MSL: Rock won’t roll over for Lakers

The Oakville Rock are proving to be formidable opponents.

Of course, the Peterborough Lakers already knew they would be, but everyone else now knows it too after the Rock defeated the Lakers 10-8 in game two of the best-of-seven MSL final series on Thursday night at the TRAC. The series is tied 1-1 with game three set for Sunday night at 7 p.m. at the Memorial Centre.

The Rock have been building their program since 2013, their first year at the TRAC, and are now seeing their hard work paying off.

“We wanted to hold our home floor,” winning goaltender Nick Rose said. “Our team motto is to keep sticking with it and find a way to win. Every single guy contributed tonight.”

Rookie Andrew Kew led the Rock with three goals and one assist and Rose made 55 saves as the Rock outlasted the Lakers in another close contest.

“We played a very similar game to the other night but I think they had fewer bounces tonight,” Rose said. “I think anyone could have won. They capitalized on our mistakes and that’s what a good team does but tonight we just found a way late and we’re 1-1. We expect Sunday to be loud and another good battle, probably another one or two goal game.”

The Rock held a slim 2-1 lead after the first period. Challen Rogers and Holden Cattoni exchanged power play goals midway through the frame. Kew’s first of the game came with 1:20 left in the first period.

“I think our guys were trying to do too much, instead of just sticking with systems and playing within ourselves,” Lakers’ defensive coach Bobby Keast assessed after the game.

The Rock kept trying to gain momentum in the second period, taking a 4-1 lead, but a Lakers’ three-goal run tied the game at four. Mark Steenhuis started it off 21 seconds after Matt Van Galen’s goal created the three-goal gap. Kyle Buchanan found Steenhuis in alone and he buried it stick-side. With under two minutes to go in the period, Buchanan ducked under Justin Martin’s check on the crease to score and Cory Vitarelli slipped Shawn Evans’ backhand pass into the net 33 seconds apart to erase the deficit. Challen Rogers then scored with 13 seconds left in but an outside shot from Cattoni tied things right back up 5-5 with 1.3 seconds left.

Peterborough took a one-goal lead three times in the third period only to have the Rock answer each goal almost immediately. The tying goal came from defenseman Billy Hostrawser on a fast-break as the Lakers were stripped of the ball in the offensive zone. Pat Walsh’s transition goal – his first in the MSL – at 16:09 broke the pattern.

“Walshy had been out for about a month and a half so for him to come in and gave us the minutes he has defensively and to bury that big goal, guys are feeling pretty good for him and he should be pretty happy with how he helped us out here tonight,” Rose praised. “Same as Billy Hos. He doesn’t score a lot of goals but that was obviously a big one and good on him.”

Kew scored an insurance marker with an outside goal with 1:31 left. The Lakers were unable to score with an extra attacker in the dying moments of the game.

“I don’t know if we let it slip away or if they took it away from us. They’re playing very well. They’re coached well. They’re disciplined,” said Keast.

Corey Small, who had two third period goals for the Lakers, said frankly that obvious mistakes cost the Lakers.

“They ended up in the back of our net. Timely turnovers in the offensive end that led to fast break goals or early penalties that ended up as power play goals for them,” Small said.

He recognized that it’s on the offense to help stop those mistakes.

“When we make a bad play or a bad pass we have to be aware of that,” he said. “That’s the heartbeat of their team is their transition and as an offensive player… we have to think defensively a little bit. We can’t give up those opportunities whether it’s running back first and playing a little bit of defense or changing and getting off in the last five seconds of the shot clock.”

Game three will be a test for both teams as the Rock look to keep momentum in front of the large Memorial Centre crowd this Sunday, August 26 at 7 p.m.