ROCK GROUND KNIGHTHAWKS IN 11-9 VICTORY
Toronto Closing In On Home Playoff Game
The Toronto Rock (11-5) gutted out an 11-9 win over the Rochester Knighthawks (3-12) on Saturday night in Rochester, NY at Blue Cross Arena. The win was the Rock’s third straight and put them a game and a half up in the standings on third place Halifax with a massive matchup with the Thunderbirds looming next week.
“For the most part we were good in the second half, but it wasn’t the first half we wanted,” said Rock Head Coach Matt Sawyer. “Give credit to Rochester, they came out and were a much hungrier team and were ready to play right from the start. Credit to us for finding a way to win when we were nowhere near our best.”
The Rock found themselves in a familiar position, spotting the Knighthawks a 3-1 lead early on. With the score 4-2 Rochester, Dan Dawson made history, drawing the second assist on Challen Rogers’ goal with 51 seconds left in the quarter to bring the Rock to within one. The Dawson assist set a new NLL career assists mark of 935 as the 40-year-old NLL legend passed John Tavares for the record.
“It’s a testament to the amazing players I’ve played with over my career,” said the always humble Dawson about making NLL history. “I’m just lucky to have played an amazing game for so long with so many great people.”
Rochester put the pressure back on the Rock with two goals to open the second quarter scoring, building a 6-3 lead. Toronto responded with goals from Tom Schreiber and a shorthanded tally from Sheldon Burns making it a one-goal game once again. Holden Cattoni scored for the Knighthawks to give them a 7-5 advantage at the half.
Early in the third quarter, Rochester’s Ryland Rees once again gave his Knighthawks a three-goal lead. However, the Rock went on a three-goal run, highlighted by an incredible solo effort from a soaring Mitch de Snoo, to tie the game 8-8 heading for the fourth quarter.
Ryan Smith’s third goal of the game gave Rochester another lead to begin the fourth quarter up 9-8. But from there, the Rock just continued to grind and make life difficult for the Knighthawks. Latrell Harris’ second goal of the game, on a long feed from Nick Rose, tied the game 9-9. With just under three minutes to play, Rock captain Challen Rogers took a step towards the middle of the floor, shooting off balance, and took a shot that had the heat to beat Joel Watson in the Knighthawks goal as the ball trickled across the goal line to give the Rock a 10-9 lead. Dan Craig scored into the empty net to seal the win.
Harris’ game should not be judged solely on his two goals and three assists. The uber athletic Rock defender absolutely dominated this game physically, hunting Knighthawks’ forwards, tossing them all over the floor, and taking the ball away at will.
After allowing four goals in the first quarter, Rose slammed the door shut on the Knighthawks, allowing just five goals over the final 45 minutes. Also, the student passed the teacher tonight. Rose passed Rock goalie coach, and his former teammate, Brandon Miller on a couple of NLL all-time lists. At the 38 minute mark, Rose passed Miller for 9th on the all-time goalie minutes list. And, with his 21st save, which came in the third quarter, he also passed Miller for 8th on the all-time goalie saves list. Rose finished the night with 41 saves.
Schreiber’s two goals sent him past the 40-goal mark for the first time in his NLL career as he finished the game with 41 goals. He’s got two games left to take a run at Brett Hickey’s team record of 50 goals in a season, established in 2015.
The Rock didn’t have a single power play chance in the game, while the Knighthawks went 1-for-3 with the man advantage. Toronto outshot Rochester 53-50.
Next Saturday night’s game against the Halifax Thunderbirds at FirstOntario Centre in Hamilton is the biggest game of the year in Rock City. A Rock win will clinch a first-round home playoff game, likely also against Halifax, that will be played on the weekend of May 6-8.