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Rock Contain Thunderbirds To Advance To East Conference Finals

In a game that had a little bit of everything, for the second postseason in a row, the Toronto Rock will be moving on to the East Conference Finals after defeating the Halifax Thunderbirds.

Neither team had many opportunities to get into a rhythm, but as per usual between these rivals, the home team prevailed. Fisticuffs, penalties, goal reviews, and injuries disrupted the game’s flow, but there was no shortage of excitement in the opening match of the NLL Quarterfinals.

The Rock erupted out of the gates smothering the Thunderbirds’ defense with a relentless barrage of shots – they had 20 shots on goal in the opening 15 minutes. Warren Hill was up to the task, however, and made 17 saves in the 1st quarter to keep the game within reaching difference. By the 2nd quarter, the Thunderbirds found some life and stormed back to eventually tie the game at 5-5. After 30 minutes, that’s how things ended.

In that 1st half, Dan Dawson scored his lone goal of the night – he had four points in all – to give him 59 career goals in the playoffs. That moved him past Thunderbirds Head Coach Mike Accuser for the 7th-most playoff goals in NLL history. Corey Small also had a pair of goals in the opening 30 minutes to lead his team.

Unfortunately for the Thunderbirds, being knotted at 5-5 at halftime was as close as things would get. The Rock offense, without leading scorer Tom Schreiber, exploded in the 2nd half and went off for 10 goals.

But, the defense earned the win for the Rock as much as it was earned by the offense. The Rock gave up only one goal in the 1st quarter and one goal in the 3rd. Nick Rose only needed to make 31 saves in the victory, albeit many were timely stops. By the final whistle, the Rock had clinched their berth in the East Conference Finals by beating the Thunderbirds 15-11.

It is a sad and unfortunate exit for the Thunderbirds, who were looking not to repeat last year’s Quarterfinals results. The loss means that 16-year veteran Ryan Benesch will go another year without winning his first NLL Championship, a championship he greatly deserves.

The Rock will find out on Saturday night if they will be facing the Buffalo Bandits or the Rochester Knighthawks in the East Conference Finals, starting next weekend with the series’ first two games. A win-or-go-home deciding game will be the following weekend if the first two games are split.