January 25, 2010
by Laura Bridgman… The Toronto Rock (3-0) beat the Rochester Knighthawks (2-1)at the Air Canada Centre in front of 10,104 fans to remain undefeated.
Rock owner Jamie Dawick announced at the beginning of the game that for every goal Toronto scored, the Rock would donate $1,000 to World Vision for the earthquake relief efforts in Haiti. The domination of Rochester totaled a Toronto donation of $17,000.
Toronto goal tender Bob Watson earned game MVP for stopping 45 of Rochester’s 48 shots. Garrett Billings led the Rock with eight points from five goals and three assists.
In goal Pat O’Toole and Aaron Bold combined for 39 saves for the Knighthawks and were led by Shawn Evans with a goal and an assist.
In his first game of the 2010 season Cam Woods scored the first goal of the game followed by defensive teammate Jeff Gilbert. Rookie Garrett Billings struck next to give Toronto the 3-0 lead 5:21 into the game. Mike Hobbins continued to extend the Rock lead scoring the game’s fourth. Billings drained his second and third past Rochester netminder Pat O’Toole for the hat trick even before the first quarter finished, causing the Knighthawks to changed goal keepers in favour of Aaron Bold.
Rochester got on the board to start the second quarter from a Scott Evans goal past Bob Watson. After nine minutes of scoreless play, dominated by defence, Billings scored his tenth goal of the season and fourth of the night. Kasey Beirnes posted Toronto’s eighth and Mike Hominuck the ninth to end the first half with the Rock leading 9-1.
Captain Colin Doyle opened scoring in the second half, bringing Toronto’s donation to the Haiti relief efforts up to $10,000. Shawn Evans scored the Knighthawks’ second goal of the game, but Billings answered back with Toronto’s eleventh goal, his fifth of the night tying his personal professional career best set in Boston on January 9. Pat McCready, in his first full game in a Rock uniform, dropped a shorthanded goal past O’Toole who was back in Rochester’s net. John Grant Jr. finally got past Watson, a wall in Toronto’s net, but Blaine Manning struck with 2:04 on the clock in the third to bring the score to 13-3.
Hominuck scored his second of the night to start the fourth quarter, followed by Beirnes’ second and third to bring Toronto’s tally to 16. #17 Stephan Leblanc was next scoring number 17 for the Rock. The clock would run out leaving the final score 17-3.
The Rock travel to Rochester next weekend to finish their home-and-home series with the Knighthawks. Game time is 8:05 at Blue Cross Arena. The Rock return home to the Air Canada Centre on February 5 when they host the Philadelphia Wings.
January 15, 2010
The Rock (1-0) opened the season last weekend in Boston with a 17-7 win over the Blazers (0-1).
“We’re happy with the outcome of the game, but any veteran in this league knows that Boston did not play the way they wanted to,” said Toronto general manager, Terry Sanderson.
Looking back at the 2009 matchups between Toronto and Boston the first outcome is quite similar. The Rock won in Boston the first time the two teams met. When the Blazers ventured to Toronto later in the season they were victorious in the ACC, a final the Rock don’t wish to repeat.
Leading Toronto in points in the season opener was Captain Colin Doyle who recorded 10 points from one goal, and nine assists.
“It was a fantastic night for Colin,” said Sanderson. “Given enough time he will score, but he has strength in finding open guys to distribute the ball.”
Game MVP Garrett Billings took the lead in goals with five. The Rock’s first round draft pick, who also added two assists in the game, was named NLL Rookie of the Week for the first week of the season for his seven point performance.
Boston was led by Captain Dan Dawson with three goals and two assists. Blazers head coach Tom Ryan was “very disappointed” with his team’s performance in on Saturday.
“I give Toronto a lot of credit, they took it to us,” said Ryan. “We didn’t execute well, and we didn’t put in the effort we needed. We were out loose balled, out played, beat. We can’t expect to just show up and win games.”
Friday’s home opener will be broadcast on TSN2, tape delayed at 10:30 p.m. with Dave Randorf calling the game, Brian Shanahan providing the colour, and host Claude Feig.
