By Jeremy Pike | Staff Writer
Photo Credit Micheline Veluvolu
The Toronto Rock (5-2) took the season series two games to one over the Rochester Knighthawks (2-5) with a 10-6 victory Saturday evening in front of 5,483 fans at the Blue Cross Arena. The Rock were able to rebound from their overtime loss to the Georgia Swarm Friday evening.
“It’s a real big win for us,” said Toronto head coach Matt Sawyer. “Being able to bounce back after a tough loss last night against Georgia. Told the boys in there they might not realize the magnitude of this win until later on in the season. Able to get the tiebreaker on Rochester, it’s almost like a four-point game or whatever you want to call it. Real big win, wasn’t a pretty one but a lot of times from a coaching standpoint, those are the best ones. It was a ‘grind-y’, gritty game and we’re sure happy with the way it ended.”
“We came into a tough building, divisional rival, we were both fighting to take that season series,” said Rock goalie Nick Rose. “For us to come out on top, that’s pretty big for us. The boys are pretty excited.”
“There is some bright spots, but bright spots don’t win you games,” said Rochester forward Dan Dawson. “At some point, you need to put together bright spots throughout the whole game. You can’t have these lulls. Every time we go on these lulls, it seems to really bite us in the butt.”
Without Rose’s performance, there is no telling how that game would have ended for the Rock. While Rochester has struggled to score goals this season, they peppered Rose with 48 shots Saturday night.
“He bails us out on a lot of occasions,” Sawyer said. “He’s a great goalie. He’s our MVP. At the same time, he’s done it so much, that’s the expectation for him and I know he relishes that.”
“I’m seeing the ball pretty well,” Rose said. “They got a lot of shots, but a lot were kind of from outside or whatever. Our defense did a great job. We didn’t give up too many high-scoring chances, makes my job pretty easy.”
Rose was not the only goalie putting on a show on the BCA’s turf Saturday. Knighthawks goalie Matt Vinc had 36 saves and allowed only nine goals (the tenth was an empty-netter by Rose.)
“’V’ played very well,” said Rochester head coach Mike Hasen. “We needed a bounce-back game from him and we got that. He was big, he was making saves that we expect him to make. Defensively, we were okay, put them in spots were ‘V’ can make the saves.”
“The defense and Vno played outstanding tonight,” Dawson said. “They gave up eight, one’s an empty-netter and one’s a penalty shot. We’re putting up six and that’s not going to win you games in this league.
“We’re in a tough spot,” Hasen said. “The ball’s not dropping. We’re having opportunities, we are moving the ball, moving our feet, we are quick, and we can get some opportunities. They weren’t dropping for us. A couple of posts. Those little inches go the other way and we’re not talking about a lack of offense. They’re just struggling to make them drop. I think they’ve just got to fall. There’s opportunities where our hands are free. ‘Rosey’ made some big saves, a couple of backside, stretch out and rob us saves there tonight. Those ones go in, then we’re not talking about that. They’re going to fall and their confidence will start rolling and away we go.”
So how does Rochester’s offense get confidence and get rolling?
“We’re 2-5, and if we had those answers, we’d definitely be better off for it,” Dawson said. “It’s really simple. We’ve got to start burying our chances when we get it. We’ve got to have a little bit better chemistry out there and a little bit better flow. I think guys are squeezing their sticks a little bit, I know I have been. The great thing about it is when you’re in these ruts, you’ve got to be excited to get to rink because the ones that hit the post and go out are going to hit the post and go in.”
Coming into Saturday’s game, Dawson had only one goal and 10 assists in four games. Perhaps his four-point night (2+2) to lead Rochester is a sign of things to come. For now, the highlight-reel behind-the-back one-handed goal serves to show a glimpse of what the man known as “Dangerous Dan” can still do.
“He was moving his feet and he was shooting the ball, distributing the ball,” Hasen said. “That’s the ‘Daws’ we need every night.”
“I’ve been a passenger this whole season,” Dawson said. “Tonight, I wanted to make sure I was going to the net hard, drawing double teams, finding the open guy, and taking shots when I had them, and I thought I did a better job of that. You do self-reflection when you lose, and you make sure ‘I’m accountable for what happens.’ Our record is what it is because guys like me aren’t stepping up. I need to step up even more tomorrow night to win these games.”
The Knighthawks have a quick turnaround, heading south to take on the first-place Georgia Swarm Sunday evening at 6:05 pm ET. The Rock travel to Buffalo to take on the Bandits on February 25.