Toronto gets to play at least one more playoff game. Nick Rose – the Rock’s 285-pound netminder - is a big reason for that.
Rose stopped all 21 shots he faced in the second half to help lift the Rock past the Buffalo Bandits 7-6 on Saturday night in an Eastern Divisional Semifinal at the Air Canada Centre.
The defending NLL champions will play host to the Rochester Knighthawks at 7 p.m. next Saturday night in the East Divisional Final. The game will be aired live on CBS Sports Network.
Rose, who was acquired from Calgary at the March trading deadline, had a shaky start after allowing four first-half goals while the Rock failed to get on the board.
“It’s just how it goes sometimes, sometimes you’re hot and sometimes you struggle a little bit and sometimes you have to stick with it,” said Rose.
The second-half shutout helped Toronto (10-7) rally from a 6-2 deficit. Kasey Biernes led the charge with a natural hat trick spanning the third and fourth quarters. His third goal tied the score at 6-all with 9:43 to play.
“It always feels good when the ball goes in the net for you,” said Biernes.“That’s one of the biggest comebacks I’ve been a part of in a win-or-lose game – it was great I was a big part of it.”
Brenden Thenhaus later scored the game winner with 1:35 remaining on a last-ditch, one-handed effort with the shot clock winding down.
“I took a look at the shot clock and there was only five seconds and I just figured I had to get it on net, it wasn’t a very strong shot, but it found a hole,” he said.
The goal meant a little extra to Thenhaus who was cut by the Bandits earlier in the season.
“It’s a little bittersweet, obviously it’s hard getting cut from a team, but Toronto came calling (and) it feels good,” he said.
There was a tense moment at the end. After Toronto’s Bill Greer was called for holding the stick with 7.5 seconds left, John Tavares appeared to score the game winner with a second to play. The goal was waved off due to a crease violation by the Bandits' Tracey Kelusky.
“I thought it was a good goal, I thought they were just checking the time on the clock,” said Rose. “I’m not going to complain, but a guy was in the crease, that’s a rule.”
It was a game for the Rock to bear down defensively and they did, giving up just two goals over the final 45 minutes.
“If it wasn’t for the defense you don’t have any chance of coming back, they played great, they shut the door and we were eventually able to get to [Bandits goaltender Anthony Cosmo],” said Blaine Manning who had four assists on the night.
Buffalo’s defense wasn’t bad either. The seven goals notched by Toronto are the fewest by a winning team in the NLL playoff history.
“This was a goaltenders duel, I thought it was unbelievable watching these two guys (Rose and Cosmo) play and make saves,” said Rock head coach Troy Cordingley.
Cosmo stopped 48 of 55 shots in the loss.
The Rock have defeated the Bandits (7-10) in the playoffs for the third year in a row.