The beasts of the East keep on rolling.
Friday night the Toronto Rock pulled out a close 12-11 win over the San Diego Seals for their sixth win in a row.
It was the first time the Rock had faced the Seals, but there were some doses of familiarity with seven former members of the Rock playing or coaching for the new kids. Fans may have not known what to expect from the expansion team, but anyone watching wasn’t disappointed. The Seals proved themselves to be every bit as good as their billing coming into the game. Only Nick Rose saved the game from heading to overtime as he stopped Dan Dawson on the crease at the buzzer.
The Rock led 4-2 after the first and kept the lead the rest of the game. The Seals got within a goal twice but squandered away a major power play opportunity with 2:32 left. Frankie Scigliano held his team in it with a foot save on a leaping Rob Hellyer with 30 seconds to go but even with Scigliano then pulled, the Seals couldn’t find the equalizer.
“Coming off a bye week we knew we’d have a little rust but we battled through it and got back to our game plan,” Rock captain Challen Rogers told B/R Live’s Ashley Docking. “[San Diego is] a great team and the score shows that. They have a high-potent offense but we had guys getting in lanes and Rosey soaking shots when we needed him to. That was a tough two-and-a-half minutes there.”
The Rock’s special teams took it to the Seals in the first and third quarters scoring two power play goals and one shorthanded marker in each. They also did well on the penalty kill, allowing only two goals on six chances.
The Rock and Seals traded the first four goals before Dan Craig and Dan Lintner scored on back-to-back jump shots to give the Rock a two-goal lead in the first.
Garrett Billings, who played with the Rock from 2010-2015, opened the second quarter scoring just 10 seconds in deflecting a shot off a Rock defender and into the net. As in the first, the teams traded goals with Brandon Slade then squeezing a shot through Scigliano’s left arm before Casey Jackson’s diving goal beat Rose.
The mid-second quarter gave way to a lot of running attempts, broken up by Dan Craig’s hat trick goal on a solid over the shoulder shot. Johnny Powless then picked up his own rebound and muscled his way to the net. But the Seals put a stop to the Rock’s modest two-goal spree when Brandon Clelland scored on transition. Damon Edwards’ reply on transition gave the Rock an 8-5 lead at the half.
San Diego actually outscored Toronto 5-3 in the third on the strength of a three-goal run. Jackson started things off as he picked up a rebound and dove to complete his hat trick. Kyle Buchanan then scored on an outside bounce shot and 16 seconds later Turner Evans, another former Rock, capitalized on a sidearm shot. That closed the gap to 9-8.
Although the Seals did well in the third, once again the Rock’s goals had more impact. Rogers scored a shorthanded transition goal, jumping to avoid the crease as he converted Billy Hostrawser’s pass. This was also the period in which the big guns finally arrived on scene. Rob Hellyer and Tom Schreiber both scored power play goals after being held off the scoresheet in the first half. Austin Staats also scored his only goal of the game on an incredible crease jump near the end of the quarter to keep the Seals within a goal at 11-10.
Everyone focused on defense in the fourth quarter during which each team scored just once. Lintner scored a behind-the-net dunk goal on a delayed penalty. Jackson’s fourth goal of the game came with five minutes remaining at which time Rose and Scigliano duelled for the last stop.
Rose made 45 saves while Scigliano made 47.
Toronto keeps their spot atop the NLL’s East Division by half a game over the Buffalo Bandits while San Diego falls half a game back of the Calgary Roughnecks in the West.
The Rock return to action next Sunday, February 24th for a 1 p.m. date with the New England Black Wolves at Mohegan Sun while the Seals are off until Saturday, March 2nd when they will host the Vancouver Warriors.