Single game tickets for todays game are still available at the Air Canada Centre box office or online through Ticket Master at www.ticketmaster.ca.
December 30, 2009
“I’m taking this very seriously,” said Doyle. “Since I’m re-joining a team that has accumulated so many good leaders it is an absolute honour that the coaching staff chose me to lead all they want to accomplish this season.
“This is a big deal for me; before I left Toronto three years ago this was something I had always hoped would happen.”
For the past two seasons Doyle captained the San Jose Stealth, now the Washington Stealth based out of Everett, Washington.
“He is one of the best leaders we have been involved with,” said Terry Sanderson, general manager of the Toronto Rock of Doyle. “He just carries an air of confidence about himself and how he handles his teammates.”
Doyle will be the third person to ever wear the Rock ‘C’ in the franchise’s 12 year history.
“This team has only ever had two captains in Jim Veltman and Chris Driscoll, which makes the honour that much more special,” said Doyle. “They led their way, but I’m inheriting a different team and I will be a different leader.”
“With Colin it isn’t always about what he says,” said Toronto Rock head coach Troy Cordingley. “He lets his actions speak in the dressing room as well as his words.”
With a roster so full of veteran talent the Rock has named four assistant captains for 2010 with Phil Sanderson and Sandy Chapman will get the ‘A’ at home in Toronto, while Blaine Manning and Pat McCready will have the assistant duties on the road.
“These four guys lead by example,” said Cordingley. “They are character guys who are great in the dressing room. They are guys that will do anything for the team to succeed and the biggest thing for me is that for each of them the team comes first.”
Manning, P. Sanderson, and Chapman have all left their mark in Toronto in years past, and though he’s only in his first season with the Rock, veteran defender Pat McCready is ready to step up with his new team.
“Looking around the dressing room anyone could have taken one of those A’s,” said McCready of the accolade. “It’s a really great honour but to be given it doesn’t really change anything about the way I’ll play; I just go out there, work hard and am a representative of the team as a whole.”
“The four are experienced team players and great supportive teammates,” adds Sanderson. “We had a couple guys tell us that they didn’t need a letter, but they’ve shown over the years of playing in this League they have all the capabilities that warrant one. They have earned the respect of the coaching staff and people need to know how highly their teammates and coaches think of them.”
Doyle and the rest of the Toronto Rock open the 2010 NLL season on Saturday, January 9 in Boston as they take on the Blazers and begin their home schedule of eight games on Friday, January 15 at the Air Canada Centre in the second half of a home-and-home series with Boston.
November 3, 2009
by Laura Bridgman… With training camp scheduled to begin in mid-November, the Rock look forward to the 2010 season under the leadership of 2009 NLL Coach of the Year, Troy Cordingley. Over 135,000 fans watched the Toronto Rock at Air Canada Centre in 2009, a number that is surely to increase as a new and revived Toronto Rock hit the turf come January 2010.
Tickets can be purchased for any of the Rock’s eight regular season home games through Ticketmaster by phone at , online at www.ticketmaster.ca, or in person at the Air Canada Centre box office. The entire 2010 Toronto Rock schedule can be found online at www.torontorock.com.
Season tickets for the entire 2010 Toronto Rock regular season are still on sale. The package includes tickets to all eight home games, a ticket for the first potential playoff game at the Air Canada Centre, a voucher for an additional ticket on opening night, and a voucher for a ticket to any other additional home game of choice.
In addition to the single game and season tickets there are a number of other ticket package selections available to accommodate every fan’s need for choice and flexibility. The Rock offer a 10 ticket flex pack, a four game pack and gondola suite packages. To take advantage of these packages contact the Toronto Rock office at.
The Toronto Rock start the 2010 season on the road on Saturday, January 9 for the first part of a home-and-home series with the Boston Blazers. With the Blazers in tow, the Rock open their home schedule the following weekend on Friday, January 15 at the Air Canada Centre when they host Boston at 7:30 p.m.
