Stephan Leblanc (right) and the Toronto Rock used a seven-goal fourth quarter to defeat the Rochester Knighthawks 13-11 Friday night at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. (Photo Credit: Graig Abel)
After allowing two quick goals to begin the fourth quarter, it appeared the Toronto Rock were on their way to another late collapse and a third straight loss to open the season.
Instead, Toronto scored six straight markers and Matt Roik stopped a penalty shot in the final minute en route to a 13-11 win over the Rochester Knighthawks on Friday night before 11,862 at the Air Canada Centre.
Roik, who turned aside 42 shots on the night, denied Cody Jamieson’s penalty shot with 23 seconds left that would brought Rochester within one goal.
“I wanted to be patient,” said an exhausted Roik said following his first win in a Toronto uniform. “[Jamieson] is one of the most deadly shooters in the game. I just wanted to hold my ground.”
Besides winning their first game, the Rock (1-2) may be able to breathe a little easier ahead of Saturday night’s matchup with the Calgary Roughnecks at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
“It was a do-or-die game for us, you never want to go down 0-3,” said Toronto forward Jamie Rooney who had two goals and an assist in his season debut.
Though Rochester was up 9-6 with 10:39 to play, Toronto coach Troy Cordingley felt the Rock were capable of a comeback.
“We hit a lot of posts and (Knighthawks goaltender Matt) Vinc made some unbelievable saves, so we just knew the ball had to drop eventually and it finally did,” Cordingley said.
Josh Sanderson’s second goal of the game opened a six-goal flurry for the Rock to charge to a 12-9 lead. The Knighthawks sandwiched late tallies from Jamieson and Cory Vitarelli around an empty-netter from Patrick Merrill to close out the scoring.
“They were able to put a couple in and get some momentum back. We kind of fell apart and gave it to them,” said Vinc who stopped 39 shots.
Rooney was playing in place of Blaine Manning (broken collarbone), who could miss up to eight weeks. Veteran captain Colin Doyle left the game early with what the team is calling a lower-body injury and will sit out against the Roughnecks.
“[Doyle] is going to be out [Saturday], it’s a precaution,” Cordingley said. “We will see what the doc says later tonight and we will go from there.”
Stephan Leblanc, who had just three assists coming in, scored his first goal of the season and added four assists. Leblanc, who had scored 69 goals over the last two years, could be a key figure for Toronto with Doyle sidelined.
“He was real good for us tonight and especially when [Doyle] left the game he really stepped up,” Cordingley said.
Leading the way for the Rock was Garrett Billings, who had three goals and four assists. Josh Sanderson also had a hat trick with two helpers.
Jamieson led Rochester with four goals and four assists.
The Knighthawks (1-2) next head to the Mile High City for a matchup with the unbeaten Colorado Mammoth on Saturday night. Friday’s loss was a tough one to take after what Vinc said should have been a Rochester victory.
“Take away those last 10 minutes of the game and I think it’s a win for us,” said Vinc. “Same thing as last week, we got to play a full 60 minutes.”