Game Report: Rochester 17 @ Toronto 13

The Toronto Rock 2012 season came to a crashing halt on Saturday while the Rochester Knighthawks will now host the Championship game. Long story short: the Knighthawks came to play, literally bringing busloads of fans with them, and destroyed the Rock 17-13, in a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score might indicate.

The early part of the game was back-and-forth, with the Knighthawks taking leads three times before the Rock tied it up again. Rochester managed to grab a two-goal lead by the end of the first half, but the Rock were definitely still in it at that point. The Rock were frustrated by the Knighthawks defense, who just weren’t giving them any shots. Now and again they’d get a look from way outside, and a few times they seemed to get a lane right up the middle, but the only thing to shoot at was Vinc’s chest, which they hit on a number of occasions.

Rock fans were hoping the team would be fired up to start the second half and tie the game up quickly, but it just didn’t happen. Instead the Knighthawks scored three within 4½ minutes to start the third, and then three within 2½ minutes to start the fourth. But by that beginning of the fourth, we knew it was effectively all over but the crying, and the Rochester goal-scoring. The Rock offense just couldn’t solve the Rochester defense and when they did, Matt Vinc was there. Vinc played a great game while at the other end, Nick Rose didn’t have his strongest outing. I didn’t think he was terrible and I wouldn’t pin the loss on him, but he certainly wasn’t as strong as last weekend. The Rock defense hung him out to dry on a number of occasions, and he let in a few softies as well. In the third, Stephen Keogh ran right through a pair of Rock defenders like they weren’t there and scored, and that was the game in a nutshell. The Rock D did pick up in the second half of the third quarter, when the Rock were only down by 4. It looked like they were trying to pull the same comeback thing they pulled last week. But then the Knighthawks had another run and Toronto just couldn’t get back into it.

If I have one complaint about Nick Rose it’s that he allows too many rebounds. Many times he came up big and made a huge save but gave up a huge rebound at the same time, and the Knighthawks would bury the rebound as Rose was recovering. I first noticed that tendency in Rose’s first game in Buffalo, though in that game as well as the one last week, he made a lot of the second saves as well. On Saturday, not so much.

As per usual, Garrett Billings was tops on the Rock scoring list, with Doyle and Sanderson right behind him. Also as per usual (this year), Stephen Leblanc got a few points but was mostly invisible. Toronto’s transition played pretty well – damn, it’s nice to have Rob Marshall back – but the loss of Damon Edwards didn’t help. Something that not only didn’t help but actually made things worse was the addition of rookie goon Scott Johnston. In the fourth quarter, with Pat Campbell in net (he and Rose swapped on almost every shift for a while late in the game), Campbell came way out of his net to grab a loose ball and then started to run up the floor on transition. He got blocked near the centre line (!) and Pat McCready hit him into the boards. This was a weird enough play (one could argue it was a stupid play – what the hell was Campbell trying to accomplish? With his pads on he runs way slower than anyone else), but then Scott Johnston jumped McCready and tried to fight him. Both got fighting majors but Johnston was tossed and given an instigator penalty, so the Knighthawks went on the PP. Just what we needed when trying to get back into the game. And for what – to come to the aid of Pat Campbell? Who on the Rock can stand up for themselves better than Pat Campbell? This is a guy who instigated a fight with Geoff Snider earlier this year. He doesn’t need Scott Johnston to stand up for him, and he certainly doesn’t need Johnston to put his team a man down while desperately trying to come back in the fourth quarter of a playoff game. As I tweeted during the game, that might have been the dumbest play I’ve seen all year. And good god, man, lose the bad Movember ‘stache.

Other game notes:

  • The Harbour Sports Grille is apparently a popular place with lacrosse people. Not only did we see a bunch of other Rock jerseys, but Knighthawks assistant coach Paul Day was sitting with his family at the table next to us, and our waitress told us that both of the refs were there earlier – though sitting separately. They have TVs all over the place, and at one point we were watching baseball, cricket, golf, and two different highlights shows all at the same time. I assume they changed all the TVs to the Rock/Knighthawks game once that began.
  • Cory Vitarelli had a great game. Not only did he score four goals, but at one point in the second he stopped Rob Marshall against the boards and wouldn’t let him go. It would have caused an 8-second violation but instead Marshall dropped the ball and Vitarelli picked it up. An outstanding defensive play.
  • Johnny Powless scored Rochester’s 14th goal (the game winner), and it looked to me like his foot was on the crease line. I went through the TV replay when I got home and it was indeed a good goal, but just barely. It was close enough that I’m surprised Cordingley didn’t challenge it. There was still over 12 minutes to play at that point, so I hope it wasn’t because he figured it just didn’t matter.
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