Shawn Palmer, Toronto Rock Correspondent
Lacrosse is Awesome©
Featured Image Photo Credit: Christian Bender
The Toronto Rock (9-2) hosted the Rochester Knighthawks (8-3) on Saturday night in front of their largest crowd since moving to Hamilton and the 10,229 fans were treated to an epic contest. The Rock didn’t have the lead until halfway through the fourth quarter in this close game which had great defense, goaltending, highlight goals and even a couple of first half fights. In the end Toronto came out on top 9 – 8 and leapt over Rochester in the standings into a tie for first with the Buffalo Bandits. Toronto has a chance to take over sole possession of first in the East as they have one more game this week on Monday in Philadelphia.
Rochester opened the scoring the game when in transition Brad Gillies (1G) came in on Nick Rose (1A, 46 saves) and beat him over the shoulder to give Rochester the 1 – 0 lead just under three minutes into the game. Toronto would respond less than three minutes later when Dan Dawson (1A) passed to Dan Craig (2G, 1A) in the middle and he beat Rylan Hartley (56 saves) with a twister shot to the far side. The assist for Dawson gave him 1,500 points for his career, only the second player in NLL history to accomplish this feat after John Tavares. Just over a minute later Rochester took the lead back. Thomas Hoggarth(1G, 1A) picked up a rebound off the back boards and went through the legs restoring the Rochester lead at 2 – 1. Toronto would tie it up again on the power play. Tom Schreiber (1G, 3A) would fire a sidearm shot that went to the low stick side and at the end of the first quarter it was tied at two. The shots on goal were Toronto 12–Rochester 10.
Less than a minute into the second quarter Rochester would put another on the board. Turner Evans (1G) took a bounce shot from the outside that went five hole and the Knighthawks were in front again, this time 3 – 2. After over five minutes of back and forth action where the defense and goaltending was outstanding on both sides, Rochester extended their lead. Just as the Rock had killed off a power play Holden Cattoni’s (2G, 1A) shot from the outside went to the short side and it was 4 – 2. The teams then decided that it was time for some rough stuff, the first one was a heavy weight battle between Billy Hostrawser and Tyler Biles where Hostrawser seemed to come away with the win as Biles went to the box with blood running down his face from a cut over the eye. Two minutes later Brandon Slade (1G) and Ethan Schott squared off and again. Toronto looked to get the better of the battle as this time Schott was bleeding from the nose in the box. Both teams settled down and went back to their stingy defense until just over a minute left in the first half and Corey Small (2G, 1A) fired a sidearm shot from the outside that beat Hartley to the far side to end the first half with Rochester ahead 4 – 3. The shots on goal in the first half had Toronto with a slight edge 30-27 over Rochester.
In the second half the scoring started on a strange play as Hartley ran to the Rochester bench thinking there was a delayed penalty being called but in fact there wasn’t and Sheldon Burns (1G) picked up a loose ball and shot it into the wide open net to tie the game at four. A minute and a half later Rochester once again regained the lead when Cattoni scored his second of the night with an overhand shot through the legs and it was 5 – 4. The Knighthawks then doubled their lead while on the power play. Ryan Smith (1G) beat Rose with a shot to the glove side and it was 6 – 4. They’d extend their lead to three for the first time when Connor Fields (2G, 5A) sent a high to low shot through his legs and it was 7 – 4 for Rochester with less than three minutes left in the third. The Rock would halt the three-goal run while on the power play when Stephen Keogh (3A) made a nice skip pass to Small and his side arm shot went far side and it was 7 – 5 at the end of the third quarter. Shots on goal going into the fourth quarter still favored Toronto 43—Rochester 41.
In the first minute of the final quarter Toronto opened the scoring with a highlight reel goal when Schreiber made an around the world pass to Zach Manns (1G) who beat Hartley through the legs with his shot and the Rochester lead was down to one 7 – 6. Three minutes later Latrell Harris (1A) passed to Phil Mazzuca (1G) while in transition and on a breakaway he beat Hartley over the shoulder for his first ever NLL goal. This tied the game at seven with just over 11 minutes left in the game. They’d cap the four-goal run two minutes later when Craig received a pass from Schreiber behind the net and he dove forward and beat Hartley to the far side giving Toronto their first lead of the game 8 – 7. Unfortunately, the lead was short lived. Rochester went on the power play, had Fields at the top and his low-to-low shot went five hole to tie it back up again at eight with just over eight minutes left in the game. The game winning goal happened in transition with 5:27 on the clock. Slade received a pass from Rose, he beat his defender to the inside, dove across the crease and beat Hartley back to the short side for the 9 – 8 lead. The Toronto defense and Nick Rose wouldn’t allow Rochester to get the equalizer and the Rock won a nail biter.
Rochester Knighthawks—SOG 54; Saves 56; Sv% .861%; FO 2-21; PP 2-3
Toronto Rock—SOG 65; Saves 46; Sv% .852%; FO 19-21; PP 2-3
The Three Stars of the game were:
TD Ierlan – Toronto Rock: 19 for 21 on the faceoff and 20 loose balls
Connor Fields – Rochester Knighthawks: 2G, 5A
Ryan Hartley – Rochester Knighthawks: 56 saves
The Toronto Rock (9-2) have a quick turnaround and will play again on Monday March 6th at Wells Fargo Center against the Philadelphia Wings (4-5), game time 7:00 p.m. EST. Fans in the USA can see the game on ESPN+. Fans in Canada can see the action on TSN.ca or the TSN app.
The Rochester Knighthawks (8-3) will head to Duluth, GA on Sunday March 12th to face the Georgia Swarm (2-7) at Gas South Arena, game time 4:00 p.m. EST. Fans in the USA can see the game on ESPN+. Fans in Canada can see the action on TSN.ca or the TSN app.
Shawn Palmer, Toronto Rock Correspondent
Lacrosse is Awesome©