The Toronto Rock continued to roll as they returned to their home turf inside the Air Canada Centre. They put a 17-9 beating on the Rochester Knighthawks for their third straight win after beginning the season 0-2.
The Rock just completed the hottest offensive two-game stretch of any team in the league through Week 5 -they scored 44 goals- and looked poised to continue that against their closest rivals across the border.
“Rosey was really good.” Coach Matt Sawyer said postgame of his star goaltender. “And really, we were good in all areas of the game tonight, so we’ll take that and look to continue that.”
Within the first minute of play, the Rock picked up where they left off in Vancouver, scoring the game’s opening goal. After the Knighthawks came back to score a pair of goals down 2-0, the Rock began to take control of the contest and put together a significant run to open up the match.
Over a nearly 15-minute stretch from midway through the 1st quarter until halfway through the 2nd, the Rock defense rattled the Knightawks, forcing multiple turnovers and not allowing the opposition to get many shots on Nick Rose in net. Down on the other end of the carpet, the Rock were able to capitalize on their own chances as they strung together five straight scores.
Rookie, Dan Craig, was one of those who put a goal behind Knightawks netminder, Matt Vinc. He has now scored six goals in three games this year and has four assists. Brett Hickey, Reid Reinholdt, Phil Caputo, and defender, Sheldon Burns, scored the other goals in the run to put the Rock up 7-2. With the game looking out of hand early, the Knighthawks pulled Vinc and put in the backup, Angus Goodleaf.
Goodleaf sparked a run for his team, making key stops while his forwards hit the back of the net three times in a row. Austin Shanks, the 5th selection in this year’s NLL Draft, scored his first goal of his young NLL career.
However, in the waning moments of the first half, they couldn’t keep their run going. The Rock’s top scorers this season, Tom Schreiber and Adam Jones, each scored to extend the lead back to four, ending the half with a 9-5 lead.
The duo of Jones and Schreiber played excellently all game; Jones added seven points (3 G, 4 A) and Schreiber collected another eight points (4 G, 4 A).
“They’re fun players to watch.” Said Sawyer. “High lacrosse IQ; they’re good support up there (on offense). No doubt our offense is clicking right now, everyone feels good about things.”
The pair were able to put four more goals in during the second half (a hat trick from Schreiber and a solo score from Jones) but all game long it seemed like everyone on the bench wanted to get in the act of scoring.
In the 3rd, defensemen, Challen Rogers and Damon Edwards got in on the goal-party. Rogers scored his fourth on the campaign while Edwards notched his second. Before it was all said and done, Burns added another goal (his 2nd) for the Rock defense.
As a team, the Rock were able to spread the offense brilliantly. 11 different guys scored tonight; eight of them only had one goal. 12 players tallied an assist including four a piece from Rogers, Schreiber and Hellyer, with Jones adding the aforementioned five.
Despite the 17-9 loss for the Knighthawks, there were some bright spots. After Goodleaf came in with about two minutes remaining in the 1st, he stopped 38-49 shots including some making agile saves. Kyle Jackson continued his stellar sophomore season, adding a pair of goals and assists to his tally -he currently has 16 points (10 G, 6 A) in four games. And, Shanks finished the night with the first two goals of his career in his first NLL game to start what should be a successful career in this league.
Still, the night belongs to the Rock. Rose stopped 38-47 shots, a few of which were highlight reel plays, the team defended excellently, not allowing good looks when the Knighthawks offense was set and never allowing their transition game to get going while having arguably their best game in transition this year, the offense scored with ease bringing their three-game total to 61 goals, and they quieted the Knighthawks on the man-up, limiting them to only four chances on the night.
Even with this string of three very high-quality outings, Sawyer isn’t going to let this winning streak get the best of his team. “You’re only as good as your last game.” he said. We’ve got a couple of weeks off here and are focus shifts to New England.”
It will be interesting to see how this week off affects the team. The last time the Rock had an extra week of, the Rock were able to regroup and snap their 0-2 start to the season. Will the inverse happen this time around? Only time will tell.
That next game for the Toronto Rock will take place back inside the Air Canada Centre on Saturday, January 27th at 7:00pm EST. You will be able to catch it on social media for the Twitter Game of the Week and on NLLTV.