Philadelphia, PA – The Toronto Rock endured another tumultuous day of travel to the City of Brotherly Love as unseasonable cold weather battered both cities. The luggage seemed a bit lighter on the way home however – a 17-15 victory and a secure playoff spot will do that for a team.
The Rock were coming off of an emotional 16-10 win over the Calgary Roughnecks on Friday night at the Air Canada Centre. With four straight wins behind them, the Rock reached Philadelphia for the first of three straight games against the feisty yet inconsistent Wings.
The first quarter was intense from the get-go as both teams exchanged good scoring opportunities without beating Watson or Philly netminder Dallas Eliuk. At the four-minute mark, The Wings’ Jeff Spano took a penalty for checking from behind. The Rock took advantage immediately, with a power play goal from Matt Shearer at 4:26. Philadelphia replied just 50 seconds later. The teams traded goals once again with Blaine Manning hitting the mark for the Rock followed by one Tom Marechek for the Wings.
The Wings then potted three straight goals before Manning, and Shearer – on a spectacular 30 ft. bounce shot – could reply for the Rock. The Wings maintained momentum through the remainder of the quarter, out-scoring the Rock three-to-one to build an 8-5 halftime lead.
Would back-to-back games and a long day of travel prove to be too much for the Rock? While it appeared that way, the 3rd quarter has been the team’s strongest all season and this night was no different. Manning and Shearer both completed hat tricks within five minutes. Philadelphia’s Jeff Ratcliffe slipped one past Watson, but that only opened the floodgates to five straight Toronto goals. Veltman, Doyle, Manning (again!) and a pair by Aaron Wilson gave the Rock the 14-11 lead heading into the 4th.
For the third straight game, the Rock offence chased the opposing goaltender. This time, Eliuk was replaced by Nick Schroeder. The onslaught continued as the Rock surged ahead to a 17-11 lead. At 7:30, the Wings’ Jeff Ratcliffe finally beat Watson, sparking a four-goal surge by Philadelphia. It proved to be too little, too late as the Rock held on for an important 17-15 Eastern Division victory. The win secured a spot in the playoffs and maintained a stranglehold on first place in the East. Rock high scorers were Colin Doyle (3G, 8A), Josh Sanderson (2G, 8A) and Blaine Manning (4G, 3A).
The Toronto Rock face off against the Philadelphia Wings in their second of three games next Saturday April 9 at the Wachovia Centre at 8:00pm. Listen to the broadcast live on AM 640 Toronto, with pre-game coverage starting at 7:30pm.