October 18, 2009
by Laura Bridgman… For many of us Thanksgiving weekend meant three days of rest and relaxation with the family. But for a group of 59 of Canada’s top lacrosse players it meant five games in three days.
The Team Canada selection camp for the 2010 Federation of International Lacrosse World Championships in Manchester, England from July 14 to July 24, 2010 took place at St. Michael’s College School in Toronto this past weekend.
The list of 59 invited men will eventually be whittled down to a final 23-man roster that all have their sights set on defending Canada’s 2006 gold medal.
All-around lacrosse All-Star Brodie Merrill remembers the 2006 victory as something that he will cherish for the rest of his life.
“It was an awesome experience,” boasts Merrill. “We were the under dogs and it had been so long since Canada had won gold.
“Right when the team got together in London it just felt right, like something special was going to happen. Being on Canadian soil, and with the group of guys that we had, there was a belief from the beginning that we were going to win.”
Even with the numerous awards, championships and records under Merrill’s belt he’ll never assume he has a guaranteed spot of Canada’s roster.
“Regardless of where you are on the pecking order, or what you have done in the past, you can’t get comfortable,” said Merrill. “You always have to prove yourself and prove that you can contribute and be a good teammate and be part of a team that will go on to win a gold medal.
“There has been a lot of development on the defence side of the ball; this is a lot more competitive than the last tryout.”
Merrill’s summer teammate on both the Toronto Nationals and Brampton Excelsiors, Phil Sanderson, agrees.
“The competition is real tight,” said Sanderson. “There are a great bunch of young guys and a lot of experienced older guys trying out this weekend.”
Geoff Snider, 2006’s tournament MVP knows what a difficult task the coaches have ahead of them.
“It is an honour to be invited out again and be amongst the talent at these tryouts,” said Snider. “I wouldn’t want to be in the coaches’ shoes right now; they’ve got their work cut out for them.”
In order to help the coaching staff with the Herculean task of trimming the roster, the invitees were challenged to five scrimmage games.
The prospects faced-off against each other twice on Saturday, October 10 in Red versus White scrimmages.
On Sunday they boarded buses early and drove to Orchard Park High School in Buffalo, New York to face the Notre Dame Men’s team. The Fighting Irish were no match for their Canadian competition with the boys in red coming out on top in both matches, 12-9 and 11-7.
Monday found the guys on the field at St. Michael’s one last time, showing their skills for Head Coach Dave Huntley. He watched alone from the sidelines as his assistants took charge of the benches.
“I really enjoy playing for Dave,” said Merrill. “I just love his approach to the game and he is a Canadian guy that has had playing and coaching success in the field game.
“He’s a perfect fit for the program, and a great leader. The guys have complete confidence and faith that he is going to make the right decisions and lead us to another championship.”
With the weekend finished the only thing to do now is wait. The roster will begin to be cut down this week, but final decisions aren’t expected until July in order to keep opposing teams guessing.
“I expect a lot from this team,” said Snider. “We have a lot to live up to being the defending world champions.”
“The challenge now is to go back and repeat,” echoed Merrill.
October 8, 2009
by Laura Bridgman… Hard to believe it has already been four years, but Canada is looking to stand atop the medal podium yet again. No, we’re not talking Vancouver 2010. We’ve got our eyes fixed on the World Lacrosse Championships. This is one battle that will be decided on the field.
Toronto Rock players Stephen Hoar, Phil Sanderson, Tyler Codron, Garrett Billings, and Joel Dalgarno have been invited to the 2010 Team Canada selection camp taking place this weekend from Friday, October 9 till Monday, October 12 at St. Michael’s College School in Toronto.
The five Rock members are amongst a list of 59 men vying for 23 spots on the final national roster. The team will compete in the 2010 Federation of International Lacrosse World Championships in Manchester, England from July 14 to July 24, 2010.
Having already tasted Gold with Team Canada in 2006, Hoar heads into tryouts with some stiff competition.
“It will be really tough,” said Hoar. “There are four or five guys competing for my position. They are all great players that will compete hard.”
The selection camp will be a chance for the other Rock invitees to make their first appearance on Team Canada.
