Last Saturday night, in what we called our NLL Game of the Week, the Mammoth hosted the Vancouver Stealth for their third of four Western Conference meetings between the pair in 2016. With the series knotted at 1-1, the games shifted from British Columbia to Denver, continuing in front of fourteen-thousand screaming lacrosse fans who may have broken the decibel record in the Pepsi Center after Adam Jones hit the game-winner with somewhere under two seconds left. The finalizer came after 5 other goals from Jones in the fourth quarter, leading his squad to a massive comeback and win over the Stealth.
What Could Have Been?
No one could have missed the epic contribution Jones brought to the floor after remaining without a single point through the first three quarters. What was missed is the goal that Colorado may have scored on themselves to keep Jones from tying the game just seconds later. I’ll let lacrosse analyst and social media legend Teddy Jenner walk you through the scenario first…
What went down?
Stealth forward Rhys Duch puts a shot on goaltender Alex Buque’s midsection, which Buque drops on, drawing the immediate whistle from the official to halt play. To capitalize on transition with time ticking away, Buque quickly scoops up the ball, gaining possession and immediately warrants the official’s whistle to continue play. Simultaneous with the whistle to denote the start of the clock, the ball rolls out of the top of Buque’s stick and into the goal. Once the ball crosses the invisible goal plane, it’s a good goal. Once it hit the net, it was surely a good goal and continued as such even as Buque snags the ball out of the net (what looks like still behind the plane) and bats the ball out of the goal before it comes back across the plane. Seconds go by before the official ever stops to look back at the play, as he continues to count his 8 seconds and watch the substitutions.
Continuing with Jenner’s points out for us, the official’s vision directs back to Buque at a time he could still make the goal call. It appears he watches the goalie bring the ball out of the goal, before regaining possession and moving it down the floor. At the time Vancouver was completely out of challenge flags and were left powerless as a goal that would have extended their lead to two, turned into Jones’ fifth goal of the night, tying the game at 9.
But Was It Really a Goal?
If you’re wondering whether the goal would have been disallowed on the account of Buque losing possession simultaneously with the whistle, and it’s the official’s job to make sure there is possession before starting play, that would be a fair case for argument. But remember, the ball was frozen on Buque’s save and hit the ground after the whistle. He then picked the ball up off the turf which caused the start of play by the referee. Once the referee starts to hit the whistle, the ball is live and was still in contact with Buque before it left his crosse and broke the plane of the goal.
View it how you want, but the NLL made the final call on this one after the game, which was prompt and clearly the right thing to do to avoid a situation that could have been easily swept under the rug publicly. The league stated that the situations leading to the missed goal were all in proper mechanics and when the ball was lost by Buque beyond the plan of the goal, it should have counted as a score for the Stealth. Due to their lack of remaining challenged, by rule, the Stealth were unable to protest and once the final buzzer sounded, there was nothing the NLL could do to overturn the mistake.
What did we learn?
We can’t go back and change the outcome of the game, it’s over. What we can do is continue to address the seemingly obvious demand for a third official to be on the floor to assist with off-ball contact, substitutions and everything else slipping under the official’s radar. The extra official is a much-needed service to the game which will allow the refs to slow down their rush to move up the floor and will keep and extra pair of eyes on the ball at all times.
Personally, I don’t feel more challenges or goal reviews are the issue, it’s simply getting another set of stripes on the floor for professional lacrosse. The NHL has two refs and two linesmen on the ice, the MLL uses four referees at all times, basketball even uses three officials, so how the NLL continues to work with only two officials on the floor at any given time is beyond me. Can we get this issue taken care of before 2017? Please and thank you.