Toronto, ON 01/15/05 – The Toronto Rock opened their seventh season at the Air Canada Centre in front of 17,229 fans. Everyone in attendance played witness to the new look Rock taking on the League’s newest franchise, the Minnesota Swarm. The Rock came out hungry for action early in the first quarter. With Jim Veltman and Glenn Clark on the bench suffering from injury, Toronto needed strong games from veterans Blaine Manning, Josh Sanderson, and a repeat stellar performance by Matt Shearer. With penalties flying, Rusty Kruger managed to score first, allowing the Rock to set the pace of the game. Minnesota, coming off an unexpected 12-11 win over the Rochester Knighthawks last week in their franchise debut, would not let up easily. Answering a quick 24 seconds later was Riley Kemp, keeping the Rock on their toes.
Toronto’s powerhouse first line, Blaine Manning, Aaron Wilson and Rusty Kruger, combined for 5 of the Rock’s 6 first quarter goals. At the end of the first, Toronto led 6-4.
Minnesota looked to swarm the Rock in the second, tying the score with two quick goals. Tempers flared and gloves dropped as rough play led to a 5 minute penalty and 10 minute misconduct to the Swarm’s Craig Conn. The Rock capitalized on the power play, increasing their lead to three goals. However, miscommunication led to back-to-back Minnesota breakaways, as the Swarm pulled within one. Minnesota goaltender Matt Disher frustrated the Rock in the second with key saves, keeping the game tight. Aaron Wilson and Blaine Manning both scored their 3rd goals of the game. At the end of the half, their hat tricks helped the Rock maintain a slim one- goal lead of 10-9.
The aggressive nature of the game showed no sign of slowing in the third quarter, as Toronto’s Ladouceur and Forget found themselves in the penalty box. Minnesota took advantage of the 5-on-3 situation and put two balls in the back of the net, closing in on the Rock. The score was 11-11 when Manning’s spectacular game continued, putting the Rock back on top with yet another goal.
The Rock’s timely offensive skills picked up in the 4th quarter, as Josh Sanderson registered his impressive 9th assist of the day. Toronto surpassed 60 shots on net, as Manning continued to light up the scoreboard with his 6th goal of the game. The Rock pulled away with the game, leading 18-15 with just over a minute left to play. Minnesota pulled Disher in a desperate attempt to ignite a comeback, but Chris Driscoll sealed the win with an empty- netter.
It looks as though the Rock and the Swarm may have found themselves new division rivals, as Toronto handed Minnesota their first franchise loss. The Rock improve their season to 2-0 with a convincing 19-15 win. They take to the road as they play the Philadelphia Wings next Saturday night. Fans can catch the game on AM 640 starting at 7:30pm.