Now that’s more like it.
After last week’s back-and-forth squeaker victory over the Bandits broke the winless streak (which I didn’t write about – sorry, just ran outta time), the 2016 Rock turned into the 2015 Rock for one night, blowing the Knighthawks out of the water 17-6 on Saturday night. On Stephan Leblanc bobblehead night, Leblanc had a great game with 8 points, Colin Doyle had 9 and Rob Hellyer had 11, his third game out of his last four with double-digit points. But the star of the show for the second straight game was Nick Rose who was seeing the ball very well all night and kept the Knighthawks to only 6 goals despite facing 58 shots.
That said, Rosey’s point production did drop by 100%. He did have an opportunity near the end of the game with the Knighthawk net empty but wisely chose not to shoot it. In general, I think that if the game is close enough that you pull your goalie, then it’s close enough for the other team to score an empty-netter. That’s the risk you take. If it’s the goalie that scores, so be it. But I’m not entirely sure why the Knighthawks had pulled their goalie, considering they were down by about ten and it wasn’t a delayed penalty situation. Having the goalie score on them at that point would have been showing them up in my opinion, and not terribly sportsmanlike so I’m glad he pulled back.
Toronto had it all working on this night. The offense was crisp, the defense was strong, and the goaltending was outstanding. It’s certainly possible I’m misremembering but the only shot clock violations I remember from the Rock were on the PK or near the end of the game when they were running out the clock, and they didn’t have any 8-second violations.
The Knighthawks did not have it working at all. Dan Dawson was a little off all night – missing the net with shots, missing teammates with passes, and losing his head and taking penalties. He took two in this one – intentional off-ball contact (by giving Billy Hostrawser a good shove after the whistle) and head-butting. Heat-butting? Is that really a thing? Yup, though this was only the fourth head-butting penalty in the NLL since 2005. Cody Jamieson also took two penalties – one for slashing and also one for off-ball contact on the same play as Dawson’s. As a Rock fan, seeing both Dawson and Jamieson walking to the penalty box at the same time while the Rock only lost Hostrawser was pretty sweet. Even the Rock themselves thought it was a good trade-off.
In the 4th quarter, Knighthawk captain Sid Smith took three separate slashing penalties in just over five minutes. The Rock scored on two of them. Toronto scored eight power play goals on the night.
Matt Vinc wasn’t on his game either. He was yanked after 14 minutes and 7 goals, though Angus Goodleaf had a pretty good game in relief. He did give up 10 goals but made some timely saves that on a night when their offense was working (and he wasn’t staked to a 7-goal deficit already) would have kept his team in the game. But any time you have Dawson, Jamieson, and Vinc all struggling on the same night, the Knighthawks are unlikely to win. The Knighthawks’ struggles were summed up at the end of the first quarter when they were down 7-1. Scoring on your final possession of the quarter would be a good way to kill any Rock momentum, right? Nope. With just over 30 seconds left, they took a lazy 8-second violation, giving the Rock the final possession of the quarter.
Toronto playing like they did on Saturday almost guarantees a win. Rochester playing like they did almost guarantees a loss. When both happen in the same game, you get what we saw: total dominance. It looks like the Rock are back, and now we have to see if they can get out of the huge hole they dug for themselves in the first six games.
Other game notes:
- At the Georgia game, the Rock didn’t play the Mission: Impossible theme in the 4th quarter after I asked them to stop. This week they didn’t play the annoying “Holla Holla” song before the game, a couple of weeks after I asked them to stop. What should I ask for next, folks? Free drinks? Box seats? A pony?
- I love Bruce Barker’s announcing of Rock games. He’s never once made fun of the opposing team or any opposing players, and always keeps it classy and respectful. But when the Rock score a goal that puts them up by 12 with a few minutes left in the game, I might have held back on the “Toronto: Do you want another?” call.
- Bill Greer got lifted off his feet and deposited into the Rochester bench, and then he was given a penalty while the Knighthawks who shoved him (Hossack and someone else) got nothing. But then I wondered what rule was broken that should have resulted in a penalty to the Knighthawks. It wasn’t exactly boarding, but surely that would have qualified as roughing, no?
- Dan Lintner had a great game, scoring a beauty near the end of the second and adding a few assists. I keep associating him with Kevin Crowley and Garrett Billings since Lintner was acquired for Crowley who was acquired for Billings. But Lintner’s game is very different. He’s not firing top-corner bullets like Billings or plowing through defenders like Crowley. Lintner’s game is to squeeze between or around defenders to get in close and it looks like he’s pretty good at it.
- Odd: In 2015, Dan Dawson had four penalties all season. Two of them came in one game, a game in which Dawson scored 1 goal (on the power play) and had 3 assists but the Knighthawks only scored 6 goals. In 2016: same.
- It looked (to my friends, I didn’t see the play) like Billy Hostrawser either broke his arm or dislocated his shoulder near the end of the game. I’ve been hard on Hostrawser in the past for taking dumb penalties, but I thought he played a great game. Solid defense, gritty without taking dumb penalties, and the one penalty he did take was justified since he took Dan Dawson and Cody Jamieson to the box with him. I hope he’s OK.