Toronto Takes First Steps in Race to Finals with Win over Rochester 4/27/24

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Shawn Palmer, Toronto Rock Correspondent
Lacrosse is Awesome©

Featured Image:  Ryan McCullough

The No. 1 Seed Toronto Rock hosted the No. 8 Seed Rochester Knighthawks on Saturday April 27, 2024, in the NLL Quarterfinal playoff single elimination game with the winner moving on and the loser going home.  Rochester had a 3% chance of making the playoffs last weekend as they had to win both of their games and hope that four other teams lost.  The stars aligned, they became the 8th seed and would face the 1st seeded Toronto Rock. Toronto came into the playoffs on top of the standings with home field advantage throughout the playoffs.  They defeated Rochester two weeks ago 13 – 6 and wanted to duplicate the win during this playoff game.  The Rock came out on fire scoring the first four goals of the night to lead by three at the half.  Rochester couldn’t get any closer than that for the rest of the game. Toronto would come away with a 9 – 6 win and would wait to see who they would face in the Semi-Finals.

Just over two minutes into the first quarter Tom Schreiber (2G, 1A) made a backhand flip pass to Challen Rogers (2G, 3A) who fired a high-to-high shot to the top corner over Rylan Hartley’s (40 saves) shoulder for the 1 – 0 lead for the Rock. Right off of the ensuing faceoff, 11 seconds later, Dan Craig (1G, 1A) would pass to Rogers, his shot was saved by Hartley, hit defender Dan Coates (1A) and bounced into the net to double the Rock lead to 2 – 0.  Twenty seconds later Chris Boushy (2G, 1A) would come down the side, shoot around his defender to the far side bottom corner and it was 3 – 0 Toronto.  And the Rock weren’t done after scoring three goals in 31 seconds.  Kyle Waters (1G) got the flip pass from Curtis Knight (1G, 1A), his shot beat Nick Rose off the far post and went in to make it 4 – 1 in favor of Toronto.  Schreiber would replenish the four-goal lead for the Rock when he came across the top and his high to low shot went stick side and it was 5 – 1 for the Rock.  The shots at the end of the first quarter were Toronto 15—Rochester 12.

The second got off to a slow start and had only three tallies.  Rochester would start it off on the power play at 7:02 in.  Connor Fields (1G, 3A) passed to Ryan Smith (3G); he picked the top corner to put it over the left shoulder of Rose cutting the Toronto s to three at 5 – 2 half way through the second.  The Knighthawks would score their second in a row five minutes later.  Knight came across the top, down the middle and his high to low shot went low to the stick side and it was 5 – 3 Toronto.  With one minute left in the half, the Rock were a man down but managed to put up a shorthanded marker.  Schreiber switched hands, fired a sidearm left hand shot top far corner and put it over Hartley’s shoulder to double up the Rock lead.  At the end of the first half, Toronto led 6 – 3.  At the end of the second quarter the shots were Toronto 28—Rochester 25.

Photo by Ryan McCullough / Toronto Rock

Once again, the scoring was low in the third and it took five minutes before anyone would find the back of the net.  Mark Matthews (1g, 3a) came off of the bench, fired a high to low shot that Hartley wasn’t expecting, and he put it far side giving the Rock a four goal lead 7- 3.  With less than five minutes in the frame, Matthews would pass to Boushy who was behind the net, he came around in front and his backhand shot went between the legs for their largest lead on the night 8-3.  At the end of the third quarter the shots on goal were Rochester 39—Toronto 37.

Rochester would control the fourth outscoring Toronto 3-1.  Just over two minutes into the fourth quarter, while in transition Ryland Rees (1A) would pass to Connor Fields (1g, 3a) and he went in all alone on Rose and beat him through the legs to make it an 8 – 4 Toronto lead.  The Rock would erase that tally while moving the ball around on offense. Small passed to Dan Craig (1g, 1a) after he set a pick, and his shot went over the shoulder to re-establish the five goal lead for the Rock 9 – 4.  Rochester’s season was on the line with seven minutes in the contest.  With just over five minutes left in the game Fields passed to a breaking Smith and his twister shot beat Rose to the short side to make it 9 – 5 Toronto.  The final tally on the night would come on the power play. Smith got a pass from Fields, he shot around his defender and beat Rose to the far side for his hat trick goal, 9 – 6 and less than three minutes left in the game.  Rochester would pull their goalie for the extra attacker with less than a minute left in the game, they fired five shots at Rose who wouldn’t allow any to get by him and he would end the night with 51 saves in the game.

The Rock move onto the Semi finals with a 9 – 6 win and will face Buffalo after their OT win over Georgia.

The three stars of the game were:
Nick Rose – Toronto Rock: 51 saves
Challen Rogers – Toronto Rock: 2G, 3A
Ryan Smith – Rochester Knighthawks: 3G


The No. 1 Seed Toronto Rock (1-0), who have home field advantage throughout the playoffs, will host the No. 4 Seed Buffalo Bandits (1-0) at First Ontario Centre on Friday May 3, 2024, game time 7:30 p.m. EST, for the Semi-Finals “Best of Three” series.

Game Two will be in Buffalo at Key Bank Center on Sunday May 5, 2024, game time 5:00 p.m. EST.

If Game Three is necessary, the teams will meet up again in Toronto on Saturday May 11, 2024, game time 7:00 p.m. EST.

The victor will head to the NLL Championship Series.

All games will be televised on ESPN+ for fans in the USA and TSN+ for fans in Canada.

Shawn Palmer, Toronto Rock Correspondent
Lacrosse Is Awesome©