The Toronto Rock picked up a much-needed win on Saturday night at Scotiabank Arena, defeating the Rochester Knighthawks 15-13.
It was the first win for the Rock since their last home game on February 15th; it snapped a two-game losing streak. For the Knighthawks, it was their second loss in as many days after falling 15-14 to Georgia the night before.
It was a close game against a fierce rival, though with all of Rochester’s recent roster changes, it would have been understandable if it had lacked some emotion. However, Rochester has proven this weekend that they’re not content with last place. Playoffs are a stretch at this point but they’re playing for pride, and unwilling to yield to stronger competitors. They pushed the Rock to their limits, even leading for most of the first quarter.
“Even when they’re not at their best they’re always a tough team to beat,” cautioned Rock head coach Matt Sawyer. “They’ve had a lot of turnover and lots of changes. You could make the argument they’re more dangerous because of that. They have a lot of guys that are hungry and looking for an opportunity. They certainly worked and pushed us tonight.”
Chris Boushy picked up where he left off Friday night, opening the game’s scoring with his eighth goal of the weekend just 1:12 in, but a raucous crowd of 12, 873 at Scotiabank Arena cheered Rock captain Challen Rogers on to respond with an overhand shot. But the Knighthawks picked up two more; Mike Triolo scored on a rebound off the boards and Mike Burke potted a bounce shot for a 3-1 lead.
Rogers replied for the Rock with a goal nearly identical to his first. Dan Lintner tied the game at three on a power play with 3:44 left in the opening quarter. Cody Jamieson briefly restored Rochester’s lead 44 seconds later as he converted Dawson Theede’s backhand pass. But the Rock had the final say in the period, as Johnny Powless scored a rocket from the left side and Brock Sorensen tiptoed around the crease to finish off Rogers’ pass for a 5-4 lead.
The second was back-and-forth with Toronto leading the way. Kieran McArdle scored 1:39 in. Kyle Jackson then trickled one past Nick Rose on a bounce shot, but Rose responded well by making a big save on Boushy before hitting Scott Dominey with a long pass for Dominey’s first NLL goal in his first game.
“It was unreal. Still unbelievable,” the fifth-round draft pick said post-game. “I’m just trying to take it in, celebrate with my family.”
Dominey said he followed advice from past coaches when he was streaking in on Angus Goodleaf: “Make sure I catch the ball and then pick a spot and put it there like I’ve been told from minor bantam all the way up. My coaches said pick a spot and put it there as hard as you can.”
Theede scored after another good save by Rose, but the Rock came back with two in a row from Powless and Brandon Slade, who danced around a couple of defenders to take a 9-6 lead. Colton Armstrong finished Brad Gillies’ pass and Boushy then got the jump on a Rock defender to keep the Knighthawks within a goal, but Rob Hellyer scored with 16 seconds left in the half to put the Rock up 10-8.
Neither team ever found momentum in this game with every goal scored being equaled by the opponent. Hellyer continued his hot streak with a jump shot goal to open the third. That was equaled by Graeme Hossack’s underhand goal seven seconds later. Burke brought the Knighthawks within one again only to have Tom Schreiber restore the two-goal lead. Billy Hostrawser completed a backhand pass from Brad Kri only to have Hossack reply again 18 seconds later.
Jamieson brought the Knighthawks within a goal at 13-12 1:20 into the fourth quarter. Armstrong thought he tied it shortly thereafter but was ruled to be in the crease. Instead, McArdle’s second goal of the game again gave the Rock a two-goal lead. Following that, it was quiet on the scoring front until Brandon Robinson’s called no-goal at 13:54 was reviewed and ruled a goal, closing the gap to 14-13, but Damon Edwards scored an empty-net goal for insurance.
“[That] was one we needed,” Sawyer said. “At times we were good, at times we weren’t. It certainly wasn’t a masterpiece. This is a tough league to get wins in.”
Despite retaking second place in the NLL’s East Division, the Rock have yet to clinch a playoff spot, though with their 8-3 record it will likely happen soon. They’ll get two cracks at it next weekend with away games in Georgia on Friday and Buffalo on Saturday.