NLL: Special win for Rock on Saturday night

It was a special win on a special Saturday night. As the Toronto Rock honoured former captain Colin Doyle, they also won 16-10 over the visiting Calgary Roughnecks at the Air Canada Centre.

The win halts a two-game losing skid for the Rock, who also lost two consecutive home games in overtime. It also gives them the season series 2-0 over the Roughnecks.

Brett Hickey had five goals with three assists and Tom Schreiber four goals and four assists (although one has been taken away on the NLL’s online scoring system). Stephan Leblanc and Kieran McArdle had five points each.

“It’s nice to see our offense break out like that… It was nice to see them find their way. It was a complete team effort,” said goaltender Nick Rose post-game. Rose made 30 saves on 40 shots.

Brett Hickey said the Rock and Roughnecks match-up well.

“We play them well, they’re a tough team,” he noted. “For whatever reason we had their number this year but they made us work for the win tonight.”

The Rock built up a 3-0 lead after the first quarter. Veteran defender Sandy Chapman, who scored his 100th and 101st points as a member of the Rock earlier this season, picked up his first goal of 2017. Chapman scooped a loose ball out of the crease on a great second effort and put it in shorthanded. The Rock held the Roughnecks to so few shots that for a while it looked like it could have been the game winner.

In the second, Scott Carnegie took a five-minute major for illegal body-checking after he knocked over Leblanc from behind. The Rock scored on both ends of the penalty and led 5-1 at the half.

“We knew they were going to come out flying,” Roughnecks forward Curtis Dickson said. “That was a storm we had to weather and we couldn’t do it. Slow starts have been our Achilles heel.”

It was a wild third quarter, however, going from 5-1 to 12-6 in just 15 minutes.

The early-game momentum for the Rock was too much for the ‘Necks. Although they scored five in the quarter, the Rock kept up their scoring pace as well.

Hickey scored what might be the goal of the year, from behind the net, jumping over the crease and dumping the ball through the very slim space between the crossbar and Christian Del Bianco’s back.

“That’s not something I practice,” Hickey laughed. “That was instinct.”

Indeed, a move like that is more akin to something Dickson would do. The Rock keyed on the NLL’s leading goal scorer though and held him to just three goals.

“Curtis is a great player,” Rock head coach Matt Sawyer acknowledged.

Sawyer made sure to instruct his defenders to cover Dickson as much as possible.

“As one of the best one-on-one players in the league, he’s somebody that you try to neutralize. The thing is with dominant players like that is that you know the ball’s in their stick a lot of the time… and sometimes it can help you when you know where the ball is all the time.”

One of Dickson’s goals was highlight-reel style, a low one-hander behind the back shot that rolled past Nick Rose, who could only look skyward and pray the goal doesn’t end up on the NLL’s Versus competition this week.

“It was kind of a broken play,” Dickson described. “I found myself in the middle of the man-up situation and it was a desperation play where I threw it on net just to see what would happen. Luckily enough it managed to squeak through and go in.”

Hickey had a second highlighter in the fourth. Brodie Merrill did yeoman’s work to get the ball up the floor to Tom Schreiber who managed to pass the ball as he was being flattened by a Riggers defender. Hickey quick-sticked the ball in from the side of the crease.

Del Bianco relieved Frankie Scigliano in the ‘Necks net after eight goals. The youngster was shelled from his first shot to the point that the Calgary coaches took pity on him and put Scigliano back in. Del Bianco allowed six goals on 14 shots. Scigliano allowed 10 on 44 shots.

Calgary was five-for-eight on the power play with two shorthanded goals while Toronto was three-for-eight with one shorty.

Dickson led the Riggers with three goals and two assists, while Jeff Shattler had two goals and three assists. Dane Dobbie had a goal and three assists while Tyler Digby had one and two. Wesley Berg scored twice and Greg Harnett also had a goal.

The Roughnecks drop to 4-7 and currently sit last in the west, but they’re keeping pace with Vancouver and it’s anyone’s game for the last playoff spot.

“Our offense has shown flashes of being able to play well as a unit,” Dickson said. “When we do that we put the ball in the net. More often than not we’re trying to be individuals and I’m probably the guiltiest of that. Sure the ball’s going in the net for me but we’re not getting W’s so we have to figure something out here.”

The Roughnecks are on the road for their next two games in Georgia and Saskatchewan.

The Rock improve to 6-4 and remain in second place in the East. They host the Colorado Mammoth for the first time in four years next week on St. Patrick’s Day.