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ROCK COMEBACK FALLS SHORT AGAINST WINGS

Philadelphia – In the second game of back to back division match-ups this weekend, the Toronto Rock invaded hostile ground in Philadelphia to take on the Wings. In what was another defensive tussle, the Rock dug themselves a deep hole in the third quarter and then fought back with a valiant fourth quarter rally that fell just short in an 11-9 loss to the Wings.

The game, which left the Rock 0-2 for the weekend, started tentatively from an offensive perspective. Both teams struggled with their passing and seemed overmatched by the opposition’s defense. For the remainder of the quarter the teams’ defensive confidence grew and pushed each other’s offense further out of synch. Key saves by Rock goaltender Bob Watson and Wings keeper Rob Blasdell kept the score deadlocked until late in the first frame when Philadelphia took a 1-0 lead and the Rock responded on a goal by Ryan Benesch, his 15th of the season.

The second quarter saw the Rock get off to a strong start with a goal by Kasey Beirnes, which gave Toronto a 2-1 lead. The game then saw a number of momentum changes, first with the Wings scoring a pair of quick goals, re-establishing their one goal lead at 3-2. Then a key save by Bob Watson led to an offensive set highlighted by a goal by Lewis Ratcliff, his 4th as a member of Rock, tying the game at 3-3. However, the tie was short lived as Philadelphia sniper Athan Iannucci made his mark on the 2nd quarter with his second and third goals of the game to spread the Wings advantage to 5-3 to end off the first half.

The Rock got back into the game early in the third quarter on a goal by Blaine Manning, his 23rd of the season, which cut the deficit to one goal at 5-4. Unfortunately, for the remainder of the quarter the Rock offense went dry and the Wings took control of the game with four goals in a row, extending their lead to 9-4. Iannucci played a key role in the surge, scoring his fourth goal of the game.

The fourth quarter began positively for Toronto with an early power play marker by Ryan Benesch, his second of the game. The Wings responded with a quick marker, before Benesch scored again to complete his hat trick and bring the Rock to within four at 10-6.

The Rock continued to roll with another goal by Aaron Wilson to make the score 10-7 and ignite hopes of a fourth quarter comeback. An unexpected source, defender Scott Campbell fanned those comeback flames with his 2nd goal of the season on a quick transition, and suddenly Toronto had all of the confidence and momentum, trailing only 10-8.

The Wings finally ended the Rock run with a goal making the score 11-8, but a power play marker by Lewis Ratcliff kept the Toronto comeback alive and brought the Rock back to within two goals at 11-9. Despite a number of great chances and close calls, the Rock couldn’t cut into the lead any further.

Despite the loss, the Rock remained in fourth place in the East Division, now one full game behind the Buffalo Bandits, who dropped into third with the Wings victory. Toronto’s lead over the 5th place New York Titans for the final playoff spot in the East shrunk to only a half game.

The Rock were led by another standout performance from Bob Watson and offensively Toronto’s pace was set by Ryan Benesch (3 goals, 1 assist) and Lewis Ratcliff (2 goals, 2 assists) who each contributed four points. Defensively Rob Marshall had a strong effort running the floor and picking up 14 loose balls.

Toronto (7-6) will look to recover from a difficult weekend and strengthen their position in the playoffs with a match-up against the Chicago Shamrox (4-7) on Saturday April 12th at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. The Rock opened their season with an 11-9 victory in Chicago and will be looking to sweep the season series against their division opponents.
-J.Nevins-

Toronto Rock