The Toronto Rock (4-7), stung by a third-quarter run, fell to the Rochester Knighthawks (8-3) by a score of 17-12 before a crowd of 10,832 at the Air Canada Centre on Saturday night.
Knighthawks forward Cody Jamieson scored four straight goals to start the second half to erase a 9-5 halftime Toronto lead. After which, Rochester never looked back allowing just three Rock goals the rest of the way.
For the Rock, giving up the big run continues to be the common dialog – and for good reason. Saturday night's loss marks the fourth time in the last five games when Toronto gave up at least a 7-0 run at the hands of their opponent. Saturday's calamitous stretch featured eight straight from Rochester stretching from the final minute of the first half to the 12:54 mark of the third frame.
“Honestly, I don't know anymore,” said Rock captain Colin Doyle. “These runs are killing us...when we need stops, we're not getting them and when we're not getting stops, we can't score. It's frustrating.”
Toronto looked to be in a prime position early in the second quarter after eight of the Rock's first 14 shots beat Rochester goalie Matt Vinc. Vinc, as result, was pulled from goal and replaced by backup Angus Goodleaf, who prior to Saturday had seen only 15:00 in net this season.
“Angus [Goodleaf] did a good job in there,” said Rock assistant coach Blaine Manning. “He came in a closed the door, I thought we had some quality chances on him. Offensively, it's all about momentum and [Goodleaf] came in and stopped the tide.”
The Rock's sharp shooters were off and running early. On the teams' first five shots on goal, Toronto scored all five times on opposing goalie Vinc. Rock forward Rob Hellyer opened the game's scoring 1:46 after the opening faceoff. Colin Doyle quickly followed up scoring his 19th of the year to give Toronto an early 2-0 advantage just under four minutes in. Over the next 4:21, Rochester and Toronto traded three goals a piece leaving the Rock with a two-goal lead. Doyle capped off the quarter scoring his second on the night to extend Toronto's lead to 6-3.
Garrett Billings capped what eventually became a 3-0 Rock run just 18 seconds into the second quarter. Just over three minutes later, Rochester's Cory Vitarelli stopped the bleeding scoring his first of the game to cut Toronto's lead to 7-4. Doyle and Josh Sanderson sandwiched a couple goals together over a 8:25 span before Knighthawk forward Brad Self cut Toronto's advantage to 9-5 with 57 seconds remaining in the half.
After such a promising start, the Rock surrendered seven straight Knighthawk goals in the third frame. Jamieson scored four straight over the quarter’s first 5:31. Stephen Keogh and Joe Walters followed up scoring a tally each under a minute apart to give Rochester an 11-9 lead. After the Walters goal, Rock starter Nick Rose was pulled from goal paving the way for newcomer Steve Fryer to make his Toronto debut.
After a single Rochester goal however, Fryer was yanked and replaced by Rose. With 47 seconds left, Billings stopped the run to bring Toronto within two goals, but a buzzer beater from Joel McCready gave the Knighthawks a 13-10 lead heading in the final frame.
Rochester continued their dominance in the fourth frame scoring four straight to complete a staggering 13-1 Knighthawks run. Rock backup Fryer returned in goal after Vitarelli scored Rochester’s 16th goal. Rock defender Rob Marshall and Hellyer scored Toronto's only goals of the quarter.
“It was a tale of two halves,” said Knighthawks forward Dan Dawson, who recorded his 1,000th career point in the win, becoming just the seventh player in NLL history to accomplish the feat. “I thought we came out quiet in the first and we couldn't burry out chances in the second, Nick [Rose] played extremely well. But we took the game over in the second half.”
The win for Rochester evens up their record away from Blue Cross Arena at 3-3. After starting the season with an 0-2 road record, the Knighthawks have turned their fortune around and 34 total goals at the Air Canada Centre has certainly helped that cause.
Rochester will resume what has been their most pronounced road stretch of the season Sunday afternoon when they travel to Philadelphia. The game against the Wings will be their fifth road game in five weeks.
“Good teams win at home, great teams win on the road and we're still trying to prove that we can do that,” said Dawson.
The victory for Rochester backup Goodleaf is his first since Feb 13, 2010. He made 27 stops on 31 Rock shots for a stellar .871 save percentage.
“I felt good in there, I always feel good,” said Goodleaf. “When I got in there, I felt the guys really stepped up their game huge.”
“What can you say about Angus [Goodleaf], we're lucky to have two good goalies we can be confident with,” said Dawson.
Toronto goalies Rose and Fryer shared duties in goal allowing a combined 17 goals on 56 shots for a .696 save percentage. Fryer, in his Rock debut, played 12:56 in total and made six saves on eight shots.
Jamieson (4+7) led a shooters will 11 points in the victory. Dan Dawson (1+7) followed close behind eight points of his own.
Billings (3+3) lead all Toronto scorers with six points in the loss. Sanderson and Stephan Leblanc each scored a goal and four assists to follow up.
Both teams are in action again on Sunday as Toronto will travel to the Xcel Energy Center to take on the Minnesota Swarm, while Rochester will roll into the Wells Fargo Center to square off against the Philadelphia Wings.
Three Stars of the Game as selected by the media:
1) Cody Jamieson
2) Angus Goodleaf
3) Dan Dawson