Preseason game report: Rochester 12 @ Toronto 6

Both the Toronto Rock and the Rochester Knighthawks are now 1-1 in the preseason after the defending champs defeated the Rock 12-6 at the TRAC on Saturday night. Each team was missing some players who will likely be in their opening-day lineups; Rochester was missing Mike Accursi and Craig Point while the Rock were down Garrett Billings, Stephen Leblanc, Bill Greer, and Sandy Chapman. I didn’t hear any announcement about one of the Knighthawk goalies being scratched, implying that they dressed all three, but Matt Vinc played the whole game and looked really good. Nick Rose played most of the game, though exactly how much I don’t know; I suppose I wasn’t paying enough attention. At one point the Rock switched goalies but Rosey came in while Zak Boychuk went out. I have no idea how long Boychuk had been in there. (According to the game report on torontorock.com, Boychuk was only in for a few seconds.)

The Knighthawks played a strong game, as you might expect from the two-time defending champions. Dan Dawson was his usual dominant self, and Cody Jamieson continues to make his presence felt. Jesse Gamble, for instance, felt his presence pretty well early in the game, as Jamieson simply devastated Gamble with a huge open-ice hit.  The Rock didn’t have a great game offensively, which should be obvious from the fact that they only scored 6 goals. There seemed to be a lot of passes around the perimeter but the whole “one guy draws a double-team allowing someone to get free in front of the net” just didn’t happen (perhaps because Billings is usually the guy who’s double-teamed), and the Knighthawk defense forced the Rock to take lots of low-percentage shots. Vinc was more than up to the task for those.

Nick Rose played well but not great. He made the simple stops, but I still think he gives up too many rebounds. I guess it’s no big deal if the Rock pick it up or Rose makes the second save as well, but when the other team scores on a shot they shouldn’t have had, that’s frustrating.

It was quite a physical game too. No actual fights, but there were the beginning of several and quite a lot of shoving that came to either nothing or coincident roughing minors. Paul Dawson had at least three penalties, and I was convinced that a Dawson / Craig England fight was inevitable. Or possibly Dawson / Damon Edwards. Or  Powless / Edwards. Or even Burton / Doyle. Doyle actually had two penalties in the game; I wonder if he’s changing his game to be more of an Andrew Suitor type: the captain AND the team penalty minute leader. Hmmmm….. Nah.

It’s wasn’t quite the rookie-fest that the last game was, though the Rock had about five in the lineup. Craig England looks like he might battle Scott Johnston for the enforcer role on the team, while Dustin Dunn and Ethan O’Connor played a lot of minutes on defense. The Rock look to be a quick transitioning team this year, with Gamble, Marshall, Edwards, Chapman, Dunn, and O’Connor all able to turn the ball around quickly. They even have a guy named Swift!

Speaking of Swift, he and Eric Law both had pretty solid games on offense, particularly Law. He scored a couple, and looked pretty comfortable as part of the offense. I didn’t think Brendan Thenhaus had a particularly strong game, and wouldn’t be surprised to see him dropped to the practice roster.

Other game notes:

  • In the second quarter, a Rock player took a shot that Ian Llord managed to save while standing in the crease – right in front of Matt Vinc. Nice save for a non-goalie (see below), but why was Llord even there – in the crease, standing directly in front of his own goalie?
  • Near the end of the game, the Rock had pulled Nick Rose for an extra attacker. After a turnover, Rose tried to get back to the net before the Knighthawks transition man but it was immediately clear that he had no chance to make it. Colin Doyle could and did, but did not make the save. You may remember that Doyle played goal for almost ten minutes of a Mann Cup game this past summer, when both Six Nations goalies were tossed from the game for using illegal equipment. From all accounts, he did a decent job.
  • There was a guy with a cowbell who would pound on it every time the Rock gained possession of the ball. (He was there last week too.) My eleven-year-old son looked up the first time he heard it and said “Wow, that’s annoying.” Yup.
  • After a shot hit either Vinc or the crossbar and went high in the air, Paul Dawson reached up and caught it on the way down. Josh Sanderson then smacked the ball out of Dawson’s stick, grabbed it, and took a quick shot. Didn’t score, but the fact that Sanderson, who’s not known for his defensive prowess, stripped the ball away from Paul Dawson, who’s probably ten inches taller, was pretty impressive.
  • Not a single goal from behind the net, though Doyle tried one. Good news for Rosey. Considering the length of Dan Dawson’s arms, that’s a bit surprising.
  • Despite there being a crazy huge snowstorm in southern Ontario, there was a pretty good crowd on hand. I drove in from Waterdown, and the QEW wasn’t great but wasn’t terrible. I don’t really need lane markers anyway.
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