By Matt Cullen/NLL.com staff writer
No rest, no problem for the Toronto Rock.
Playing the second of back-to-back games on Saturday, the Rock showed no signs of fatigue, beating the Vancouver Stealth 13-7 in front of 9,266 fans at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. Just a night earlier, the Rock (8-5) needed overtime to hand the division-leading Georgia Swarm their first home loss of the season, 12-11.
Toronto goaltender Nick Rose made 46 saves and scored his second goal of the season into an empty net with 1:05 remaining.
“Goals are pretty cool,” Rose told NLL.com after the game. “I probably shouldn’t have taken that one. It was lucky that it dropped in the net.”
With the Rock leading 12-7 late in the game, Vancouver (5-8) had elected to pull goaltender Tye Belanger for an extra attacker. With Toronto trying to kill the clock, head coach Matt Sawyer initially doubted Rose’s decision to try to score in the empty net.
“Don’t shoot it,” Sawyer thought when he saw Rose wind up. “But Rosey is Rosey so you’ve got to give him that one. But I’d prefer he didn’t shoot it.”
The goal was Rose’s third of his career. He now has 32 points (3G, 29A) over his nine-year career. With the win, Toronto is now just a half-game back of the Swarm for top spot in the East Division.
The Rock got off to a great start, despite arriving in Toronto several hours before the game after a return flight from Georgia. Trailing 1-0, Toronto reeled off six straight goals in the first half and never looked back, handing Vancouver its second straight loss. Dan Lintner (3G, 1A), Brett Hickey (2G, 4A), Turner Evans (1G, 4A) and Stephan Leblanc (2G, 3A) were all strong up front for the Rock. Toronto’s leading scorer Tom Schreiber recorded a goal and three assists.
The Stealth, which never scored more than two in a row in the game, only led for a total of 41 seconds. Rose, who leads all goaltenders with a 9.64 goals-against average, stopped 46 shots. Vancouver’s Belanger turned away 42 of 54.
“It was good to see the boys be productive early on and get a bit of a cushion out there,” Sawyer said. “Our defense and goaltending is always good. Rosey was locked in. You can usually tell from the beginning. Our defense did a great job keeping the shots to the outside.”
Vancouver’s Corey Small (1G, 3A) entered as the NLL’s leading scorer with 78 points but the Stealth offense was held to the perimeter for most of the game. Of Vancouver’s 52 shots, just 13 of them came from the inside.
“That’s not going to get you many goals against Rosey,” Stealth head coach Jamie Batley said of his team’s offensive performance. “We have to have energy. They played last night and they had more energy than we did. Guys have got to look in the mirror and come with energy, willing to sacrifice. We gave [the Rock] nine goals five-on-five. That’s not our team. You can’t win in this league when you do that.”
Midway through the first quarter, Vancouver’s Rhys Duch put the Stealth up 1-0 but the Rock answered quickly, reeling off three straight goals from Turner Evans, Dan Lintner and Stephan Leblanc to close out the first quarter with a 3-1 lead.
The Rock stretched their advantage to 6-1 with three more goals from Kasey Beirnes, rookie Reid Reinholdt and Brett Hickey. Hickey’s 31st of the season at 5:49 of the second frame capped the six-goal run for Toronto. After Duch scored his second to cut the deficit to 6-2, Toronto closed out the half with goals from Leblanc and Lintner, both their second of the night to extend the Rock’s lead to 8-2 after the first 30 minutes.
Rose was stellar in the first half, stopping 25 of 27 shots including two clear-cut breakaways from Justin Salt. Belanger turned away 19 of 27 after the first two quarters.
The Rock gave Vancouver a chance to get back in the game early in the third frame. Challen Rogers took a five-minute cross checking penalty while Beirnes put the Rock two-men down with a cross checking minor just moments later. Vancouver promptly cashed in twice on the power play with Small’s 33rd and a diving effort by James Rahe to make it 8-4.
But the Rock countered with two goals of their own as Lintner capped off his second career hat trick at 8:24 of the second, beating Belanger off a nice set-up from Turner Evans. Hickey then scored his team-leading 32nd of the season, a bullet on the power play to restore Toronto’s six-goal lead, making it 10-4 after three quarters.
In the final frame, Vancouver scored three of the first four goals to cut Toronto’s lead to 11-7 with 2:44 to play. But Reinholdt’s second of the game followed by Rose’s empty netter sealed the victory.
Reinholdt, who scored the game-tying and –winning goals Friday night in Georgia, now has 10 on the year, including three multi-goal games.
“I’ve never played with such elite teammates,” Reinholdt told NLL.com. “They make it so easy to play out there. They move the ball so well. It’s so easy.”
Toronto is now 2-0 in the second of back-to-back games this season, beating the Rochester Knighthawks 10-6 earlier this year on Feb. 18.
The Rock now head to Vancouver for the back end of the home-and-home series against the Stealth next Friday, March 31. The road doesn’t get easier as the Rock then travel back across the continent to face the hometown New England Black Wolves on Sunday, April 2.
Three stars selected by the media
1)Nick Rose (TOR)
2)Dan Lintner (TOR)
3)Sandy Chapman (TOR)