Colorado Mammoth Goalie's Open-Floor Hit Goes Viral
Colorado Mammoth goaltender Alexis Buque says his hit on Calgary forward Karsen Leung during a game Saturday was a clean play, and the NLL is backing him up.
"The check made by Buque on Leung was legal," the league said in a statement Monday evening.
Colorado lifted starting goalie Dillon Ward in the third quarter after Calgary scored six straight goals to seize a 10-8 lead and Buque was sent into the Mammoth crease. After Adam Jones scored to make it 10-9, Buque saw Calgary's Karsen Leung waiting to catch a pass in the Mammoth zone with no Mammoth defender close enough to intervene. Buque dashed a good 10 feet out of his crease to check Leung. The ball was in Leung's stick when the two crashed together. Leung was flattened.
Those in the Denver crowd of 14,127 supporting the Mammoth roared their approval. Leung struggled to his feet and trotted to the Roughnecks' bench uninjured. No penalty was assessed, which drew the ire of Calgary coach Curt Malawsky. He called it "absolutely dirty."
Buque, a 23-year-old from Whitby, Ontario, stopped 14 of the 16 shots he faced the rest of the way and the Mammoth won 13-12 on a goal through goalie Mike Poulin's legs by John Grant Jr. 1:56 into overtime. The hit by the 5-foot-10, 225-pound Buque on the 6-foot, 180-pound Leung was the turning point.
NLL: Colorado Goalie Buque Levels Calgary's Leung
Asked Monday to go over the play everyone has been talking about — a video of the hit posted on the NLL's Facebook page had nearly 1.5 million views, with several mainstream sports blogs picking it up — Buque defended his actions.
"I was thinking about preventing [a scoring] play from happening," he said of his split-second decision to leave his crease. "I felt it was a decision that had to be made to bring our team back. I did what I had to do. It's not that I don't like the guy. I wasn't head-hunting or anything. I was just playing the game. Obviously, as you can see, it was a shoulder-to-shoulder hit. It was pretty clean. I was making a game-changing point. He's a good scorer and I didn't want to give him the opportunity to score. He got a pass and I laid on the hit. I was trying to change the game to help our team. I don't see anything dirty about it."
It was the fourth time in three years that an overtime goal by Grant beat the Roughnecks, who have knocked the Mammoth out of the playoffs more times than Grant and his teammates can stomach.
"We have a huge rivalry against them," Buque said. "There's some animosity."
There is no charging penalty in the NLL rulebook. A rule that could be applied would be roughing, Rule 85, which includes this sentence in its definition: "Any avoidable act on the part of a player which is deliberate or excessively violent whether it be with the body or stick."
Calgary forward Jeff Shattler condemned Buque's hit on Leung, 25, who is from Victoria, British Columbia.
"It was atrocious," Shattler told the Calgary Sun. "[Buque] could have ended [Leung's] career, basically. I think it was disgusting that the refs let it go."
Buque has a different view.
"As far as I'm concerned, and what I got from the referees, was that it was a legal and clean hit," he said, adding, "Some of the players on the other team didn't want to shake my hand after the game. That's classless. Whether you win or lose, you should be able to shake hands."
The league statement:
"Per the National Lacrosse League rules, the check made by Buque on Leung was legal. With 3:05 remaining in the third quarter, Leung gains possession of the ball in a fast break situation and takes more than one step before Buque makes contact. As such, Buque was not in violation of Rule 70.4, contact on a fast-breaking opponent. (Rule 70.4: A goalie or player must give a fast-breaking opponent the opportunity to take one step to gain composure after receiving the ball before body contact is allowable.)
"Further, the primary point of contact by Buque was on Leung's right shoulder and not on his head or neck, resulting in no violation of Rule 70, illegal body checking."
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