The Toronto Rock had a lot to celebrate on Friday night.
On an evening when Bob “Whipper” Watson’s No. 29 was raised to the rafters, the Rock showed their offensive muscle and defeated the Rochester Knighthawks 16-12 in front of 10.274 at the Air Canada Centre.
Kasey Beirnes (five goals, two assists), Stephan Leblanc (four goals, two assists) and Garrett Billings (goal, eight assists) led the charge for Toronto, which improved, to 2-2 at home.
“It was great to get back into the win column after being schooled by Philadelphia in the previous week,” said general manager and assistant coach Terry Sanderson.
Though the Rock had a lot to smile about, they lost captain Colin Doyle to injury once again. Doyle went down after a collision in front of Rochester goaltender Matt Vinc less than two minutes into the second half.
“It’s an upper body injury, I got to get an X-ray done to see how things are,” said Doyle, who missed two games earlier this season with a lower-body injury, ending an NLL record-tying ironman streak of 188 straight contests.
The 16 goals was a team high for Rock and came after a lackluster eight-goal performance last Saturday against the Wings.
“I thought we dominated,” said Doyle. “Hopefully we hit our stride tonight and we can go from there.”
Toronto got off to a fast start, scoring five goals in the first quarter. Rookie Jesse Gamble, playing just his second game of the season, had a goal and assist in the outburst and received a game ball for his effort.
Rochester was able to claw its way back into the game, drawing to within 9-8 on Cory Vitarelli’s goal with 5:44 left in the third quarter. Then Leblanc took over with two goals 20 seconds apart.
“I struggled a little bit finding my range at the beginning of the game, but there was a lot of positive vibes in the dressing room, guys kept motivating me on and eventually they started going in,” said Leblanc, who was held without a point in the first half.
Rochester, which has lost six straight in Toronto including postseason contests, dropped 1½ games behind the Rock in the East Division.
“Tonight we took a big step backward, we got outworked right from the get-go and that’s not acceptable,” said Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen.
Rochester recorded 37 shots on Toronto’s Matt Roik, but had 30 shots go off target.
“We were trying to be too fine and trying to pick that pretty spot instead of taking the ones available to us,” said Hasen.
Cody Jamieson scored two goals and four assists for a team high six points in the loss. He was one of five players reinstated after a one-game suspension.
Vinc stopped 44 of 59 shots for the Knighthawks.
Next Saturday, Toronto will play host to Washington while Rochester travels to face Philadelphia.