NLL at its best

RYAN WOLSTAT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:50 AM ET

Lewis Ratcliff of the Calgary Roughnecks scored with just 4.4 seconds remaining to give the West Division a 14-13 victory in the National Lacrosse League's all-star game at the Air Canada Centre yesterday.

Trailing for much of the game, the West woke up in the fourth, scoring six times to cap the comeback.

"It was a little bit of a broken play, the ball ended up on my stick and I just fired it," Ratcliff said of the winner, his fourth goal of the game.

The Rock represented Toronto well as Colin Doyle, Blaine Manning, Phil Sanderson, Josh Sanderson and East captain Jim Veltman combined for eight points.

ENTERTAINING GAME

The contest was far less physical than a typical NLL game, but it still had more of an edge compared to an NHL all-star game. There were enough hits to keep the ACC crowd of 15,924 entertained and with the players breaking out the trick shots, even the Harlem Globetrotters would have been impressed.

"You don't see that kind of hot-dogging in league play, they're pulling shots out of their ying-yang and it makes it that much tougher for a goalie," Dallas Eliuk of the Philadelphia Wings said. Eliuk, the NLL's only six-time all-star played a key role in the game, assisting on the tying goal and making several brilliant stops late to ensure the win.

The East started a murderer's row of scoring talent and it didn't take long to get on track.

Minnesota Swarm defender Ryan Cousins opened the scoring one minute into the game and the squad had five scores before the quarter was finished. Not to be outdone, the less heralded, but still potent West squad responded with four of their own in the frame to take a 5-4 lead.

The goals stopped coming by the bunches in a second quarter that saw only five in total, but one of the game's best was scored by original Rock defenceman Glenn Clark, now with Philadelphia, off of a nice feed from former protege Phil Sanderson of the Rock. Clark later added another.

Besides Eliuk, the other three goaltenders also showed why they were chosen as the best in the league. Starters Pat O'Toole for the East and former Rock standout Anthony Cosmo of the West kept the score tied at seven with elite first-half play between the pipes and Buffalo Bandits goaltender Steve Dietrich made 27 saves in his half of work.

Defence was the story in the third quarter, as the East held the West to just one goal and took a 10-8 lead into the deciding frame. After that, the game was an end-to-end, goal-scoring extravaganza.

Veltman praised the lively crowd for the warm reception extended toward former Rock players Clark, Cosmo, Darryl Gibson and Steve Toll.

"This is the most fun I've had in an all-star game," Veltman, playing in his fifth-such contest said. "Their enthusiasm was really special."


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