February 5, 2013

Stevens: Ejection of Mammoth Goalie Was Unfair

by Neil Stevens | LaxMagazine.com

Matt Roik's gloves were at the center of a controversy involving his ejection from Saturday's game against Minnesota.
© Jack Dempsey/Colorado Mammoth

A debatable officiating decision could have cost his team a game, but it didn't, so Colorado general manager Steve Govett is accentuating the positive in his comments on the infamous Matt Roik glove issue.

The ejection of the Mammoth goalie during a home game against Minnesota last Saturday night was bizarre to say the least.

With 6:29 remaining and with the Mammoth up by five goals, the on-floor officials were asked by the Swarm to inspect Roik's gloves. Coach Joe Sullivan didn't win any friends in Denver in causing more than 16,000 Pepsi Center spectators to sit through a lengthy delay wondering what was happening.

''I noticed that he had what I deemed to be an add-on to his right glove,'' Sullivan explained afterward. ''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. We were on the power play so, worst-case scenario, if I lost the challenge we would be 4-on-4.''

Sullivan was merely doing everything he could to give his team a chance to win.

After the refs checked Roik and discussed the matter amongst themselves and with the coaches, Roik was given a two-minute penalty and a game misconduct. Roik, who was understandably upset at what was happening, left as ordered and stood in a corridor leading to the dressing room as backup Dan Lewis took his place. Lewis had just recently been signed and had only limited NLL time on his resume. The Mammoth won 15-9.

NLL rule 35 contains a clause that says a goaltender's gloves may not be altered to add bulk: ''Padding may not be added to or on the outside of the glove unless prior approval by the league.''

The last four words of that rule are important because Roik said he had prior approval from the time he was with the Washington Stealth. Because blocking shots was causing bruised fingers, a bit of additional padding was stitched onto the right glove to protect his hand. An NLL statement Tuesday backed up that assertion — then divulged an important provision.

"The gloves that Matt Roik wore on Saturday, issued and approved in 2010 with the Washington Stealth logo emblazoned on the gloves, were granted an exemption for the 2010 season while he was a member of the Stealth," the statement read. "It is the league's position that any exemptions do not carry forward from year to year. As such, the gloves were deemed illegal by the game referee."

The statement continued: ''Additionally, it should be noted that by league Rule 88.4, the inspection should have taken place immediately following the conclusion of the quarter, and not during the quarter.''

So, Roik was unfairly ejected with 6:29 remaining.

Govett won't belabor the point.

''I was extremely impressed with Dan Lewis coming in in an extremely inflammatory situation,'' Govett said in an interview. ''I was pretty happy with him. I'm very excited about what Dan Lewis brought to the table and I'm happy with the way Matt Roik played.

''So, I'm happy that some questions about our lack of consistency in goaltending have been answered. Overall, I can only look at the way things went down and be happy with the way our goaltenders responded. I'm really excited about how the whole team responded. Our guys played great. Matt Roik played tremendously well and Dan Lewis came in in relief in that awkward situation and did exactly what we needed him to do. It worked out well.''

Goalies' equipment is checked by the refs before games but the emphasis is on measuring the width of the shoulder, chest and leg pads. In the future, to avoid what happened last Saturday, refs might want to check out gloves more closely in the pre-game inspection.

On penalties to be assessed, here's what NLL rules state: ''If an inspection conducted during the game or after the game finds the goalie to be using illegal ... the referee will assess the goalie a two-minute penalty and a game misconduct and a $250 fine will be levied by the league.''

The league says the fine stands and that Roik has a right to appeal it.

If Roik's controversial glove was OK in previous seasons, we can't see why he's not allowed to use it this season. He's only using it so a ball doesn't break his hand, and who wants to see him break his hand? It's not as if a little extra padding is going to frustrate shooters and lower his save percentage.

Neil Stevens has covered pro and Canadian lacrosse since 1971. He and the late Tom Borrelli — a longtime Lacrosse Magazine contributor — are the only media members recognized by the NLL Hall of Fame.

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