Rochester, NY – The Toronto Rock (1-0) defeated the Rochester Knighthawks (0-1) by a score of 12-5 on Thursday night at Rochester’s Blue Cross Arena to open the 2017 NLL season. Toronto’s transition game was too much for the Knighthawks to handle as the night progressed and the Rock emerged victorious.
“We feel that’s a big part of our game,” said Rock head coach Matt Sawyer when asked about the speed his team had on full display. “You saw tonight how it can contribute to our offence, we are going to be a team on offence. Players coming out the back door are expected to contribute in transition. A little thing like running to the bench is important and we don’t get the results without the effort and commitment of our ‘D’ guys.”
Toronto’s transition game was working early and laid the groundwork for a great first half. The Rock got out to a 3-1 lead on goals from Brett Hickey, Damon Edwards and Kasey Beirnes. Rochester scored a pair of goals, less than a minute apart, late in the first quarter to draw even at 3-3 after the opening 15 minutes.
The Rock continued to run and run and run some more. Four straight goals to begin the second quarter gave the Rock a nice cushion. It was the way they did it that was so impressive and in some ways unique.
The fourth goal in the run came from rookie Jordan Magnuson, the first of his NLL career. Just moments before scoring, Magnuson was a recipient of a cross check from Knighthawks goalie Matt Vinc who broke his stick on the play. The ball went back down the floor into the Rock end, however Magnuson forced a turnover and took the ball the other way to score on Vinc who was using a player’s stick to tend goal. Rochester scored to break up the run, but the Rock scored another pair of goals to lead 9-4 at halftime. Beirnes had the Rock’s eighth goal, his third of the half.
A workmanlike effort from the Rock in the third quarter stretched the lead to 12-5 and included the first career goals for Mikey MacDonald and Kieran McArdle. The fourth quarter didn’t provide much in terms of offence as the damage was already done and there was no scoring in the final fifteen minutes.
Rock goal scoring was spread out. Hickey and Beirnes each had three goals while singles came from Magnuson, MacDonald, McArdle, Edwards, Brodie Merrill and Turner Evans.
Nick Rose didn’t give Rochester a sniff all night and kept the door closed at almost every turn. The Rock veteran made 43 saves in the win.
Rock veteran forward Stephan Leblanc missed the season opener with a lower body injury suffered in practice.
The second week of the schedule will see the Rock enjoy an early season bye week before returning to Air Canada Centre for the team’s home opener on Saturday, January 14 at 7 p.m. against the back-to-back defending NLL champion Saskatchewan Rush. It’s Minor Lacrosse Night presented by Bell Let’s Talk.