Toronto Stages Comeback For 8th Straight Win
Hamilton, ON – The Toronto Rock (9-2) just can’t be stopped as they won their eighth straight game, defeating the Rochester Knighthawks (8-3) by a score of 9-8 on Saturday night in front of 10,229 at FirstOntario Centre in Hamilton. The come-from-behind win puts the Rock back into a first-place tie with the Buffalo Bandits atop the East Conference standings.
There is a lot to unpack from this game. So, let’s begin.
NLL legend Dan Dawson entered the game needing just one point to become just the second player in league history to reach the 1,500 career point plateau and he wasted little time doing so, drawing an assist on the Rock’s first goal in the first quarter. Very fitting that it was an assist that helped Dawson hit the milestone as he is the NLL’s all-time assists leader.
“I’ve been blessed to play this game a long time, so many amazing teammates and coaches that put me in a position to be successful and allow me to play the game I love,” said Dawson of his accomplishment. “As you get older, you realize how special these times are. It is just a reflection of all the people I’ve played with through the years.”
With so much on the line for both teams, it’s no surprise that it was a physical and defensive battle from the opening faceoff. Rochester’s Rylan Hartley and Toronto’s Nick Rose were incredible for their respective clubs in goal, thwarting chance after chance all night long. Hartley finished the game with 56 saves, while Rose had 46 saves.
The two teams were trading goals back and forth in the opening 15 minutes, reminiscent of two heavyweight boxers trading blows in the early rounds of a title fight. Stay tuned, because there were some actual fisticuffs in the second quarter, that began tied 2-2.
With the Knighthawks up 4-2 just over six minutes into the second quarter, the Rock’s prime pugilist Bill Hostrawser squared off with Rochester’s Tyler Biles who is often responsible for performing the same chore for his club. Give the nod to Hostrawser in what was a spirited bout that had Rock City on their feet, recognizing both warriors’ spirit.
Almost three minutes later, it was two slightly more unlikely combatants throwing down as the Rock’s Brandon Slade definitely held his own against a larger opponent in the Knighthawks’ Ethan Schott. The Rock got a goal from Corey Small in the late stages of the quarter that brought them back to within one, down 4-3 at halftime.
In a bizarre turn of events early in the third quarter, Hartley suddenly made a break for the bench with the Rock in possession of the ball, perhaps thinking there was a delayed penalty coming up that would put his team on the power play. Rock defender Sheldon Burns sunk the ball into the empty net to tie the game 4-4.
The Knighthawks seemed to get a boost from that rare mistake by their goaltender, who was almost perfect on the night. Rochester scored three straight goals to take a 7-4 lead, flirting with opportunity to take total control of the contest. However, it was once again Small coming through with a big goal in the late moments of the quarter to break up the visitors run and give his team some life as they trailed 7-5 after three.
Early in the fourth quarter, Tom Schreiber threw an incredible around the world pass to a wide-open Zach Manns who went low-to-high with a shot that scorched the twine in the Knighthawks’ cage. Just a little over three minutes later, Phil Mazzuca fired home his first NLL goal on a breakaway to tie the score 7-7. Moments later, Dan Craig scored to give the Rock an 8-7 lead and the building was buzzing.
Rochester was not done, they answered that Rock tally with a goal of their own, tying the score 8-8 on the power play.
With just under five-and-a-half minutes to play, Rose tossed the ball ahead to Slade who had made a break, up the floor. The diminutive defender took the rock to the rack and scored what held up as the game winning goal, sending the Rock City faithful into an unbelievable frenzy.
Tonight’s win tied the team record for the longest winning streak in franchise history, previously accomplished in 2004 when the team also strung together eight victories in a row.
The history making didn’t end there. Tonight’s win was the 58th of Matt Sawyer’s tenure as Head Coach of the Toronto Rock, moving him past Les Bartley as the all-time leader in wins behind the bench of the storied franchise.
“That was an exciting one, one that we wanted bad because of the importance in the standings,” said Sawyer. “For the longest time, it was disappointing we hadn’t given the crowd much to cheer about. Once we got on a bit of a roll and gave them a reason to cheer, it’s the loudest we’ve heard it in here since the Halifax overtime win in the playoffs.”
Toronto outshot Rochester 65-54. Both teams were 2-for-3 with the man advantage.
The Rock won’t have much time to celebrate this one as they head to Philadelphia for a rare Monday night matchup with the Wings at 7pm ET at Wells Fargo Center.
Tickets are on sale now for the Rock’s next home game at FirstOntario Centre on Saturday, March 11 against the Albany FireWolves at 7pm ET. It’s Indigenous Heritage Night, celebrating the roots of the game of lacrosse.
For more information on tickets, please visit torontorock.com, call the Rock Ticket Office at 416-596-3075 or email us at email@example.com.