“A proven winner at all levels of lacrosse” according to Rock head coach Troy Cordingley, Sanderson made his professional field lacrosse debut in May with the Major League Lacrosse Toronto Nationals. As a member of the championship summer team, Sanderson traded his box short stick for the field game’s more traditional defensive long-pole.
Western Canada is represented by Billings and Dalgarno, two of the newest Rock additions. Both drafted in the first round of the National Lacrosse League 2009 Entry Draft at the beginning of September, the B.C. pair bring with them field experience from the University of Virginia and Ohio State University, respectively.
Codron, a Port Coquitlam, B.C. native, will be sidelined at tryouts due to injury. While playing football with the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds, Codron tore his ACL and will undergo surgery this month. The Rock picked-up the young defender with the second overall pick in the Portland LumberJax’s dispersal draft this off-season.
National tryouts will feature some other NLL familiar faces like Brodie Merrill, John Grant Jr. and Mark Steenhuis, and will be ripe with the fresh talent of youngsters Bobby Snider, Brock Sorensen and Jamie Lincoln. No matter the outcome of the selection camp, Team Canada looks to defend their title in England in the summer of 2010.
“I think it should be a close group of guys, like in ‘06,” adds Hoar. “It will again be about the ‘team’ and not about any of the individual players.”
The Team Canada selection camp at St. Michael’s College School is open to the public and free of charge. Come out Saturday, October 10 and cheer on your Rock players as they work for their spot on Canada’s team. The first Red vs. White scrimmage is from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and scrimmage two will be played from 6:00 p.m. till 8:00 p.m.
For more information on the Team Canada selection camp visit their website at www.teamcanadlacrosse.com
September 30, 2009
Kasey Beirnes and Scott Campbell will remain in a Toronto jersey for the next two seasons. In 2009, Beirnes recorded 23 goals, 15 assists and scooped 86 loose balls for Toronto while Campbell scored five goals, assisted on two others and picked up 93 loose balls.
“I expect Kasey to be one of our go-to guys,” said Toronto general manager Terry Sanderson. “He’s an underrated offensive player and I’m excited we have him for two years.”
Sanderson remembers why he originally traded to get Campbell in a Rock jersey back in the 2005 off-season.
“Over the years Scott has proved that he plays for the team; he’ll always put the team before himself,” said Sanderson. “He shows great leadership and just keeps getting better.”
The Rock also signed Phil Sanderson, acquired in July from the Buffalo Bandits, to a two-year deal. Sanderson became a member of the Toronto Rock in 2005 winning the NLL Champions Cup with the team that year. He stayed in Toronto until mid-way through the 2007 season when he was traded to the Buffalo Bandits.
“Phil is an unbelievable leader in the dressing room and on the floor,” said Rock Head Coach Troy Cordingley when the Rock first acquired Sanderson. “He is a proven winner who has won at every level of lacrosse that he has played in.”
Sandy Chapman returns to the Rock roster on a two-year deal after playing with the Rochester Knighthawks for four seasons. The Toronto-born Chapman was the Rock’s first round pick in the 2001 NLL Entry Draft. During his time with the Rock, the defender won the NLL Champions Cup three times (’02, ’03, ’05), recorded 37 points (12 goals, 25 assists) and collected 124 loose balls in 44 games played.
“Sandy has to be one of, if not the most, underrated players in the League,” said Sanderson. “They just don’t come any better.”
Toronto has signed Dave Cutten to a one-year deal. Sanderson knows Cutten’s quick and physical style will prove difficult for any opponent.
“He’s the kind of guy any player wants on his team, but never wants to play against,” said Sanderson. “Cutten hasn’t had the chance to play in the NLL yet, but we’ve watched him extensively in the summer season. He runs the floor really well and is what we call a ball hound.”
A member of the KW Kodiaks for Major Series Lacrosse, the defender recorded one goal, seven assists and 18 penalty minutes through 16 games this summer.
The Toronto Rock open their 2010 home season on January 15 against the Boston Blazers at the Air Canada Centre. Season tickets are now available for all eight Rock home games. For more ticket information please contact the Rock office at.
