When the Toronto Rock (8-1) and Edmonton Rush (4-3) faced-off on Friday night, it was expected to be a tight, hard fought, defensive game. The first two parts were right, but there was little defense played once the flood gates opened as Toronto captured its eighth win of the season by beating the Rush 16-15 in overtime at Rexall Place.
“I thought we played well offensively,” said Lovell. “For most of the night and there were times where we looked like the kind of defensive team that we want be. There were other times where we weren’t very good at either end. I thought is was going to be much like it was in the first quarter: two teams banging at each other, fighting to try to get a goal and then then the flood gates opened up for us.”
“We were inconsistent tonight,” said Edmonton head coach and GM Derek Keenan. “Especially defensively and [we] got out of character at times and made mistakes we don’t typically make.”
Zack Greer started the scoring with two goals, including a spin-o-rama that he fired over the shoulder of Rock goaltender Brandon Miller. Kasey Beirnes tied the score for the Rock with two of his own to close out the quarter.
The scoring in pairs continued in the second with Rob Hellyer getting two of his own to give the Rock a 4-2 lead. After that, the Rush found themselves constantly chasing Toronto. Ben McIntosh scored cutting in front of the net but it only took Stephan Leblanc 35 seconds to get it back. Zack Greer completed his hat-trick and Mark Matthews scored his first of the game. Rob Hellyer and Kevin Ross rounded out the first-half scoring for the Rock who lead 7-5 going into half-time.
The second half saw an offensive explosion take place. The third quarter contained 11 goals with Toronto scoring 6 and Edmonton 5. After Robert Church scored for Edmonton, Toronto went on a three goal run with goals from Brodie Merrill, Rob Hellyer, and Josh Sanderson. Edmonton came back with their own three goal run with goals from Ben McIntosh, Jeremy Thompson, and Adrian Sorichetti, who scored his first of the season. The trio of goals came within 18 seconds of each other, making them the fastest three scored in Rush franchise history and the fastest three scored by an NLL team in over a decade. Toronto kept the pressure on another goal from Josh Sanderson and two from Brett Hickey.
Edmonton was pushing for the comeback as the goals kept coming in the fourth. Stephan Leblanc opened the quarter with a goal, but Zack Greer got it back, faking out Brandon Miller three times before depositing the ball in the net. Kasey Beirness scored to give the Rock their 15thgoal, but the Rush weren’t about to give up. Greer scored his fifth of the night and with Jeremy Thompson, and Jarrett Davis, Edmonton tied the game to ignite the crowd.
The excitement of the game could not be contained into 60 minutes, so they had to go into overtime. Rob Hellyer, who has exploded this year with 50 points (18+32) in eight games prior to tonight’s contest, continued with his rampage, putting up 10 points (5+5), including the overtime winner for the Rock.
“It’s easy to find guys out there and guys are putting the ball in the net,” said Hellyer. “The assists are coming and they’re finding me and I can get lucky sometimes when the ball goes in. It’s nice to get the points but obviously the two points at the end of the night are what’s important.”
Josh Sanderson remained dominant as well recording 10 points (2+8) of his own.
“[Hellyer and Sanderson] have both been outstanding since day one,” said Lovell. “It hasn’t just been one game, it’s been nine solid games for both of them.”
Sanderson and Hellyer now sit atop the league leaders in points with 62 (10+52) and 60 (23+37) respectively.
Both Mark Matthews (2+6) and Zack Greer (5+3) notched eight points for Edmonton. Greer has scored 16 goals in his last four games for the Rush.
“Those guys have been great for us, they’ve been consistent every game now for about five weeks in a row,” said Keenan.
Though he allowed 15 goals, Brandon Miller made some huge saves for the Rock that allowed the game to go into overtime as Edmonton put on the pressure for the last 12 minutes of the fourth quarter.
The game brings each teams different results, but both coaches shared similar messages.
“There were some bad mistakes defensively on the case of both teams I think,” said Lovell. “In the end, I think they had far more push than we did and we got some pretty big saves near the end for sure.”
Though the Rush didn’t get the result they wanted, they got better as the game went on.
“I thought we battled back pretty hard and had numerous opportunities to win it at the end of the fourth and in overtime,” said Keenan. “But they got the goal to win it… I thought in the last 11-12 minutes of the game, I thought we were back to being ourselves. I thought we were back to being dominant in the back end, we didn’t give them much, we basically shut them down. We gave Josh [Sanderson] a little too much time and space tonight, I felt once we started taking that away we were that much better off.”
The Rush were without their captain, Chris Corbeil who didn’t play due to a foot injury. Corbeil should be back and ready to play when the Rush host the Calgary Roughnecks. Toronto will continue to play in the West as they will travel to Colorado to play the Mammoth. Edmonton till leads the Western Division, but could fall to second with a Mammoth win this weekend.
The Three Stars of the Game as selected by the media:
1) Rob Hellyer
2) Josh Sanderson
3) Zack Greer
Story by Mike Wilson (@RushBeat) for NLL.com. Photo by Dale MacMillan.