Game report: Rochester 9 @ Toronto 17

After a rough 0-2 start, the Rock’s wining streak continued on Friday night with a 17-9 win over the Rochester Knighthawks. Or if you’re a Knighthawks fan, after a strong 2-0 start, the Knighthawks lost their second straight game on Friday night, a 17-9 loss to the Toronto Rock.

The Knighthawks did not look like the same team that demolished the Bandits a few weeks back. Their offense was haphazard – they actually looked a bit like the Rock in their first couple of games. That said, they were up against the Rock defense, who had a great game. A couple of the Rochester goals were scored from inside (I specifically remember Dawson’s goal – he basically ran straight up the middle almost untouched) but for the most part, they were all outside shots because they just couldn’t get to the inside.

Picture from Rock website, no credit availableAs good as the Rock’s offense and defense was, their transition game was on fire. It seemed that almost every time a Knighthawks possession ended, there was a Rock transition scoring opportunity – a two-on-one or partial breakaway. Burns, Rogers, Merrill, Caputo, Edwards, Sorensen, Harris, even Hostrawser were flying up the floor all night long.

Nick Rose played well in general, stopping most of the shots he should have stopped. He also stopped at least one shot he had no earthly business stopping at all, robbing the Knighthawks of a wide-open almost empty-net goal with an acrobatic stick save. Rochester scored on a very similar play later in the game, but we gave Rosey a pass on that one since you can’t expect that kind of miraculous save twice in one game.

Matt Vinc was not strong in the Rochester net and was pulled after only thirteen minutes. Note that he had already faced 17 shots by that point, but didn’t seem to be seeing the ball well. Angus Goodleaf came in and did a pretty decent job, finishing with a respectable save percentage of 77.8%, but the Rock offense took enough shots that saving 77.8% of them still led to 11 goals.

I know it’s only been a couple of games but trading Stephan Leblanc for Sheldon Burns is starting to look like a brilliant move. Burns is all over the floor, scoring goals and intercepting passes, and seems as much a quarterback of the transition as Brodie Merrill. As I’ve said before (I think), it’s not like Leblanc was a drain on the offense and getting rid of him has helped them. Their improvement over the first two games was just a matter of timing. They’ve simply adjusted after the addition of Hellyer and Jones and offensive coach Blaine Manning has them playing like a well-oiled machine. Guys like Reinholdt, McArdle, and Craig are contributing not only with goals but in getting inside and setting picks; Reinholdt did a particularly nice job with a pick that allowed Schreiber a wide-open look at the net for one of his four goals. The fact that they’re not missing Leblanc (or Lintner, see below) is not a statement on those players or their abilities, it’s a testament to the players they have.

Other game notes:

  • Dan Lintner was a healthy scratch for the third straight game. I feel bad for him – with the Rock’s offense scoring 61 goals in the last three games, the team is not likely to want to make any personnel changes unless they have to. You don’t mess with what’s working. But hopefully that doesn’t mean Lintner sits for significant time. I like what he brings to the team and IMHO he’s too good a player to sit that long.
  • Knighthawks rookie Austin Shanks played his first NLL game and played well, scoring two goals. I picked Shanks as one of my rookie of the year finalists and I stand by that (assuming he gets more playing time), though Zach Currier is making the strongest case for this award thus far.
  • Kyle Jackson scored a beauty, grabbing a rebound directly in front of the net and immediately flipping it behind his back into the goal. The Knighthawks tweeted that it was a “vicious BTB” and vicious was a pretty good word for it.
  • At one point, the ball went under a section of the carpet while three or four players were fighting for the loosie. The ref decided to hold another face-off, meaning that this is a rare case where the total number of face-offs in the game was NOT equal to four plus the total number of goals. This is only the fourth such game this season. Two of them featured a goal at 14:59 of a quarter, so presumably no face-off was held afterwards. This will be the first entry for my new Twitter account, @NLLObscureAndUselessFactOfTheDay.
  • Early in the game, a ref got hit in the shoulder by a ricochet after a shot; it knocked him flying but he got up and continued. Later, a ref was taken down by a collision with a Knighthawks player. Don’t know if it was the same ref but if so, he might have been the first one in the ice bath after the game.
  • Only 7101 people at this game, the lowest regular-season attendance (and second-lowest ever) in Rock history. However, the weather outside was frightful. It was 10-12 degrees and pouring rain in the morning, then the temperature dropped near zero by 2pm and everything froze, then an inch of snow fell before dinner time. By game time, it was ‑10. Those are in Celsius; if you’re a Fahrenheit person, the temperature dropped from 50 to 14 degrees in eight hours.
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