And for their next trick…
No, the Toronto Rock aren’t magicians. But they have been pulling off some pretty incredible things lately, the most recent of which was a 13-9 win over the Buffalo Bandits on Sunday afternoon at Scotiabank Arena.
Just 10 days ago, the Rock beat the then-undefeated Halifax Thunderbirds. They’re playing with confidence, nay, with swagger. They’ve got rookies playing like veterans. Defenseman running the ball. And they’ve got a goalie who just shut out the NLL’s hottest team for 32 minutes.
“Nick Rose is the backbone of our team. He’s our MVP,” said defenseman David Brock. “When he’s rolling, which is every game, we’re rolling.”
Brock himself had two goals, both in transition and one that sealed the win for the Rock.
“That’s a product of our defense playing hard getting the ball up the floor,” he said. “Two of the three were without a goalie but anytime you can contribute, goalie or not, feels good.”
The Rock came out on fire, building a 3-0 lead before Ian MacKay got the Bandits on the board with a transition goal on a long pass from Matt Vinc.
Buffalo tied the game at three early in the second and for the next 12 minutes the game was a free-for-all.
“At one point both goalies were letting in one goal every three shots,” Rock head coach Matt Sawyer said. “The game was sloppy both ways in the first half.”
Dan Dawson one-hopped over the crease for the first of 10 goals scored in the quarter. The teams traded goals three times to tie the score at six. Zach Manns and Challen Rogers scored nearly identical rips from the slot 25 seconds apart to go up 8-6, but Dhane Smith scored a bouncer and Josh Byrne put in a similar low shot to tie the game 8-8 at the half.
But from there, it was shut down defense from the Rock. As they concentrated on that, Brock was the only goal scorer in the third, going end-to-end and ripping an underhand shot past Vinc.
“We didn’t really give Buffalo an opportunity to get rolling in the second half. Coach addressed us at halftime, said it was time to pull up our socks, put on our hard hats and punch in and finish them off,” Brock said. He finished his goal with a little jump of celebration.
Scott Dominey continued his transition magic, outrunning a defender to fly past Vinc. Dawson, who earlier in the game became just the third player to reach 900 assists, then made a sharp pass to a cutting Rob Hellyer. Hellyer then returned the favour to Dawson a few minutes later.
Matt Gilray’s second transition goal of the night was the Bandits’ only goal of the second half.
“We have to have our best games against the teams in our division,” said Nick Rose. “That was a great second half for us – defensively that was probably the best half of the season… We didn’t allow them inside as much as we did in the first half.”
Toronto remains in third place in the NLL’s North Division but they’re breathing down the necks of their opponents with a 5-2 record, just half a game back of the Bandits and one game back of the Thunderbirds.
“We’re trying to put ourselves in a position where we’re one of those top teams,” Sawyer said. “That was a win we needed based on us losing [our first game against the Bandits].”
Next week the Rock finally move away from divisional play when they host the Vancouver Warriors on Saturday night.
“We just have to keep the momentum going,” said Brock. “We have to bring our A game against Vancouver or it’s not going to work out in our favour.”