Game report: Minnesota 12 at Toronto 13

In last week’s Rock home opener, the Rock had a three-goal lead in the fourth quarter but then allowed Philly to score the last four goals of the game to come back and win it. Friday night was a complete turnaround, in which the Minnesota Swarm had a four-goal lead in the third quarter but allowed Toronto to score the last five goals of the game to come back and win it. About the Rock’s 8-7 loss to Philly, Rock owner Jamie Dawick tweeted that he was “disgusted”, though later admitted that that term was a little harsh. But he said the other day that he’d rather lose 20-0 than have defeat snatched from the jaws of victory like that. I imagine Dawick’s first thought at the final buzzer on Friday was “That’s more like it”.

Friday’s game was one of momentum, I thought. The first quarter was back and forth and nobody really dominated for most of it. The Rock scored the last two goals, within 35 seconds, to take a 4-2 lead and with Doyle’s goal, it looked like things were swinging the Rock’s way. But in the second quarter the momentum shifted, as the Swarm scored two within 22 seconds to tie it up and then two more over the next 3 minutes. Again the Rock tied it and it looked like if they scored the next goal, they’d be off and running. Instead, the Swarm again swung the momentum back their way, this time scoring six of the next eight goals to take a 12-8 lead. They even chased Nick Rose from the game for a few minutes and giving Zack Boychuk his first taste of NLL action. The Rock pecked away at the lead at the end of the third, and made it a brand new game in the fourth as Josh Sanderson scored his fourth of the game and Garrett Billings tied it less than a minute in. There was only one goal the rest of the way, Stephen Leblanc’s winner.

Both goaltenders were very good, though not outstanding like last week; there were goals on both sides that probably shouldn’t have been. Both defenses also played very well, and it was evident why Brock Sorensen was drafted as high as he was. He’s a big solid guy who not only made it difficult for the Rock forwards to even see the net, but he can put the ball in the net himself, as we saw with his beautiful behind-the-back goal in the third. John Grant couldn’t have made that look any nicer.

The Rock defenders, on the other hand, aren’t huge as a rule, but for the most part they managed pretty well to keep the Swarm forwards off-balance.  That said, the first goal of the night was from Kiel Matisz and at 6’5″, this may be the way he will score a great many of his goals. He was standing to the left of the net with his back to it, and Chris White in between him and Rosey. He stepped backwards into White and then stopped, as though testing how much resistance he was going to get. Evidently he decided “not enough”, and then plowed backwards, pushing White out of the way, and dove across the crease, depositing the ball over Rosey’s left shoulder. Pretty goal, and the power behind it was unreal.

There are games where if you end up losing, nobody would blame you for not playing hard. Last week’s game was like that – the Rock really should have put the Wings away but Brandon Miller didn’t let them. It’s not that the Rock gave up or didn’t work hard, but it just didn’t happen. But if you have a game like that and end up winning it, the phrase that’s come up in recent years is “character win” and that’s exactly what we saw on Friday. There were times when those in the crowd thought the game might be over even though it was only the third quarter, but the team never did.

Other game notes:

  • Callum Crawford had a couple of nice goals, but rather than plowing through the defense like Matisz, his were more of the get-open-and-fire-a-bullet type.
  • There were at least two Air Gait attempts by the Swarm and one by the Rock, none of which worked. On one of them, Boychuk already had his arm across the crossbar before the shot, so it looked like he had practiced preventing such goals. I’ve got mixed feelings about this play. While it looks spectacular, it’s kind of a cheap goal.
  • From my seat, I had a great angle of Garrett Billings’ tying goal in the 4th. Leblanc got him the ball and he fired a laser into a tiny little triangle in the top corner. It’s not obvious from the TV angles, but the space he had to hit was barely bigger than the ball. Pinpoint accuracy.
  • With a little over two minutes left in the fourth, the Rock scored a weird goal and Joe Sullivan threw the challenge flag. After a couple of minutes of watching the video, the goal was waved off. Once the replay was shown, it was immediately obvious that the Rock player was in the crease when the ball crossed the line. There was no question, so why did the review take so long?
  • I missed the anthem last week because of traffic, but I remember this anthem singer from last year. How does such a skinny little guy like that generate so much power with his voice? His body was shaking so much during some of the notes I thought he was going to explode.
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