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Rock falls to Roughnecks in defensive battle

TORONTO – With ten out of 11 teams within one game of a playoff spot coming into National Lacrosse League action this weekend, the outcome of Saturday afternoon’s contest between the Toronto Rock and the Calgary Roughnecks should not have come as a surprise.

It took the entire 60 minutes for the game to be decided on Saturday, as the Roughnecks desperately held on to a one-goal advantage late in the game, overcoming a last-ditch effort by the Rock to come out on top by an 11-9 margin in front of a season-high crowd of 17,942 at the Air Canada Centre.

With Calgary leading 10-8 in the final quarter and Rock goalie Bob Watson on the bench in favour of an extra attacker, Toronto forward Aaron Wilson pulled the home team within one goal at 12:31 of the frame to set up a chance to send the game into overtime.

However, the Rock were unable to capitalize on a number of last-second opportunities and were forced to watch hopelessly as Roughnecks assistant captain Kyle Goundrey notched an empty-net goal with 23 seconds left in the game to seal Toronto’s fate.

Taking nothing away from his team’s opponent, Rock Head Coach/GM Terry Sanderson was displeased with his club’s effort in the loss.

“This is (like) one of one of our first four games … is what we resembled out there tonight,” said Sanderson, referring to the team’s season-opening slump. “Calgary didn’t do anything we didn’t expect them to do.”

During an opening quarter that featured rough play from both sides, Calgary captain Tracey Kelusky struck first, scoring a power-play marker 1:43 into the contest. Fellow Roughnecks sniper Lewis Ratcliff followed, as the 2006 NLL all-star game MVP scored an unassisted goal just 33 seconds later to give the visitors an early 2-0 advantage.

Josh Sanderson and Blaine Manning responded for the Rock, as the veteran forwards notched their 20th and 21st goals of the season, respectively, to even the score at two. But Kelusky then scored his second power-play goal of the quarter and added another at even strength just before the end of the opening frame – one that included eight penalties – to give the Roughnecks a 4-3 lead. Calgary goaltender Curtis Palidwor was solid throughout the quarter, turning aside 15 of 18 Rock shots.

Both teams tightened up defensively in the second quarter, including Rock goalie Bob Watson, who made a pair of spectacular saves during the first five minutes of the frame. Sanderson gave Toronto a 5-4 lead at the 7:04 mark but immediately watched as Kelusky delivered his fourth goal of the contest less than 40 seconds later. Roughnecks forward Kevin Dostie closed out the first half with a power-play marker – Calgary’s fourth in six chances – to send the teams to the dressing room knotted at six goals apiece.

Palidwor continued his stellar netminding in the third, turning away nine of 10 Rock shots in the quarter. After Ratcliff notched his 28th goal of the season to give the visitors a two-lead, Sanderson closed it to 8-7 with his fourth of the contest – a power-play marker – at the 3:44 mark of the quarter.

After the teams exchanged goals to open the fourth, Kelusky scored a decisive marker to give Calgary a two-goal lead – 10-8 – once again. The goal was his fifth in as many shots on the day.

Sanderson led the Rock offensively, scoring a season-high four goals while adding two assists. Manning notched two goals and collected four assists, while Colin Doyle, Aaron Wilson and Rusty Kruger picked up the other Rock goals in the contest.

Kelusky was the offensive star for the Roughnecks, scoring a game-high five goals while adding an assist. Ratcliff scored three times and picked up four assists for Calgary, who also received goals from Dostie, Jesse Phillips and Kyle Goundrey.

Up Next: The Rock (7-6) will try to get back in the win column next Saturday, April 1, as they travel to Minnesota for an 8:00 p.m. Eastern start against the Swarm (6-6) at Xcel Energy Centre. The game can be heard live on The Fan 590 or be seen live on B2 Networks – The next Rock home game is on Saturday, April 8 when Toronto will host the Philadelphia Wings in a 7:00 p.m. Eastern start at the Air Canada Centre. Calgary now sits at 7-5.

Notes: The Rock finish with a 3-1 overall record against Canadian teams in the NLL this season … Toronto tied a season-low by scoring just three goals in the second half … Watson made 37 saves on 47 total shots … Canadian jockey legend Sandy Hawley was on hand for the ceremonial opening face-off.

National Lacrosse League
(At Air Canada Centre)
First Quarter
1. Calgary Kelusky (Ratcliff) 1:43 pp
2. Calgary Ratcliff (unassisted) 2:16
3. Toronto J. Sanderson (Wilson, Manning) 3:36 pp
4. Toronto Manning (J. Sanderson, Beisel) 4:09
5. Calgary Kelusky (Ratcliff) 8:12 pp
6. Toronto Manning (J. Sanderson, Driscoll) 13:30 pp
7. Calgary Kelusky (Ratcliff) 14:46
PenaltiesToronto Merrill (illegal crosscheck) 0:35, Calgary Crawford (illegal substitution) 3:31, Calgary Hamilton (Illegal crosscheck) 5:43, Toronto Campbell (holding) 6:32, Calgary Ogilvie (Illegal crosscheck) 10:36, Calgary Moleski (boarding) 12:20, Toronto O’Brien (roughing) 13:55, Calgary Moleski (roughing) 13:55.

Second Quarter
8. Toronto Kruger (Manning, P.Sanderson) 3:22 sh
9. Toronto J. Sanderson (Manning, Wilson) 7:04
10. Calgary Kelsuky (Toth) 7:42 pp
11. Toronto J. Sanderson (Doyle) 11:10
12. Calgary Dostie (Kelusky, Ratcliff) 13:26 pp
PenaltiesToronto Ladouceur (slashing) 2:35, Calgary Phillips (checking from behind) 4:16, Toronto O’Brien (illegal crosscheck) 7:31, Toronto Suddons (checking from behind) 11:30, Toronto Evans (too many) 13:13.

Third Quarter
13. Calgary Phillips (Ogilvie) 1:19
14. Calgary Ratcliff (Crawford, Hamilton) 2:06
15. Toronto J. Sanderson (Manning, Veltman) 3:44 pp
PenaltiesCalgary Hamilton (holding the stick) 3:29, Calgary Phillips (illegal crosscheck) 12:53.

Fourth Quarter
16. Calgary Ratcliff (Crawford, Ogilvie) 1:00
17. Toronto Doyle (Beisel, Suddons) 6:24
18. Calgary Kelusky (unassisted) 7:24
19. Toronto Wilson (Veltman, Driscoll) 12:31
20. Calgary Goundrey (Kirkby) 14:37
PenaltiesCalgary Crawford (too many) 2:51, Calgary Phillips (checking from behind) 8:16
Calgary 48, Toronto 51
Powerplays: Calgary 4/6; Toronto 3/9
GoaliesToronto Watson (saves 40, shots 51) Calgary Palidwor (saves 39, shots 48)
Players of the GameCalgary Ratcliff, Defensive Player: Toronto Beisel
Referees -Chet Couture, Bruce Crawford, Mark Gardonio

Toronto Rock