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Fighting Back: Rock Outlasts Stealth, 13-11

It was a tie game nearing the midway point of the fourth quarter when a five-minute penalty got the best of the Vancouver Stealth.

Stealth forward Joel McCready was assessed two minutes for instigating, five minutes for fighting and a game misconduct. That was compared to two minutes for roughing to the Toronto Rock’s Jeff Gilbert. This was despite McCready getting bloodied from stick to the face.

The Rock would score twice on the ensuing power play to defeat the Stealth 13-11 on Saturday night in National Lacrosse League action at the Langley Events Centre.

The win improved Toronto to 4-9 while Vancouver fell to 3-10, including 0-6 against the East Division.

“I came up and truth be told, he was lunging forward, and I hit him in the shoulder. And when you are in that position, my stick rose up and got him in the chin. I didn’t realize he was cut open and I moved up in the play and he kind of jumped me from behind,” explained Gilbert after the game.

“Man to man, I don’t want to hit someone up high like that, but it happens.”

“I didn’t have a chance, really. I was on the ground and the refs were in there. Plus, I don’t really want to go battle with a guy who is all cut up,” Gilbert said.

“I know Joel McCready is one tough lacrosse player and I do have a lot of respect for him. I hope he is OK.”

Vancouver killed off the first two minutes of the power play, but Josh Sanderson and Stephen Leblanc would 75 seconds apart to break open the 11-11 tie.

“That is a tough pill to swallow. But at the same time, we have talked about discipline. And this is the kind of sport where you have to be disciplined not matter what,” said Vancouver coach Jamie Batley, who said he has gone over this exact scenario with his players since taking over as head coach a few weeks ago.

“My expectation is that Joel sucks that up and doesn’t take five. And it’s a different game, different outcome. As a lacrosse player, we all know you have to take this.

“And unfortunately his temper got the best of him and (Toronto) capitalized.”

The Rock power play was potent all game, going five-for-seven. They also scored one short-handed goal.

“In order for us to win, our power play has to be dominant. We rely on it big time,” said the Rock’s Rob Hellyer, who led the way with four goals and nine points.

“To put the ball in the net a few times was nice, especially early. And then late like that, to put them away, that was awesome.”

Hellyer said the team knew they needed to score on that power play or else the Stealth would have gained momentum.

“Feels like the same old story, finding ways to lose,” said the Stealth’s Rhys Duch.

“They are always a little tougher when you feel like you deserved to win.”

“Just shooting ourselves in the foot seems to be a recurring theme in the past couple of weeks.”

Duch said the team was undisciplined all game, not just in the end. They had two five-minute major penalties and were also twice down two men.

And as for the major penalty to McCready, Duch said it was unfortunate.

There are only two refs out there so you can’t expect them to see everything,” Duch said.

“McCready is a guy that plays with a lot of passion, a lot of heart. “His temper might have gotten the better of him.”

“It is just unfortunate to see a guy that works that hard take a cheap shot like that and feel the need to defend himself. “The league will look at the hit to the head and react accordingly.”

The loss put a damper on a pair of milestones Duch achieved during the game.

The sniper finished with three goals and seven points and passed 300 goals and 700 points for his NLL career. He remains one assist short of hitting the 400-assist plateau.

“It is nice. It means I am doing my job as an offensive player,” he said. “I would rather have 700 wins than 700 points.”

A big difference in the game was face-offs and loose balls, both of which were won handily by the Rock.

Toronto won 20 of 28 face-offs and had the loose ball advantage 83-62. And a lot of those loose balls were off face-offs with the Rock’s Jesse Gamble securing 13.

We should beat this team. I thought we matched up really well against them,” Batley said. “(But) if you don’t have the ball it is obviously tough.”

Leblanc (2+4) and Kasey Beirnes (2+1) had multi-goal games for the Rock while Brodie Merrill (1+1), Dan Lintner (1+1) and Gamble had the other goals.

For the Stealth, McCready had three goals and an assist and Thomas Hoggarth potted a pair of goals.

Corey Small (1+2), Cliff Smith (1+1) and Justin Salt (1+1) rounded out the scoring.

Final shots were 53-43 for Toronto with Nick Rose stopping 32 for the Rock and Tyler Richards making 40 saves for Vancouver.

Three Stars of the Game:

1) Rob Hellyer
2) Rhys Duch
3) Stephen Leblanc

By Gary Ahuja for NLL.com. Photo by Garrett James.