Game Review: Rochester 11 at Toronto 13

The Toronto Rock won last night, and they also lost. The win was big, but the loss might have been bigger.

The win was, of course, the game, a 13-11 come-from-behind victory over the new-look Knighthawks. The first half was a see-saw battle, with the score tied at 1, 2, 3, 4, and at half-time, 5. Rochester had yet another one-goal lead at the end of the third, then a three-goal lead in the fourth before Toronto decided that they should just win the damn game and reeled off six straight goals in eight minutes to take a 12-9 lead. Rochester refused to go quietly, scoring two more in the last minute and a half around an empty-net goal by Patrick Merrill but it wasn’t quite enough.

The loss was Colin Doyle, who hobbled off the floor in the second quarter and was not seen again. The word from the Rock is a “lower body injury” and TSN later reported a pulled hamstring and that he will not play tonight in Calgary. This will be the first NLL game Doyle has missed since the 2000 season, a streak of 188 consecutive games. This ties him with former teammate Steve Toll for the NLL “iron man” record. Part of me is hoping the Rock put him out there tomorrow, even if it’s just for one shift, so he can set the record. They likely won’t and I can’t say I blame them; playing around with your captain’s health (not to mention scratching someone healthy so Doyle can play for 30 seconds) for the sake of a record is a bit silly. If Doyle’s injury is serious and he does miss a number of games, that will be a huge loss for the Rock who are already without Blaine Manning.

Rochester scored the first goal of the game on the first shot of the game, a minute and a half in. Cody Jamieson’s first of four on the night was a relatively weak shot from a mile away that beat Roik. After ten minutes, Roik had been beaten four times, though had only allowed that one goal – two shots hit posts (a trend that would continue all night for the Knighthawks) and one got through and trickled towards the net but Sandy Chapman managed to stop it before it went in. That was a weird play, actually – it happened with 9:00 left in the first, and Rochester coach Mike Hasen threw the challenge flag with 8:31 left. By my count, that’s 29 seconds. According to the 2012 rule book:

The challenging club must throw the flag within twenty seconds of the play being challenged. 

Despite Troy Cordingley gently reminding the ref of this rule, the play was reviewed but it wasn’t even close so the no-goal call stood. This ended up working in the Rock’s favour, since the KHawks almost scored a goal early in the second on a play that was closer, but Hasen had already wasted his first-half challenge. (After watching the replay on TV, that goal wasn’t all that close either.)

Only three goals were scored in the third, as the Knighthawks took a 7-5 lead before Ryan Sharp scored a shorthanded goal to bring the Rock within one. The first two goals of the fourth put the Knighthawks up by 3 before the Rock’s third power play goal began the six-goal run. The run also included the Rock’s fourth power play goal – the Rock were 4 for 6 on the power play, while the Knighthawks were only 1 for 5.

Both defenses were pretty solid on the night, though the Rock had some trouble with Cody Jamieson. Jamieson ended up with 4 goals, 4 assists, and 20 shots to lead all players. Stephen Keogh played pretty well but Johnny Powless was great, including a highlight-reel goal in the third. Matt Vinc was not outstanding but made a number of great saves. He did look pretty rattled when the Rock scored six in a row in the fourth. At the other end, Roik made his share of great stops as well, though as I said the first goal was a softie. “He’d like to have that one back” says Mr. Cliché Commentator – luckily Dave Randorf is not Mr. Cliché Commentator and correctly said that Roik really should have make that stop. That was the only real softie though. As he did in the first two games, Roik played well enough to keep the team in it, only this time the offense decided to show up. Drew Petkoff missed part of last year because of injury, and had a strong game in his return.

It was very nice to see the Rock bump their intensity level to come back in the fourth despite missing the leadership of Doyle and Manning. But there is a lot of veteran leadership on this team, so while losing Doyle will definitely hurt, it’s not devastating from a leadership point of view.

Other notes:

  • We almost had one of each type of goal: even strength (most of them), 5 power play goals, two short-handed, one empty net, Cody Jamieson hit the post on a penalty shot, and Matt Roik tried a long shot on an empty net that, I believe, would have made him the first goalie to score a goal in Rock history. That penalty shot happened because the Rock were hit with a too-many-men penalty in the last two minutes of the game, though the reason wasn’t announced (just “The Knighthawks have been awarded a penalty shot”) and a number of people at the game were confused, myself included.
  • The costume budget for the Toronto Rock Cheerleaders must have been drastically cut, though they kept the same number of people on the squad.
  • Toronto’s eighth goal was a weird one: Play in the Toronto end, Toronto defender forward Dan Carey knocked a pass out of the air, grabbed the loose ball and ran up the floor, then passed to forward defender Stephen Hoar who shot it by Vinc. Why Carey was back on D, I’m not sure, (who ever heard of an offensive player playing defense?) but it worked out rather well. Stephen Leblanc was also playing defense on that shift.
  • Stephen Leblanc’s goal in the second (his first of the year) was almost identical to Cody Jamieson’s second of the game in the first. Both cut inside from the goalie’s left and dove across the crease, scoring on the far side.
  • Garrett Billings did his best Blaine Manning impression (he’s already got the hair nailed) in the third, when he cut across the front of the crease, in traffic, and switched hands to shoot left-handed. Didn’t score, but a nice play.
  • The Rock took a too-many-men penalty with a minute left in the third, when Brad Self had a breakaway. It’s not unusual for a team to send a defender out early to try to prevent the breakaway – if the guy scores anyway, the penalty is negated and you lose nothing. If he doesn’t score, you count your blessings and take the two minute penalty. But in this case, Self was already beyond the bench when they sent the defenders out, so there was no point.
  • If the nets were an inch wider and an inch taller, the Knighthawks might have scored 20 goals. We counted ten posts hit by the ‘Hawks and around five by the Rock. Brad Self hit at least four.
  • Jamie Rooney made his Rock debut, and after a go-ahead goal in the first and a beautiful game-tying goal in the fourth, Rock fans have decided that he can stay.
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