Rochester, NY – The Rochester Knighthawks defeated the Toronto Rock 10-9 on Saturday night at Rochester’s Blue Cross Arena. With the win, the Knighthawks take a 1-0 series lead in the 2-game East Division Final series.
“I don’t think anything changes here,” Rock Head Coach John Lovell said after dropping the first game of the series. “Whoever wins game two of this series is going to win it.”
To win the series, the Rock will have to win Game 2 at home next weekend and win the 10-minute tiebreaker game that would follow should the Rock win.
Toronto opened the scoring with Rob Hellyer connecting on an outside shot on the power play. The Knighthawks however, scored the next three goals including a pair from Craig Point to give Rochester a 3-1 lead after one quarter.
The Knighthawks rode the momentum of their two late first quarter goals, and the raucous crowd, stretching their lead to 5-1 just 4:30 into the second quarter. Stephan Leblanc broke up the Rochester 5-goal run with a pretty finish on a feed from Brett Hickey to make it 5-2 with less than 5 minutes remaining in the half. Kasey Beirnes fired a laser of a pass across the floor through a seam to a wide open Colin Doyle who buried an outside shot to draw the Rock to within 2. Doyle’s goal was his 50th playoff marker in a Rock jersey.
With just seconds to play in the half, Toronto pulled their goaltender to go 6-on-5 and try for a last second goal. After the original shot from Kevin Crowley was stopped, Brett Hickey picked up the loose ball and fired a buzzer beater to make it a one-goal game, 5-4 at the half.
Kasey Beirnes scored on a quick-stick right on top of the crease, a spot where he has made his living in the NLL, tying the game 5-5. Rochester pushed ahead, but in similar fashion to the end of the first half, the Rock scored with just one second left in the third quarter to tie the game. It was Beirnes again on smooth feed from Josh Sanderson to make it 6-6 at the end of three.
The two teams exchanged goals early in the fourth quarter before Brad Self scored his third goal of the game in transition for the Knighthawks to put them ahead 8-7. Craig Point’s third goal of the game gave Rochester a 9-7 lead. Hickey netted his second of the game, shorthanded, to make it a one-goal game 6:20 to play. It was Hickey again, delivering the tying goal with 3:59 to play in regulation.
In the final minute, Rochester’s Dan Dawson shook the check of the Rock’s Brodie Merrill right in front of the net and scored to give Rochester the win with just 37 seconds remaining.
The second game of the East Division Final will shift back to Toronto, one week from tonight on Saturday, May 23rd at 7:00pm at Air Canada Centre. Toronto will need to win Game 2 and the 10-minute tiebreaker game in order to win the series and advance to the Champion’s Cup Final. For the BEST ticket in town and more information, please visit torontorock.com or call 416-596-3075.
Photo: Larry Palumbo