The Toronto Rock are certainly keeping their fans on their toes this season. A second consecutive home game went down to the wire as the Rock defeated the Philadelphia Wings 11-10 in overtime at Scotiabank Arena.
Adam Jones’ fifth goal of the game at 3:51 of the overtime period improved the Rock’s record to 2-1. The team was relieved to get a win in front of their home crowd after dropping last week’s game to Georgia in the final minute. Jones and Tom Schreiber combined for 10 of the Rock’s 11 goals.
“We didn’t have the best home record last season and we lost a tough one last week so if we dropped this one we would have been upset,” the OT hero Jones said. “Schreiber had a great play [to tie it late] and Rosey and the D shut it down when we needed them to.”
Schreiber sent the game to overtime with a shorthanded goal, beating a defenseman and leaping over the crease with 20 seconds remaining after the Wings fought back from a third quarter deficit. Slow offensive starts have been an issue for the Wings thus far but defensively they pushed the pace early which caused the Rock to struggle early, too. It took nearly 10 minutes before Blaze Riorden opened the scoring. Schreiber replied with a shorthanded marker to tie the game at one after one.
Jones and Brandon Slade put the Rock up 3-1 in the second but Liam Patten’s first of the game cut the deficit to one at the half.
“That was the worst half that we’ve played,” Schreiber said. “This was a character win for us.”
The Rock looked to have things under control early in the third with Jones and Schreiber scoring back-to-back to increase the lead to 5-2. They each scored twice in the frame. But the Wings fought back; Chris Cloutier scored a pair while Steph Charbonneau and Kiel Matisz picked up transition markers and closed the gap to 7-6.
Seven of the Wings’ goals came on transition as Nick Rose fought through multiple one-on-one situations that allowed the Wings back in the game.
“That’s us not doing our job,” Rock head coach Matt Sawyer said, forgiving his goalie. “We have a horrible habit when things aren’t going well for us up front of selling out and forgetting about our defensive responsibilities. We let them run and they shoved it down our throat.”
Wings’ head coach Paul Day preferred to look at the transition goals as a positive for his team.
“We have a bunch of guys under 25, and a young group means a lot of speed. We’re going to try and push the tempo of the game. We have good speed and we have some young guys that can finish.”
Neither team wanted to give an inch in the fourth. The Wings went on a tear, scoring three goals in a row – on transition – to take a 9-7 lead. Anthony Joaquim tied it on a break at 2:56. Patten converted goaltender Doug Buchan’s long pass to put the Wings up 8-7 at 5:01, and Matisz put them up two at 8:13. It was a short-lived lead: Jones replied 22 seconds after Matisz’s goal, and Schreiber tied the game at nine just 12 seconds after that.
Riorden scored off the bench at 12:36 for what looked like the go-ahead goal. The Wings just couldn’t hold off Captain America, even with a power play.
Sawyer just shook his head after the game.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever been so happy with such a bad game,” he said. “We did some good things out there defensively and in goal, but had trouble generating offense. We just let them run on us and gave up a lot of transition goals and that was on us up front. Having said that, sometimes the ugliest ones end up being the prettiest ones and we found a way here tonight.”
For the Wings, now 0-3, there were some positives to be found in a heartbreaking loss. While the first half may have been the Rock’s worst half of the season, defensively it was the best for the young Wings. Their transition game was on fire. And most promising of all was the play of rookie goalie Doug Buchan who made 51 saves and played his first complete game and came very close to his first NLL win
Jones, who won a Canadian championship this summer with Buchan, was one of only three members of the Rock to beat the rookie.
“I was expecting a high-scoring game but [Buchan] played great,” Jones said. “I know how good he is. I’m glad he’s getting the shot, he deserves it. He had our number the first half.”
Day said that while it’s not the outcome the Wings wanted, the coaching staff is proud of their group.
“There’s a couple of things at the end of the game we have to learn from but we’re happy. We’re on the same page defensively and we needed some great goaltending.”
The Rock are on the road next weekend in Colorado, facing the Mammoth on Saturday at 9 p.m. ET, while Philadelphia hosts the Georgia Swarm at 7 p.m. the same night. Both games can be viewed on BR Live.