The Toronto Rock beat the Rochester Knighthawks in every way except for the one that counted.
The Rock outshot, outhit (probably – the NLL doesn’t track that stat) and out-chanced the Knighthawks at every turn but dropped a 9-8 decision Saturday night at the Air Canada Centre.
Instead of moving to 3-0 the Rock sit at 2-1 with a big test against their division rival Buffalo Bandits next Friday in Toronto.
“It’s a divisional game and we need to regroup and have a good session on Tuesday and be much better,” Rock head coach Matt Sawyer said. “We’re a product of the doing the little things and doing them right all the time and tonight we weren’t good enough in that area. I don’t think there’ll be any issues with the guys getting up for Friday’s game against Buffalo.”
The Rock had 57 shots compared to the Knighthawks 32; 98 compared to 51 loose balls; and 17 face-offs compared to four.
Unfortunately for the Rock, they ran into a hot Matt Vinc.
“We threw a lot at Vno but we have to be better at finishing,” the Rock’s Brett Hickey said post-game. “He’s won goalie of the year four times and all your shots have to be perfect. When he’s on his game it’s very hard to get the offense to flow.”
Hickey returned from a game off due to injury and exploded for four goals including two power play markers.
“I felt good early on. I want some shots back though, but I felt comfortable,” Hickey said of his return.
“Brett was real good for us up front tonight and hopefully that’s something he can build on and we can count on game in and game out,” Sawyer said. “He’s a good player and we need him to be a good player to put the ball in the net for us.”
The Rock allowed the Knighthawks to jump out to a three goal lead early in the game. Hickey brought the Rock within a goal before the end of the first before Tom Schreiber tied the game 1:01 into the second.
The Knighthawks, who the Rock defeated 12-5 in the NLL season opener, would not be denied and piled on four goals in a row to lead 7-4 at the half.
The night had some oddities – the lighting system, for example, went down just after Rochester scored their second goal. While some in the crowd applauded the move as designed to stop the run, in reality a connection had been lost that required a technician to manually repair the problem from the ACC’s catwalk. It caused a nearly ten-minute delay in the game but the Rock crowd of 10,817 rebounded and was loud the whole game.
“Our fans are the best in the world,” Hickey noted. “We want to perform for them because they’re loud, they bring it every night and we were definitely feeding off that especially in the fourth quarter.”
Joe Resetarits and Tom Schreiber traded goals in the third quarter.
The Rock outscored the Knighthawks 3-1 in the final frame to bring the game within a goal but Vinc closed the door at that point.
“At the end of the game the energy was very high,” Hickey said. “It started off with Tommy’s goal late in the third quarter and that kind of got our ball rolling and then a nice goal with Kasey (Beirnes) on a pick and pop and things started to click and we got some transition and a couple breakaways. Our transition game won us our first two games so when that starts to flow a little bit better and makes our team roll a little bit better as well and that kind of carried over from quarter to another.”
Schreiber led the Rock with two goals and three assists. Stephan Leblanc saw his first action of 2017 and had a goal and three assists, putting him over 300 career assists. Kasey Beirnes added a goal and assist.