Shawn Palmer, Toronto Rock Correspondent
Lacrosse is Awesome©
Featured Image Photo Credit: Ryan McCullough
Due to the COVID restrictions put forth by the Ontario government the Toronto Rock (2-3) hosted their first ever professional lacrosse game in front of no fans on Saturday January 15, 2022 at the First Ontario Centre in Hamilton. This was also the first game in over a month for the Halifax Thunderbirds (3-0) due to postponements of previous games. The game was an exciting back and forth affair and needed a fifth period to determine a winner. Usually most NLL games are decided early in the OT but this one had many good chances for both teams before Halifax was able to net the winner almost nine minutes into the extra period. Final Score OT: Halifax 14—Toronto 13
Halifax was quick on the board, when right off of the opening faceoff Austin Shanks (5G, 3A) came from the bench and received a pass from Tyson Bell(2A) to beat Nick Rose(7 saves) low to the glove side to open the score. A minute later the Rock answered when Challen Rogers (2G, 7A) made a nice cross crease pass to Dan Craig (2G, 5A) whose quick stick beat Warren Hill (52 saves) to the open side tying the game at one. Less than a minute later Chris Boushy (3G, 1A) received a pass in front from Clarke Petterson (6A) and with a defender all over him put a twister shot into the top corner over Rose’s shoulder to regain the one goal lead for the Thunderbirds. Halfway through the first quarter Halifax doubled their lead as Shanks fired a low to low shot beating Rose underneath the glove making it 3 – 1. Shanks completed his hat trick in the first quarter when he picked up his own rebound off the back boards and quick sticks a shot over the shoulder to make it 4 – 1 Halifax. The Rock ended the scoring in the first as rookie Chris Weir (1G) on transition received a pass from Craig and put a shot through the legs of Hill for his first NLL goal, cutting the lead in half. The shots at the end of the first favored Toronto 16 – Halifax 10. Score at the end of one: Halifax 4—Toronto 2.
Early in the second quarter the Rock were on a power play and Rogers unloaded an overhand shot from the top over the shoulder to make it 4 – 3 for Halifax. Stephen LeBlanc (3G, 3A) cut through the middle of the defence, received a pass from Petterson and beat Rose with a bounce shot under the glove to restore the two goal lead for the Thunderbirds. Connor Watson (2G, 3A) fired a shot from the top and beat Rose over the shoulder for his first NLL goal, making it 6 – 3 Halifax less than three minutes into the second. At this point the Rock coach Matt Sawyer decided to pull starting goalie Nick Rose and replaced him with Troy Howlochuk (27 saves) who would get his first NLL start. After back and forth action at both ends, Watson made a nice pick, received a pass from Shanks to beat Howlochuk through the five hole increasing the lead by four 7 – 3 for Halifax. The Rock stopped the run when Jamison Dilks (2G) on transition shot to the far side low corner for his first NLL goal making it 7 – 4 for Halifax. Less than a minute later Zach Manns (4G, 3A) beat his defender low, dove across the crease and shot across his body over the shoulder cutting the lead to two 7 – 5. The Rock would continue their run when Tom Schreiber(1G, 2A), who returned this game after his wife gave birth to their first child earlier this week, scored on the power play stepping in and beat Hill to the short side. This made it a one goal game at 7 – 6 Halifax. The Thunderbirds got that one back less than a minute later when Eric Fannell (1G) got a pass on transition from rookie Ryan Terefenko (2A) and beat Howlochuk low to the stick side to end the scoring in the first half. The shots in the first half still favored Toronto 27 and Halifax 20. Score at the end of two: Halifax 8—Toronto 6.
Boushy started the scoring in the second half for Halifax picking up a rebound off of the back boards and beat Howlochuk to the open side increasing their lead to 9 – 6 five minutes into the third quarter. Thirty seconds later while on the power play the Rock had good ball movement and on a skip pass from Rogers to Craig on the crease, he beat Hill with a quick stick to the short side cutting the lead to two 9 – 7. Another transition goal for the Rock as Dilks ran a two on one, faked the pass and his bounce shot beat Hill between the legs to make it a one goal game 9 – 8. Toronto would tie the game when Manns who was wide open in front of the net, received a pass from Craig and beat Hill to the stick side making it nine all. Halifax would take the lead again before the end of the frame when Boushy received a pass from Bell, dove across the crease and with a twister shot beat Howlochuk over the short side shoulder for the go ahead goal. The shots at the end of the third still favored Toronto 44 and Halifax 30. Score at the end of three: Halifax 10—Toronto 9.
The fourth was a back and forth battle and Toronto would open it with Rogers getting a pass on transition from Craig and he would beat Hill low to the glove side to tie it at 10’s. Halifax would retake the lead a minute later when Leblanc shot over his defender beating Howlochuk low to the stick side to make it 11 – 10 for Halifax. The Rock came back again when Manns received a skip pass from Rogers to beat Hill with a quick stick to the short side to tie it at 11. Fifteen seconds later Manns was at it again picking up a rebound off of a Rogers shot beating Hill who had fallen on the original shot to the far side to give the Rock their first lead of the game 12-11 with less than 10 minutes left. Shanks would notch his fourth on the night off the pass from Cody Jamieson (4A) and fired it short side top shelf to knot it at 12’s. The Rock continued to press and Dan Dawson (1G, 1A) with one second on the shot clock caught a pass from Schreiber with one hand and beat Hill between the legs to restore the lead 13-12 with just over two minutes left in the game. This point gave Dawson a career total of 1,447 points moving him into second all time in the NLL passing John Grant, Jr. Halifax responded 40 seconds later when Shanks from the outside fired a laser to the top corner over Howlochuk’s shoulder for his fifth of the game to send it to Overtime. Score at the end of four: Halifax 13—Toronto 14.
In overtime both teams had at least five possessions each as neither could put the winner behind the goalies. With just over half of the first OT period left Leblanc came across the top and fired a shot that beat Howlochuk to the top corner on the glove hand side at the 8:50 mark winning it for Halifax. Final Score OT: Halifax 14—Toronto 13.
The shots at the end of the game were Toronto 65 and Halifax 48.
The three stars of the game:
- Austin Shanks—Halifax Thunderbirds – 5G, 3A
- Zach Manns—Toronto Rock – 4G, 3A
- Challen Rogers—Toronto Rock – 2G, 7A
The next game for the Toronto Rock (2-3) will be on Saturday January 29th at the First Ontario Centre as they host the Rochester Knighthawks (2-1) at 7:00 p.m. EST Fans in the USA can catch this game on ESPN+. This is the Game of the Week in Canada and fans can catch the action on TSN2. Let’s hope that they will allow fans into this game and COVID restrictions are lifted.
The Halifax Thunderbirds (3-0) were supposed to play the Buffalo Bandits for a battle of the undefeated on January 22nd, but that has been postponed so their next game will be in Albany at the MVP Arena against the Albany Firewolves (2-2) on January 29th at 8:00 p.m. EST. Fans in the USA can catch the game on ESPN+. Fans in Canada can watch the game on TSN.ca or the TSN app.
Shawn Palmer,Toronto Rock Correspondent
Lacrosse is Awesome