TORONTO – As the official home of the Toronto Rock, winners of five of the past seven league championship titles, it was only fitting that the Air Canada Centre play host to the National Lacrosse League all-star game.
So it was on Saturday afternoon, as several of the league’s best took to the ACC floor to showcase their talents in front of 15,924.
When the dust settled following a game full of trick shots and impressive offensive performances, the West squad rallied to score five unanswered goals in the fourth quarter to down the East by a score of 14-13.
Calgary’s Lewis Ratcliff capped off his squad’s impressive come-from-behind win, notching his fourth goal of the game with just four seconds remaining on the clock to secure game MVP honours, as well as put an end to the East’s two-game winning streak.
The stars didn’t take long to align, as Rochester veteran John Grant Jr. gave the East squad a 2-0 lead with a pretty give-and-go with Knighthawks’ teammate and former Rock star Steve Toll.
Shortly after, Rock forward Blaine Manning, fresh off his eight-point performance in last night’s 12-11 overtime victory over Philadelphia, beat former Rock teammate Anthony Cosmo to give the East a 3-1 lead.
Manning was quick to point out how special it was to play in front of his home crowd.
“We love our fans and they’re the best in the league,” said Manning, who watched the West score four of the next five – including two by Colorado rookie standout Dan Carey – to take a 5-4 lead after the opening quarter.
Cam Bergman took a rare all-star game penalty at the 2:57 mark of the second and was forced to watch from the box as Philadelphia’s Jake Bergey scored a power-play marker to tie the game at five.
The teams then exchanged goals to close out the first half and head into the dressing room knotted at seven.
Thanks to goals from former Rock defensive standout Glenn Clark, Mark Steenhuis and Grant, the East outscored the West 3-1 in the third quarter to take a 10-8 lead heading into the final frame.
The East then extended their lead to 13-9 only to watch it evaporate, as the West rallied to score five straight fourth quarter markers – including Ratcliff’s final two to capture the win.
Rock forward Colin Doyle had one goal and two assists, while Phil Sanderson had three assists.
“The Toronto fans are knowledgeable lacrosse fans and they’re the best fans in the league,” said Colin Doyle from the Rock.
All-Star Game Notes: Saturday’s contest marked the sixth ever NLL all-star game in its 20 years (1991, 1999, 2002, 2004, 2005). Portland goaltender Dallas Eliuk is the only player to participate in all six of those games … Fresh off his Hall of Fame induction, the legendary Gary Gait performed the ceremonial opening face-off … Rock veteran Jim Veltman, the oldest player participating in the all-star contest, picked up two assists in the contest.
National Lacrosse League
WEST 14, EAST 13
(At Air Canada Centre)
1. East, Cousins (Steenhuis, Gibson) 1:00
2. East, Grant (Toll) 4:08
3. West, Sharp (Jalbert, Cosmo) 9:43
4. East, Manning (Steenhuis) 11:44
5. West, Ratcliff (Derks, Conn) 12:19
6. West, Carey (Malawsky, Prout) 12:52
7. West, Derks (Jalbert, Self) 13:37
8. East, Hajek (unassisted) 13:57
9. West, Carey (Toth, Jalbert) 14:15
Penalties – None.
10. East, Bergey (Williams, Veltman) 4:32 pp
11. West, Kelusky ( Jalbert, Wray)
12. East, Clark (P. Sanderson, Bergey) 8:48
13. West, Wray (unassisted) 11:35
14. East, Williams (Veltman) 11:55
Penalty – West, Bergman (holding) 2:51
15. East, Clark (Doyle, Tavares) .43
16. East, Steenhuis (Bergey, P.Sanderson) 3:09
17. West, Ratcliff (Carey, Merrill) 7:04 pp
18. East, Grant (Doyle) 14:39 pp
Penalties – East, Grant (holding) 5:26; East, Doyle (too many men) 5:58; West, Prout (too many men) 13:21.
19. East, Doyle (Clark, Hajek) 0:21
20. West, Ratcliff, (Kelusky, Sharp) 0:49
21. East, Steenhuis (unassisted) 2:15
22. East, Gibson (Hajek, P.Sanderson) 2:38
23. West, Jalbert (Lough) 8:23
24. West, Malawsky (Sharp) 10:43
25. West, Kelusky (Jalbert) 11:38
26. West, Bergman (Eliuk) 12:17
27. West, Ratcliff (Malawsky) 14:55
Penalties – None.
Player of the GameMost Valuable Player: Lewis Ratcliff
1 2 3 4 OT T
Eastern Conference 4 3 3 3 0 13
Western Conference 5 2 1 6 0 14
Shots on Goal –
1 2 3 4 OT T
Eastern Conference 16 15 9 14 0 54
Western Conference 16 17 13 21 0 67
Goalies – West: Cosmo (24 saves, 31 shots) and Eliuk (W, 3rd quarter, 17 saves, 23 shots); East: O’Toole (26 saves, 33 shots) and Dietrich (27 saves, 34 shots).
Powerplays – West 1-2, East 2-2.
Referees – Tom Sutton, Grant Spies, Scott Malloy (Tech. Ref.)
Attendance – 15,924.