Thunderbirds Hold Off Late Charge by the Rock 2-21-2020

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Shawn Palmer, Correspondent Toronto Rock
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Featured Image Credit Trevor MacMillan/Halifax Thunderbirds

The Toronto Rock (6-3) headed east for their first visit to Halifax to take on the Halifax Thunderbirds (7-2) in a battle for first place in the North Division as well as first place in the NLL.  After the Rock defeated the Thunderbirds three weeks ago in Toronto 12 – 9, Halifax was looking to even the season series.  In a game where the defense and goaltenders were the stars the Thunderbirds put an end to their two game losing streak as they held on to defeat the Rock 9 – 8 in front of 9,337 happy fans.

Photo Credit Trevor MacMillan/Halifax Thunderbirds

The Rock opened the scoring just less than five minutes into the first quarter as Dan Craig (1G, 1A) scored on the power play.  His hard over hand shot from the top beat Halifax goaltender Warren Hill (38 saves) over the stick side shoulder to give the Rock a 1 – 0 lead.  Halifax got that one back just over thirty seconds later as Mike Burke (2G, 1A) received a nice pass from Ryan Benesch (1G, 3A) and opened up some space in front of the net to beat Rock goalie Nick Rose (1A, 50 saves) through the legs.  The ball just went over the goal line to tie the game at one.  Toronto regained the lead when Rob Hellyer (3G, 3A) scored shorthanded.  He ran towards the defense, stopped, spun around and took a high bounce shot that beat Hill over the shoulder.  Just over a minute later the Rock doubled their lead when Challen Rogers (1G, 1A) received a pass from Dan Dawson (1G, 2A) while cutting in front of the net.  With just over one-minute left in the first quarter Halifax cut into the lead when Cody Jamieson (2G) scored on a penalty shot.  Billy Hostrawser (6 LB) grabbed the ball with his hand while in the crease causing the penalty shot and Jamieson didn’t make any mistake as he went in and beat Rose over the shoulder to make it 3 – 2 for the Rock.  With thirty seconds left in the quarter and on the power play Kyle Jackson (1G, 1A) took a side arm bounce shot that beat Rose under the arm to tie the game at three going into the second quarter.  At the end of the first quarter the shots were Halifax 19 and Toronto 11 and the teams were tied 3-3.

Halifax started the scoring in the second quarter as Graeme Hossack (1G, 1A) received a pass in transition from Brad Gillies (1A) and went down the floor and beat Rose low to the glove side giving Halifax their first lead of the game at 4 – 3.  A few minutes later the Rock tied it up again as Hellyer beat his defender down low and jumped the crease beating Hill over his far shoulder while in the air.  The Thunderbirds regained the lead when Benesch fired a shot on the power play from the right side.  Jamieson doubled the Halifax lead when he took the ball at the top right-hand side of the floor and cut across to the left side and down towards the goal.  He shot on the run and beat Rose through the legs making it 6 – 4 for the Thunderbirds.  Less than a minute later Dawson cut around a pick and threw an overhand bounce shot beating Hill over the shoulder on the stick side cutting the Halifax lead to 6 – 5.  The Thunderbirds ended the scoring in the half as Clarke Petterson (1G, 2A) ran through 3 defensive checks and as he was falling to the ground, reached around Rose to beat him to the far side making it 7 – 5 at the end of the second quarter for Halifax.  The shots at the end of the first half were Halifax 37 and Toronto 22.  As the players were leaving the floor for halftime there was some pushing and words exchanged causing the referees to break up the two teams.  When the teams came back for the second half it was announced that Hostrawser and Jamieson received penalties but the one to Jamieson was a match penalty and game misconduct meaning that he was out for the rest of the game.

Nineteen seconds into the second half, Burke picked up a loose ball and came across the top to beat Rose stick side to increase the Halifax lead to 8 – 5, which ended up being the only goal of the quarter.  The rest of the quarter was a defensive struggle as Hill and Rose combined for 19 saves and the defense for both teams caused many turn overs and shot clock violations.   The shots after three quarters were 46 for Halifax and 33 for Toronto.

Photo Credit Trevor MacMillan/Halifax Thunderbirds

After eighteen minutes of no scoring, Halifax broke the drought as Brandon Robinson (1G) received a behind the back pass from Benesch and deposited the ball over Rose’s shoulder to make it 9 – 5 for the Thunderbirds.  Just over thirty seconds later Hellyer ended the over 25 minutes without a Rock goal when he fired a low shot from the wrong side that beat Hill to the stick side off the post and in for his hat trick goal to cut the Halifax lead to 9 – 6.   The Rock continued to press and while on the power play Johnny Powless (1G, 1A) shot around a Rogers pick and beat Hill to the outside corner make it 9 – 7 for the Thunderbirds.  With just over seven minutes left in the game Damon Edwards(1G) received a pass from Jay Jubenville (1A) on transition and fired a shot from the top beating Hill to the bottom corner on the glove hand side getting the Rock within one goal at 9 – 8.  In the last half of the fourth quarter both teams had plenty of chances but both goalies held them at bay.  The Rock had a power play for the last two minutes of the game but couldn’t beat Hill for the tying goal.  After the game Rock goalie Nick Rose said, “The second half was pretty good, but we also put ourselves in that spot having to hold them to two goals in the second half to have a chance to win”.  The final shots on goal were Halifax 59 and Toronto 46.  Final Score:  Toronto-8, Halifax-9.

Game Notes:

Halifax went 2 for 5 on the power play while Toronto was 2 for 6.

Halifax dominated the face off dot as Jake Withers (12 LB) won 18 of 21 faceoffs.

Top players for Toronto:

Nick Rose – 1A, 50 saves

Rob Hellyer – 3G, 3A

Dan Dawson – 1G, 2A

Top players for Halifax:

Ryan Benesch – 1G, 3A

Mike Burke – 2G, 1A

Warren Hill – 38 saves

Up Next:

The Toronto Rock (6-3) play their next game on the road against the Saskatchewan Rush (5-2) on Saturday, February 29th at 8:30 PM EST.

The Halifax Thunderbirds (7-2) travel to play the Buffalo Bandits (6-3) on Saturday, February 29 at 7:00 PM EST.