August 23, 2009
Meeting each other for the fourth time this season, the second seeded Toronto Nationals and the top seeded Denver Outlaws faced off against each other for a final time in 2009 in Annapolis, MD this afternoon. Fans at the Navy-Marine Corps Stadium saw the Nationals take the game 10-9 and win the 2009 New Balance Major League Lacrosse (MLL) Championship for their inaugural season.
Toronto opened the scoring a minute into the game on a breakaway goal from Nick O’Hara, giving the Nationals a positive start to a game that would test the fitness of both teams who each played intense tight games yesterday in the semi-final matchups. The Nationals secured a place in today’s Championship after scoring five of the last six goals of the game for a close 14-13 win over the Long Island Lizards Saturday afternoon.
Denver answered back early on with midfielder Josh Sims putting the Outlaws on the board and that would be it for the Outlaws in the first quarter as Nationals goaltender Doc Schneider stopped a number of Denver shots to keep the scoring low.
John Grant Jr. gave Toronto a one goal lead with his first playoff goal on a behind the head shot past Outlaws goaltender Jesse Schwartzman finishing out the quarter 2-1 in favour of the Nationals.
Nationals’ attacker Jeff Zywicki scored to begin second quarter action before the Outlaws responded almost immediately when Matt Brown beat Schneider in front of the net bringing the score to 3-2. Brendan Mundorf tied the game at three a piece a minute later and the Outlaws took the first lead of the game at 4-3 after Brian Langtry scored on a power play.
Mundorf put another past Schneider for Denver before Zywicki scored his second of the game bringing the score within one and the first half came to end with Denver holding the lead at 5-4 and both Schwartzman and Schneider recording 10 saves each.
Second half starting goaltender Brett Queener, who didn’t appear in the semi-final game on Saturday afternoon made his first save of the playoffs early to open the third quarter and Merrick Thomson evened the score at five with a diving goal just outside the crease.
Jeff Sonke gave Denver the advantage scoring on Queener seven minutes into the third followed by another Outlaws goal from Mike Ward, his first goal of the season. Zywicki recorded a hat trick for the Nationals with his fourth goal of the playoffs followed by another Toronto goal from Thomson to tie the game once again at 6-6. The tie was short lived once Mundorf scored his third of the game for Denver with just under a minute left and the third quarter ended with the Outlaws ahead by one, 8-7.
Grant Jr. took one to the net and scored his second goal of the game unassisted and heated up a vocal Schwartzman to begin the final quarter of the Championship game in a tie. Sims scored for the Outlaws on a powerplay before Shawn Williams secured another goal for Toronto assisted by Zywicki with just under five minutes remaining in the game to tie it at 9.
With :45 seconds remaining, Williams cut toward the crease after a pass from semi-final game MVP Joe Walters and scored another huge goal for Toronto. That would be all the Nationals needed to win the game with a 10-9 defeat over the Denver Outlaws and hoist the Steinfeld Cup for the first time.
2009 MLL Defensive Player of the Year Brodie Merrill was the first to raise the trophy after the game. This is the third championship for the defender but the first time he’s been presented the Steinfeld Cup as captain.
“It’s a pretty special experience to get it, I’m very humbled by it,” said Merrill earlier this week before heading to Annapolis, MD. “The fun part will just be enjoying it with the entire team. We are very team oriented, and this is what we worked towards”.
Attacker Jeff Zywicki would lead the Nationals in points with four on three goals and one assist and was joined by major contributions across the board for Toronto. John Grant Jr, Merrick Thomson and Shawn Williams each contributed two goals and Nick O’Hara with one. Thomson was also named the game’s Bud Light MVP.
Brendan Mundorf led the Outlaws offence with three goals followed by Josh Sims who scored twice.
Goaltender Brett Queener recorded the win saving 11 of 15 shots in the second half and Doc Schneider held Denver to just five goals in the first half saving 12 of 17 goals.
The Nationals finish the season with a 9-5 record as Major League Lacrosse Champions.
