Toronto gets hard-hitting preseason win over Rochester at Bell Centre
The National Lacrosse League returned to Quebec as the Toronto Rock defeated the Rochester Knighthawks 15-7 in a Sunday afternoon exhibition at the Bell Centre in Montreal in front of 4,820 fans.
As part of the promotion of the exhibition game, organizers selected a member of the Quebec Lacrosse Federation to play in the game. Trevor Wagar, a player with Vermont in the Quebec Senior B Lacrosse League, was chosen to play for the Rock.
After Brandon Benn spotted the Rock a 1-0 lead on the powerplay, Wagar bounced a shot by Rochester starter Matt Vinc to bring the crowd at the Bell Centre to their feet. Benn tallied his second of the quarter, following a Rochester goal to give the Rock a 3-1 edge. Toronto’s Rob Marshall took a major penalty for an illegal crosscheck that put the Rock down a man for the remainder of the opening 15 minutes. Cory Vitarelli took advantage on the powerplay with just 0.6 seconds remaining to close the gap to one goal, 3-2.
“It was pretty exciting, I didn’t expect it to come that early,” said Wagar of his goal just over 8 minutes into the game. “I think after halfway through the warmup, I was feeling it. I have played this game for 27 years and I hope I showed something. I feel I can play at this level. It just felt like lacrosse out there, good and fast.”
With the Knighthawks still on the powerplay to begin the second quarter, Craig Point tallied to tie the game 3-3. The Rock went on a four-goal run, all at even strength to surge ahead 7-3. Rochester was able to come up for air with Vitarelli’s second of the game, but it wasn’t for long as Wagar notched his second of the game followed by goals from Scott Johnston and Brett Hickey to lead 10-4. Gavin Prout scored a late shorthanded marker, making the score 10-5 at the half in favour of the Rock.
The first half wasn’t without its share of venom. Rock rookie Jordan Robertson was the recipient of a crosscheck above the shoulders from Knighthawk Jean-Guy Thouin, who was ejected from the game after receiving a major penalty and a game misconduct. Thouin was the local player selected to play for Rochester. Robertson left the game and did not return.
“We don’t want to get involved in coming to teammates aid in the offensive end and I don’t think you can make a distinction,” Rock head coach John Lovell said of Rob Hellyer who was the first on the scene after the high hit. “We are going to be a team in every sense of it. I liked what I saw from our team in those situations.”
Brandon Miller continued his strong play in the third quarter, slamming the door for 15 minutes on the Knighthawks offence. Toronto got goals from Kasey Beirnes, Benn (his 3rd) and Brodie Merrill to lead 13-5 after three quarters.
The Rock scored twice, sandwiched between a pair of Rochester goals to lead 15-7 just past the midway point of the fourth quarter. A Paul Dawson major penalty late in the game put the Rock on the powerplay for nearly the final five minutes of the contest, however Toronto was unable to score.
“I thought we were a pretty good package here today,” said Lovell. “We don’t get any points for this, but it was a good team building game.”
Rock goal scorers: Benn 3, Wagar 2, Beirnes 2, Ross 2, Sanderson, Merrill, Robertson, Brett Hickey, Rob Hellyer, Scott Johnston.
Miller went the distance the Rock, making 32 saves on 39 shots. Rochester’s Matt Vinc allowed 10 Rock goals on 24 shots in his 30 minutes of work. Angus Goodleaf played the second half, surrendering 5 goals on 20 shots.
“We made some changes to how we want to play defence, it was more of a face up approach and a supportive group,” said Lovell.