A one-sided affair took place at Pechanga Arena as the San Diego Seals dropped their second game in a row to the visiting Toronto Rock. The 6-13 loss was hard to swallow, characterized by plenty of offensive chances for the Seals who couldn’t seem to get anything by Toronto goalkeeper Nick Rose.
Seals general manager and head coach Patrick Merrill was excited to be back on home turf, but the night didn’t go exactly as planned.
“It wasn’t good enough,” Merrill said. “We outshot them, we out loose balled them. I thought we got a lot of quality chances in the first quarter that if we buried, I think it would have been a bit of a different game. That being said, not good enough for our first win.”
Toronto struck first, and they struck hard. The Rock went on a 4 goal tear to start the game, including one from former Seal Dan Dawson who repaid the home crowd’s standing ovation by throwing a hat trick right back at them. Dawson surpassed 1,400 career points with the performance, his first goal sealing up the quarter 4-0.
The Seals used the quarter break to give starting goalkeeper Frank Scigliano some relief. Rookie Nick Damude came in and played great down the stretch in his NLL debut, logging 24 saves in the game.
It was a trying start for him, however, as Toronto struck again to make the game 5-0 less than a minute into the second quarter.
Finally, Seals forward Wesley Berg breathed life into the team with a power play goal to put them on the board 5-1 with nearly 10 minutes to go in the first half.
Hardly a minute later, Toronto snuck a ball beneath Damude that couldn’t decide if it wanted to be in or out. A no-goal call came in and was promptly challenged by Toronto. Much to the Seals dismay, the ball did in fact make it entirely across the line and the call was overturned to put the score at 6-1.
Seconds later, Wesley Berg, who accounted for the majority of the Seals offense with 4 goals, came flying across the Toronto crease with bad intentions and snuck it past Nick Rose to bring the score up to 6-2 with 9 minutes to play in the second quarter.
“He’s been our best player in both games,” Coach Merrill said of Berg. “He plays with a lot of heart too and never quit for 60 minutes.”
Despite the effort from Berg, the rest of the quarter would be all Toronto. The Rock put 2 more goals past Damude before halftime, including another from Dan Dawson with less than a minute on the clock. The score was 8-2 in favor of Toronto heading into the break.
The third quarter began with more of the same as Rock defenseman Challen Rogers scored almost immediately, stretching the lead to 7 at 9-2. That goal would be Toronto’s first and only of the quarter, however, as the Seals tightened up defensively and rallied behind the rookie in cage.
“We threw a different scheme at them in the third quarter and started to have a little success defensively that way,” Noted Merrill. “But again, too little too late.”
The third was undoubtedly the Seals best quarter as they finally found some more offense in the form of lefty forward Connor Fields, who stepped into a time and room shot that stung top right corner to give the seals a desperately needed goal and cut the Toronto lead to 6 with 10 minutes to play in the quarter.
Minutes later, Captain Brodie Merrill found Fields again in transition as he came streaking off the bench to cut into the Toronto lead even further, the score 9-4 with 8 minutes to go in the third and some momentum building.
At the 6 minute mark, Wesley Berg once again took flight and soared over the crease to give himself a hat trick and bring the surging Seals to within 4 points of the Rock.
The rest of the quarter went scoreless as play got chippy and some pushing and shoving ensued. The game would head into the fourth quarter 9-6.
The fourth began with Dan Dawson logging his third goal of the night to bring it back to a 5 point lead at 10-5.
A very welcome power play provided the Seals with a big opportunity and none other than Wesley Berg capitalized, notching his fourth goal on the night and bringing the game to 10-6 with 7 minutes to play.
Unfortunately for the Seals, Toronto played possession ball from this point on and did so successfully, burning nearly 4 minutes from the clock and effectively sealing the game before they went on a 3 goal run in the final two minutes where it seemed that San Diego had accepted their fate.
Coach Merrill was less than pleased with the result.
“I think we have a lot to work on,” said Merrill. “We were really encouraged by a lot of things in the Buffalo game but then I think tonight was a step back. So we’re going to have to correct that over the next two weeks.”
On paper the Seals performed well in their home opener, winning 15 of 23 faceoffs, putting 58 shots on goal, and holding the Rock to a single power play score. The numbers just didn’t seem to translate for them.
“Offensively we were getting chances, just not capitalizing on opportunities,” said forward Connor Fields.“We kind of got a little stressed out, forcing some things here and there and obviously it turned out not the way we wanted.”
The Seals look ahead to Dec. 27 when they will host the defending champion Calgary Roughnecks.