Rochester, NY – The Toronto Rock traveled to Rochester on Saturday night looking for their first regular season victory at the Blue Cross Arena against their division rival Knighthawks. After three quarters they seemed well on their way, but fell victim to a huge fourth quarter surge by Rochester and in the end, the Rock fell 11-4.
The Rock got off to a great start with a power play goal by Josh Sanderson less than a minute into the game, which was followed by a series of spectacular saves by goaltender Bob Watson. More than ten minutes passed before the Rock were able to extend their lead to 2-0 on a goal by Blaine Manning, which was actually scored by Rochester defender Marshall Abrams. The Knighthawks closed the gap to one on a late power play goal by Scott Evans, which brought an end to a defensive and physically punishing first quarter.
The physical edge continued into the second quarter and the Rock muscled their way into a 3-1 lead with a shorthanded goal by Rob Marshall on a clever feed by Peter Lough. The Rock continued to push with a power play goal by Josh Sanderson, his second of the game and 12th of the season. The goal gave Toronto a 4-1 lead heading into half time.
The Rock defence gave up a few early opportunities in the third frame, but several stellar saves by Watson, allowed Toronto to maintain their 4-1 lead and clearly increased Rochester’s frustration. Scott Evans brought the Knighthawks to within one of the Rock, but Bob Watson continued to thwart repeated attempts scoring attempts and the Rock defence continued to make their opponents pay physically for every shot they took.
However, the fierce Rock defensive machine that dominated the first three quarters appeared to run out of gas in the fourth. John Grant, who the Rock had amazingly held off the scoreboard through three quarters, opened the final quarter with a breakaway goal to reduce the Rock lead to 4-3. Rochester gained momentum from that goal and it seemed to wake the defending champs out of their year long funk.
The Knighthawks continued to pressure Toronto and, led by the Evans brothers, Scott and Shawn, they overwhelmed the Rock with seven more goals to take a commanding 10-4 lead. At that point, the Rock made a mercy goaltending change, replacing Bob Watson with Mike Poulin. But that didn’t slow the Rochester offense, as they scored their ninth goal of the fourth quarter, and their tenth straight overall to make the final score 11-4.
The Rock entered the game riding the emotions of two straight victories and with the goal of putting their eleven game regular season losing streak in Rochester to an end. But playing shorthanded without two of their strongest defenders, injured captain Jim Veltman and Cam Woods, the Rock team had no answer for the fourth quarter Knighthawks onslaught.
Toronto was led by Josh Sanderson’s two goals, and strong goaltending by Bob Watson, who ultimately deserved a better fate.
The Rock (3-3) will look to rebound from this difficult loss with an important home game at 7:30pm on Friday February 15thth at the Air Canada Centre against their division rival the Buffalo Bandits.