For complete game statistics, please visit Pointstreak at: Toronto vs. Denver Boxscore<http://www.pointstreak.com/prostats/boxscore.html?gameid=1080366
August 10, 2009
by Terri Workman… After spending 11 months on the disabled list with an injured knee, John Grant Jr. made his triumphant return to Major League Lacrosse tonight, leading the Toronto Nationals with five goals in the 16-10 victory over the Denver Outlaws.
His performance, in front of 3,635 Nationals fans, earned him game BudLight MVP honours, and clinched the second seed in the MLL playoffs for Toronto. Fellow attacker Merrick Thomson also had a big night, scoring four goals and an assist.
The Outlaws were led by attacker Drew Westervelt, who had three goals, including a two-point marker, for a total of six points in the game.
Mundorf had made the opening move in the points race, notching the first goal of the night three minutes in to the game. Westervelt added to the Outlaws lead a minute later with a powerplay marker from Josh Sims.
Westervelt returned the favour two minutes later, feeding Sims on the power play, making it 3-0 Denver.
Eight minutes into the frame, Grant announced his return, scoring Toronto’s first goal of the night. Jeff Zywicki made the marker possible, passing from the goal line to a wide-open Grant who fired it past the out-of-position Jesse Schwartzman.
Grant’s goal woke up the Nationals’ offence and Shawn Williams scored a minute later followed by a Zywicki acrobatic marker. Zywicki’s score was assisted by Thomson, his first point of the game. Shortly after that, All-Star defender Brodie Merrill got in on the action, giving Toronto a 4-3 lead, their first of the game.
Thomson stepped into the fray with sixty seconds left in the quarter. Scoring his league leading 41st goal, he bumped Toronto up to a 5-3 lead with the help of Joe Walters, the over-time hero of the Nationals last game. The goal inched Thomson up to 47 points on the season.
Denver responded early in the second quarter, with Matt Brown and Westervelt earning tallies and tying the game at five apiece.
Again, Grant stepped up for the Nationals, working with Walters to give Toronto a 6-5 lead.
His goal was followed by one from fellow Team Canada veteran Colin Doyle. Attacker Delby Powless had fed the rushing attacker from behind the goal, moving Toronto up to a two-point lead.
Half-way through the second quarter, it was clear that Grant was happy to be healthy and playing lacrosse. He scored back-to-back goals putting Toronto up 9-5.
Outlaws’ midfielder Max Seibald scored to make it 9-6, breaking up a natural hat trick by Grant.
Grant scored again, his fifth of the night to give Toronto a 10-6 lead going into halftime.
Seibald scored less than a minute into the third quarter, to keep Denver alive. He was followed by Dan Hardy forty seconds later, to make a game of it at 10-8.
Thomson had his third point of the night, as he shed his defender and scored a diving goal. The marker was short-handed, as both Walters and defender Sid Smith were sitting out on personal fouls.
After a staid seven minutes, Gavin Prout pushed the score up to 12-8 for Toronto, and reinvigorated the Nationals faithful who had come out despite the rain.
Goalie Brett Queener, who stepped between the pipes in the second half, brought his usual energy to the field. After a big stick save, he made a behind-the-back pass to midfielder Steve Hoar who fired a shot into the top right-hand corner of Denver’s net.
Powless ended the third with an underhand shot from a Zywicki assist. The goal capped a quiet quarter with Toronto possessing a solid 14-8 lead.
In the fourth quarter, Denver’s Westervelt took advantage of an empty net, scoring from behind the two-point arc to bring the Outlaws closer at 14-10.
Eight minutes later, Thomson had a hat trick on the evening. He earned the marker by absorbing a cross-check to the back and scoring as he fell forward.
Thomson scored his fourth goal of the night a minute later setting a new personal best of 44 goals in the regular season. In 2008 with the New Jersey Pride, Thomson set a record of 42 goals.
The Toronto Nationals have two weeks before heading to Annapolis, Maryland for the 2009 New Balance Major League Lacrosse Championship Weekend on August 22 and 23. The Nationals are now seeded second and will play at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, August 22 in the #2 vs. #3 game.
