Friday’s round one between the Toronto Rock and the Minnesota Swarm at the Air Canada Centre was a wide open and nasty affair, but round two between the teams on Saturday night at the Xcel Energy Center quickly settled into a defensive struggle with little of the drama and animosity displayed the night before. The end result however, was the same, with the Swarm defeating the Rock, this time 11-4, behind the stellar goaltending of Nick Patterson.
Similar to Friday night’s game, this tussle got off to a tentative offensive start before Andy Secore opened the scoring with a wrap-around goal from behind the net, surprising Toronto goaltender Mike Poulin. Sean Pollock followed with a second Minnesota goal, before Rock captain Jim Veltman gave his teammates something to rally around on a spectacular individual effort. Veltman intercepted a Swarm pass at half court, then flipped the ball to himself over a Swarm defender’s head, before breaking in alone and dazzling Minnesota’s Nick Patterson with several sharp moves, scoring to make the score 2-1.
In the second quarter, the Rock faced a surging Swarm offense that potted two goals by Ryan Ward along with Sean Pollock’s second of the game, staking Minnesota to a commanding 5-1 lead. The Rock returned the offensive pressure only to be repeatedly stymied by Patterson. Team spirits were raised on a late power play goal by Blaine Manning his 7th of the young season, before that momentum was stopped following a Minnesota power play goal by Dean Hill. The second half ended with the Swarm leading 6-2.
The Rock looked to have a strong second half and get themselves back into the game, but fell victim to an early power play goal by Minnesota rookie Craig Point, which extended the Minnesota lead to five. The Rock gamely rallied on a second breakaway goal by Jim Veltman and a hard earned tally by sophomore Ryan Benesch to bring them within reach of the Swarm at 7-4.
Once again the Rock momentum was short lived as Minnesota’s Ryan Ward scored on an outside shot that marked the end of the night for Rock goalie Mike Poulin. Bob Watson came into the game in an effort to steady the Rock, but was greeted with another Swarm goal, this one by Chad Culp to make the score 9-4. The remainder of the game slowed into a defensive grind, which favoured the front running Swarm and left the Rock with a daunting challenge in the fourth quarter.
In the last frame, Minnesota used the shot clock very effectively and scored two more goals by Dean Hill and Ryan Sharp to end the game at 11-4.
In a losing effort, the Rock were led on both ends of the floor by captain Jim Veltman who scored twice and gathered 8 loose balls.
Toronto (1-2), will look to break their two game losing streak and get their offense back on track in Edmonton against the Rush next Saturday night at 9:30 p.m. EST.