the bench and served by Dan Bell was for.
Before the game and again at half time, goalies go into the back with the refs and their equipment is examined and measured. It is possible for the leg pads to be pulled out wider, something Anthony Cosmo was once busted for in a game against the Mammoth. It is also possible for sticks to be messed with after they’ve been examined. Most often, the violation is an overly pinched head that will not allow the ball to fall out of the pocket. Roik’s equipment was fine both times he was measured.
From what Roik said during the broadcast, and what has come out post game, it would appear that Roik was playing with older gloves that he has had and used for the past 2½ years and has been okayed for game use by the NLL. The question is, whether or not this has to be done every season. So the speculation remains, who called for the check, was it a justifiable equipment check, and if there was an issue with the gloves, which are much harder to tamper with to extend in any way, why wasn’t it brought to the Colorado coaching staff last season? Or in Week 2, 3 or 4. If the Swarm called for it, you certainly can’t blame their last ditch effort to grasp the game and potentially pull it back within reach. If it was Gregory Hart who made the call, then there are a whole mess of additional issues the league will need to examine.
But, if the Swarm thought getting Roik out of net would be their saving grace, they were sorely mistaken as replacement goalie Dan Lewis, despite coming in cold and not having played in the NLL since last season, blocked 7 of the 8 shots he faced to secure the Mammoth win. Despite having 52 shots on goal to the Mammoth’s 44, the Swarm just struggled to find the back of the net regardless of who was tending it.
Colorado Mammoth 15, Minnesota Swarm 9
1st Star – John Grant Junior, what a surprise considering he had 5 goals and 6 assists.
2nd Star – Matt Roik, with 36 saves on 44 shots, he was the thorn in the Swarm’s side
3rd Star – Dan Lewis, coming in cold, Lewis truly was the last barrier to the Swarm coming back in the game and winning it.
Around the League
Toronto Rock 14, Buffalo Bandits 12
Washington Stealth 6, Rochester Knighthawks 7
Calgary Roughnecks 18, Edmonton Rush 15