The National Lacrosse League returned to “La Belle Province” on December 15 as the defending NLL champions fell to divisional rivals Toronto Rock to a score of 14-10. The Rock picked up the win in front of an energetic crowd of 7,269 fans in the Bell Centre in Montreal.
Each team had a Quebec grown player selected from a showcase in November. Quebec native Mark Kirby opened the scoring for the Rock in the first quarter to put Toronto up 1-0 early. Rochester young gun Johnny Powless quickly replied with a goal to lock the game up up at 1. Rock 2012 leading scorer gave his team the lead until newly acquired sniper Dan Dawson found the back of the cage to even the score up at two to end the first quarter.
Rochester took its only lead of the night when Stephen Keogh and Cory Vitarelli each added a goal to open up the second quarter and give the Knighthawks a 4-3 lead.
Toronto bounced back and answered with five unanswered goals to give the Rock an 8-4 lead. Damon Edwards, Colin Doyle, Kasey Beirnes, Josh Sanderson and Brandon Ivey each netted a goal to contribute to the five goal run. Rookie Matt Hummel added an impressive shorthanded transition marker to bring the Knighthawks within 3 goals to end the half.
The great goaltending of Nick Rose and Matt Vinc continued in the second half as they each made numerous saves in the third frame. Scott Evans opened the scoring against his former team with just over four minutes into the third quarter. Once again, Johnny Powless replied with a quick tally for the Knighthawks as he blasted a shot past Rose to cut the Rock lead to 9-6. Craig Point made a beauty move past his defender and found the back of the cage to bring Rochester within two. Brad Self used his speed on the transition to bring the Knighthawks within one. Each goal was within :44 seconds of each other to end the quarter at 9-8 in favour of the Rock.
The Rock got back to business quickly in the final frame as they burried four goals to give Toronto a 13-8 lead. Three of the four goals came from Evans including a nasty no-looker, between-the-legs goal that nearly blew the roof off the Bell Centre. Each team would add a marker as the game would end at a 14-10 final.
The Rock outshot the Knighthawks 55-44 in the contest. Each team evened up their preseason record at 1-1.
The game marked the first professional lacrosse game in Montreal since 2003. With an energetic crowd at the Bell Centre, perhaps we could see the NLL return to the province of Quebec once again.