The Toronto Rock (3-8), without the services of captain Colin Doyle, were defeated by the defending NLL champion Saskatchewan Rush (8-3) by a score of 11-9 on Friday night at Air Canada Centre. Saskatchewan’s Curtis Knight scored the game-winning goal with 26 seconds to play to dash the hopes of the Rock faithful.
Doyle was injured on the bye week, didn’t practice earlier this week and this morning Rock medical staff made the decision that he would not play this evening and will also not make the trip to Saskatchewan with the team tomorrow for the second half of the home and home with the Rush.
Despite the difficult loss and its impact on the Rock’s playoff hopes, Head Coach John Lovell was optimistic that his team can bring the same kind of effort tomorrow night in Saskatoon.
“How hard our guys played, that’s a positive. How well our defence played, right to the end, that’s a positive,” said Lovell. “I don’t think we made them earn their goals, but I’m pretty proud of our team. We knew what was at stake and we played hard and we’re going to do it again tomorrow night too.”
Scott Johnston scored first for the Rock on a great run, taking the ball to the net, giving the Rock a 1-0 lead. The Rush would score the next three goals and Johnston’s night would come to an end early as he fell awkwardly and did not return. Kasey Beirnes scored on a quick-stick rebound and the goaltenders shut the door at both ends from there as the Rush led 3-2 after one quarter.
The Rock power play tied the game early in the second quarter as Stephan Leblanc connected on the first half of a 4-minute advantage. The Rush responded with a shorthanded goal, but the Rock were able to grab another one on the second half of the man-up situation, tying the score 4-4. Leblanc assisted on the goal for his 500th career point.
Saskatchewan’s power play was almost automatic on three consecutive opportunities to end the half and go into the halftime break leading 7-4.
After giving up the first goal of the quarter, the Rock scored three straight goals to make it a one-goal game, trailing 8-7. The Rush broke up the run, but the Rock’s Beirnes scored his third of the night with 31 seconds left in the frame drawing Toronto to within a goal of the Rush, down 9-8 through three quarters.
The two teams struggled to find the offensive groove through almost 13 minutes of play in the fourth quarter. Leblanc’s third goal of the game tied the score 9-9 with 2:15 remaining. With under a minute to go, the Rush pushed the ball in transition, opting not to call a timeout and Mark Matthews hit a streaking Curtis Knight who scored the game winner. Jeremy Thompson added an empty-net goal for the Rush.
Rock goal scorers were Leblanc and Beirnes with hat-tricks and singles went to Brett Hickey, Rob Hellyer and Johnston.
The Rock will travel to Saskatoon Saturday morning to take on the Rush at 9:30 p.m. ET at SaskTel Centre.
Three Stars of the Game:
1) Curtis Knight
2) Stephan Leblanc
3) Nick Rose
Story by TorontoRock.com. Photo by Graig Abel.