July 24, 2009
by Terence Pang… With Mother Nature threatening by means of thunderstorms, a playoff spot was on the line at BMO Field Saturday night as the Nationals welcome the Boston Cannons into town. But little did the 3,542 fans know, the perfect storm was not going to be from the sky, it was right down on in front of them.
Merrick Thomson and the Nationals jumped out to a early 2-0 lead, as Thomson scored and assisted on both goals before Cannons’ all-star Paul Rabil responded with a 2 point goal. Kip Turner and Doc Schneider would come up with some pretty spectacular saves after that, but the Cannons would come out of a hard fought first quarter with a 4-3 lead.
Boston would come out with 2 straight goals in the 2nd, including a powerplay goal from Matt Poskay. The back and forth affair continued, but a few mistakes by Toronto on the defensive end and in transition led to 9-6 halftime lead for Boston.
Schneider would return for the 2nd half, as 2nd half goalie and fan favourite Brett Queener was not able to suit up because of illness. But for Rabil, it didn’t matter who was in net. The winner of the Hardest Shot competition at the all-star festivities came out and scored 2 goals, one being a 2 point goal making the score 11-6 just 5 minutes into the 2nd half. Toronto had the chances, but just couldn’t put it away.
Thomson would add another goal and assist to his spectacular night, as Toronto brought the score close 11-8. But the Cannons would score 3 straight goals on a flurry of ranged shots, while Jeff Zywicki responded with a powerplay marker in the quarter, and the fans began to worry in their seats as their team was down 15-9 going into the final quarter.
While the skies cleared to blue, the storm was just starting on the field. Toronto came out on fire, as Brad Ross would deposit his 2nd of the night just 54 seconds in that started a 5 goal run capped by another powerplay goal from Zywicki to make it 15-14. Rabil would take matters into his own hands as he shook one of the best defenders in the league in Brodie Merril and stepped into another long one to make it 16-14. But at that point, the tide has clearly turned in favour of the home team.
The Nationals would storm back led by Thomson, who responded to Rabil’s goal less than a minute later picking out the top left corner on Turner. Joe Walters would get into the action 48 seconds later and Corey Small sent the crowd on their feet with the go ahead goal after a pretty little move on his defender. A too-many man turnover allowed the Cannons to tie the game at the 13:14 mark on a goal from Kyle Sweeney.
With the score tied at 17-17, the Cannons would have last possession. A quick pass from Rabil would split the Nationals defense, leaving Sean Morris a chance to win the game in close on Schneider with 17 seconds left. But “The Doctor” was up to the task against his former university teammate, coming up with a ridiculous save.
“I kind of just read it well and luckily came up with the save.” Schneider said of the save.
That turned out huge because in overtime, Morris would be penalized for offsides putting the Nats on the powerplay and Walters would strike again with his second of the night off a smart pass from Delby Powless to win the game and send Toronto to the playoffs.
Thomson would take home the game MVP honours with a huge 8 point night, overshadowing a terrific 7 goal performance from Paul Rabil. Coach Dave Huntley said though, the defense did what they could.
“We had the best defenseman in the world playing him, and I think if Paul scores 7 and we win, Brodie is going to be okay with that.”
After the game, Walters would remind fans that it was the little things that count.
“I’ll tell you what, Gavin Prout made a great play to save the ground ball in the corner, if he didn’t have we wouldn’t have scored.”
With 2 straight wins after the all-star break, Huntley explains, they are simply playing better on both ends.
“We are playing better defense, giving our goalies more balls that they can handle. And offensively, we still aren’t great in transition, we had some trouble throwing and catch but the settled offense, we are letting the ball work for us and we are moving a lot without the ball and that’s when we score a lot of goals.”
The Nationals get another week off before they close out the season at home against 1st place Denver. Although they have already made the playoffs, the Nationals would probably like to avoid facing Denver in the first round so there is still meaning to this final game, two Saturdays from now.
Photos by Paolo Cescato