The Toronto Rock (6-10) rolled closer to a playoff spot with a 17-9 road win over the Vancouver Stealth (4-10) at Langley Events Centre on Saturday night. Toronto raced out to an early lead and never looked back.
“Right from the get-go we put ourselves behind the eight ball,” said Stealth captain Kyle Sorensen, who made his return to the lineup after missing time due to injury. “We battled back a bit after the slow start, but then we fell asleep again.”
The Rock led right from the get go, outscoring the Stealth 6-2 in the opening quarter and held an 11-4 advantage at halftime.
“We’ve had a number of good starts this year, our problem has been the middle of the games at times,” said Rock head coach John Lovell. “It was good that we maintained our momentum throughout the third and fourth quarters tonight.”
Langley, BC native Garrett Billings led the charge for the Rock in the opening half assisting on the team’s first five goals of the game and finished the half with seven points to lead all players. He became the first player in NLL history to record three-straight 100-plus point seasons.
However, Billings would end up leaving the game with a knee injury in the second quarter and did not return. Billings later tweeted that he has a torn ACL and will miss the remainder of the season.
“You don’t replace a player like that,” said coach Lovell. “It’s devastating to us because of his ability and I feel sorry for the guy because he’s one of the best, if not the best player in this league. It’s a shame that it happened.”
One of the Rock players who stepped up was young veteran Rob Hellyer who recorded a career-high 12 points (3+9) and earned First Star honors.
In second half, the teams were basically even offensively, with the Rock scoring six goals to the Stealth’s five. Rhys Duch led the charge for the Stealth in the second half finishing the game with four goals in a losing cause. Duch was also named the Third Star of the game.
The second half also turned into a physical battle, as the two Canadian teams combined for 37 penalty minutes, in the second half alone. The playoff like atmosphere at the LEC seemed to fuel the Stealth in the second half, but their slow start was too much to overcome.
“We showed flashes of brilliance but that’s not good enough. We’ve put ourselves in this position too many times this year,” said Sorensen. “We know we can play 60 minutes, we did it last week against Buffalo.”
Toronto can clinch the third and final playoff spot in the East with a win next weekend. Meanwhile, Vancouver is still in the race with Colorado (5-10) after the Mammoth fell to Edmonton.
Three Stars of the Game as selected by the media:
1) Rob Hellyer
2) Colin Doyle
3) Rhys Duch