The Toronto Rock scored five unanswered goals to end the game in a 13-12 comeback win over the Minnesota Swarm on Friday night at Air Canada Centre. (Photo: Craig Abel)
The Toronto Rock (3-1) scored five unanswered goals to end the game and shut out the Minnesota Swarm (0-2) in the fourth quarter to earn a 13-12 home win on Friday night before a crowd of 10,504 at Air Canada Centre.
Rock forwards Garrett Billings recorded eight points (2+6) and Josh Sanderson added six points (4+2), including crucial later power play points to help the Rock complete the comeback win.
“We stuck with it,” said Sanderson, who scored three power play goals on the night. “We played a full 60 minutes.”
Minnesota rookie Kiel Matisz scored with 4:45 remaining in the third quarter to give the Swarm a 12-8 lead – it would be their last tally of the game. After which, Toronto forwards Stephan Leblanc and Colin Doyle scored 2:07 apart before the third quarter closed.
With five seconds left in the third frame, Minnesota’s Joel Henry and Jeff Gilbert each took a two minute minor penalty which subsequently gave the Rock a lengthy 5-on-3 power play opportunity heading into the fourth.
“We got fortunate with the double penalty at the end of the third quarter which gave us a little more energy,” said Toronto Rock general manager and assistant coach Terry Sanderson. “You saw the rest from there.”
The two-man advantage allowed the Rock to score two power play goals (from Sanderson and Billings) and tie the game up at 12-12 just 52 seconds into the final frame.
Toronto’s defense stood the rest of the game by not allowing a single goal in the fourth quarter.
“I really thought our [defense] and our offense stepped up when we needed them to,” said Rock goaltender Nick Rose, who was pulled briefly in the third quarter.
Rose finished the game allowing 11 goals on 35 shots with a sub-par .686 save percentage. Rose was sent to the bench after Minnesota forward Andrew Watt extended the Swarm's lead to 11-7 with 5:53 remaining in the third. In relief, Zack Boychuk played just 3:33 and made only one save on two shots.
After a back-and-forth first half which had the Swarm up 7-6, Minnesota pulled ahead in the third quarter with tallies from Jordan MacIntosh, Joel Henry, Brock Sorensen, Andrew Watt and Kiel Matisz. The Swarm carried a 12-9 lead heading into the fourth.
“We played good, but I felt in the fourth quarter we took our foot off the gas,” said Swarm goaltender Tyler Carlson. “We had them right where we wanted them, we had [Rose] out of the net, but we just couldn’t capitalize.”
Carlson finished the game with a .780 save percentage after allowing a respectable 13 goals on a whopping 59 Rock shots.
Swarm forwards Ryan Benesch (2+3) and Matisz (3+2) lead their team in scoring by each collecting five points on the night. Benesch made his return to Toronto against his former team for the first time while Matisz had a hometown connection as well.
Matisz, who grew up in the Greater Toronto Area, scored his first three goals of his NLL career and was happy to do it in front of family and friends.
“It was awesome, I’m not too far from home,” Matisz said. “It was pretty electric here. We would have liked to get a win but overall it was a good experience.”
Both teams will be back in action on Saturday night on the tail end of a back-to-back weekend. The Rock will travel to Rochester to take on the Knighthawks at 7:30 p.m. ET while Minnesota will host the Washington Stealth at 8 p.m. ET.