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Rock solid: Toronto rolls over Calgary in opener, 16-11

01/03/2014, 10:00pm EST
By Justin Millerson, Rock team beat writer for NLL.com

Billings' 10 points, Leblanc's five goals help lead Rock over Roughnecks

The Toronto Rock (1-0) defeated the Calgary Roughnecks (0-1) with a 16-11 home win before a crowd of 11,120 at Air Canada Centre on Friday night to open the 2014 NLL season.

Rock forward Garrett Billings recorded a game-high 10 points (1g, 9a) to help the Rock get their first win of the 2014 campaign and their second win against Calgary in season openers in the last three years.

The win is also the first of John Lovell's head coaching career with the league.

“It's pretty exciting,” said Lovell. “You work, you prepare and surround yourself with good people.”

The Rock got off to a strong start with three straight goals coming from Colin Doyle, Garrett Billings and Jesse Gamble in a span of 2:04 early in the first quarter.

Calgary's Dane Dobbie sandwiched a couple powerplay goals to cut Toronto's lead to 3-2 approaching the ten minute mark of the first frame. Seconds after Dobbie's latter tally, two quick Rock goals from Rob Hellyer and Stephan Leblanc in a span of 24 seconds put the Rock up 5-2 with 5:09 remaining in the quarter.

Roughnecks forward Matthew Dinsdale scored with 3:46 left in the first frame to cut Toronto's lead to two goals, but another pair of Rock tallies from Josh Sanderson and Hellyer gave Toronto a 7-3 lead after 15 minutes.

After a busy first quarter, only three goals were scored in the second. Veltman open the quarter's scoring at the 11:30 mark. Doyle and Leblanc each scored powerplay tallies late in the half to extend Toronto's lead to 9-4.

Toronto's Sanderson scored 2:53 into the second half, but Roughneck forward Jeff Shattler soon answered back scoring a pair over 1:15 to keep Calgary within striking distance at a score 10-6 early in the third frame.

Toronto however regained a six-goal lead to cap off the third frame with hat trick goals coming from both Leblanc and Hellyer.

Calgary came out roaring early in the final frame going on a 4-1 run to make things interesting at 13-10, but a 3-1 Rock mini-run late in the game capped the 16-11 victory.

Despite the victory for Toronto, Lovell said he wasn't going to rest easy. After controlling much of the first half play, the Rock surrendered seven of Calgary's 11 goals in the final two quarters.

“Just because you beat one of the top teams, does it make you a top team? I don't think so,” said Lovell. “The first thing I said to the players was 'we’ve got a lot of work to do.'”

With the loss, Calgary head coach Curt Malawsky suffers his second season-opening defeat against Toronto in two tries since joining the club last year.

“I think we’ve got to question the league's scheduling on [playing Toronto in openers],” Malawsky said playfully. “Their a great team and it's an uphill battle when you get down 7-3 against a team like that.”

Malawsky did take some positives in the game praising both Calgary goalie Mike Poulin and forward Jeff Shattler for their efforts.

Shattler, on a night playing in front of family and friends, potted four goals in the loss. Although he can boast a strong individual performance, he remained focused on the team and what they can learn in the defeat.

“We came in with a plan and didn't execute,” said Shattler. “It's a learning experience and at least we can learn it at the beginning of the season rather than midway.”

“Sometimes it's better to lose games early rather than win them. You learn more about your team and teammates and what they're capable of when you're down,” said Shattler.

Toronto goalie Nick Rose was awarded the game's third star for his stellar 40 save effort. Rose's busiest quarter was the last when he was faced with 20 shots in a late Calgary surge.

“We had to make sure we weathered their storm and the storm came in the fourth quarter,” said Rose. “But we stuck with the plan and pulled out the victory against a good team.”

Garrett Billings lead all scorers with ten points (1g, 9a) on the night. Rock forward Stephan Leblanc followed up with a seven point (5g, 2a) game. Tonight's game also marked the second time Billings scored nine or more assists in a single game in his career (last time was 3/31/12; 11 assists @ BUF).

For Calgary, forward Scott Evans lead all Roughnecks scorers with eight points on the night (1g, 7a). Jeff Shattler chimed in with a six-point effort (4g, 2a).

Rose stopped 40 of 51 shots for a .784 save percentage. Meanwhile, opposing goalie Poulin meanwhile allowed 15 goals on 60 shots for a respectable .750 save percentage.

The Rock will face their former coach Troy Cordingley next Friday night when they travel to First Niagara Center to take on the Buffalo Bandits. The Roughnecks will also suit up next Friday as they will host the Colorado Mammoth at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

Three Stars of the Game:

1. Nick Rose
2. Jeff Shattler
3. Stephan Leblanc

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