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Special team: Power play propels Rock to 14-10 win over Mammoth

03/08/2013, 10:15pm EST
By Justin Millerson, Rock beat writer for NLL.com

Toronto improves league-best record, Colorado loses fifth-straight game


Toronto Rock (7-3) beat the Colorado Mammoth (2-7) by a score of 14-10 at Air Canada Centre on Friday night. (Photo: Graig Abel)

The Toronto Rock (7-3) strengthened their lead atop the East Division with a 14-10 home win over the Colorado Mammoth (2-7) before a crowd of 10,823 at Air Canada Centre on Friday night, handing Colorado their fifth-straight loss.

After a slow start that saw the Rock trail 4-2 after the first quarter, Toronto found their legs in the second frame. The Rock scored seven goals during the 15-minute stretch, including a 5-0 run to close up the first half.

“I’m a little concerned about the slow start again, which seems to be a trademark of ours,” said Rock general manager and assistant coach Terry Sanderson. “But as per other games, we seem to dig our heels in and come back.”

It took only 6:49 for the Rock to complete their 5-0 run for a 9-6 lead. After that, the Rock would not trail again.

Colorado outscored Toronto 3-2 in the third quarter to keep the game close at 11-9, but the Rock pulled away in the final frame adding another three goals to the Mammoth’s one.

Capping the victory was a penalty shot goal from Jesse Gamble with just 18 seconds remaining in the game to complete his hat trick.

“I don’t remember the last time I had a hat trick, so it definitely feels good,” Gamble said. “We were trying to change the way we played last week [against Buffalo], so we had to turn that around and I feel like we did.”

The Rock were able maintain their lead throughout the course of the entire second half unlike last week when Toronto surrendered an 11-8 lead to the Buffalo Bandits in the final frame.

A big help came from the Rock’s strong penalty kill, which staved off all four Mammoth power plays attempts, with Toronto’s kills coming in the second half.

“Our penalty kill was outstanding,” Sanderson said. “I can’t say enough about how our guys did in that respect tonight.”

The Rock also found success on the power play by going 5-for-7 with the man advantage.

In their first game in a back-to-back weekend, the Mammoth continue their losing woes. Their last victory came 35 days ago in a 15-9 win over the Minnesota Swarm.

Tonight, Colorado fired 51 shots on net, but struggled to score down the stretch. Forward Adam Jones scored Colorado’s final tally of the game just 3:41 into the fourth frame.

“I thought the effort was good tonight, ” said Mammoth head coach Bob Hamley. “I think we did whatever we could to win that game, but for whatever reason, we can’t seem to get over that hump.”

Mammoth goalie Dan Lewis got the start for Colorado, but youngster Tye Belanger came on in relief after Toronto’s seventh goal. Belanger stopped 15 of Toronto’s 21 shots before leaving the game early in the fourth quarter due to injury. Lewis returned and finished his night allowing eight goals on 25 shots. Coach Hamley said he was unsure about the severity of Belanger’s injury.

Nick Rose continued his strong play this season by allowing just 10 goals on 51 shots.

Rock captain Colin Doyle lead all scorers with eight points (2+6) on the night while Garrett Billings, the NLL’s Player of the Month for February, added seven points (1+6).

Leading the way for the Mammoth were forwards John Grant, Jr. (3+2) and Adam Jones (2+3), who each recorded five points in the loss.

The Rock play again next Saturday in a matinee affair on the road against the Philadelphia Wings. The Mammoth will return to action tomorrow night at 7:30 p.m. ET when they travel to Buffalo to take on the Bandits at First Niagara Center.

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