NLL: Hamilton feels like home for playoff-bound Rock

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It took 20 weeks, but after the Toronto Rock’s 15-7 victory in front of over 10,000 fans, Hamilton is feeling like home. Their victory came over the other team that called FirstOntario Centre home earlier this season, the Halifax Thunderbirds. Halifax was forced to play two home games in Hamilton due to Nova Scotia’s Covid restrictions (and won both).

With the win, Toronto clinches a home playoff date, a fact not lost on Rock captain Challen Rogers. “You look at the fans we had today and the energy they brought, it just fueled us to get another home playoff game for them,” he said.

Dan Craig, who finished the night with nine points, reiterated his captain’s thoughts. “Every game we play at home, we never take for granted,” he said. “Tonight was obviously special.” Despite some opposition from fans online when the team’s move from Toronto was announced, Craig said the team feels like Hamilton is home. “You can see the crowd, they want us to be here, and we definitely want to be here.”

It was a tight first period, helped by a five-minute penalty to Bill Hostrawser for an illegal body check with the Rock leading 3-1. Clarke Petterson and Cody Jamieson both scored on the man advantage to tie the game. Rogers scored his first of two in the game, faking a shot up top, powering through a hold and tip-toeing the crease to hand the Rock a 4-3 lead after one.

Craig said, “It’s really nice to get out of the gates hot, to be honest… We performed right from the first whistle, which we haven’t done regularly.”

Toronto scored four straight to chase Warren Hill in the second. The second put in by Reid Reinholdt who beat Graeme Hossack one-on-one and took a one handed shot while falling into Hill. Then Tom Schreiber scored twice in 1:27 to make it 8-3. Hill allowed eight goals off 22 shots, in 21 minutes, making way for Aaron Bold. The switch ignited a three-goal run before halftime, including Petterson’s second of the game – a diving shot after beating a double team. Despite the run, Halifax still trailed 8-6 at halftime.

Nick Rose was perfect in the third quarter stopping all 10 Thunderbirds shots. Craig and Rogers each completed hat tricks with Toronto scoring four goals in 4:06. Toronto capped the victory with Mitch de Snoo grabbing a rebound in front of Rose, running the floor and converting a return pass from Schreiber. Captain America scored his fourth to make the score 15-7, and seal the Rock victory, and give him nine points.

Eric Fannell did score his 16th, a sidearm shot late in the shot clock after spinning off his defender. It ended a goalless streak of 23:05, and was the only goal scored in the final 30:37 following the late first-half run.

Rogers also credited the early start for Toronto’s success. “In the past we’ve started slow and faced adversity well, and then bounced back,” he said. “But we started on time tonight and just kind of brought it all night.”

The win gives Toronto four straight. Said Craig, “It’s a lot different point in the season where we want to catch our stride. We definitely feel like we’re in a good groove right now.”

NOTES: The Halifax loss, paired with Calgary’s win over Vancouver, allowed the Roughnecks to capture the Alterna CupToronto are still without Rob Hellyer, while Halifax played without Shawn EvansThe Thunderbirds are now 1-6 since the Evans tradeHalifax’s Scott Campbell and Toronto’s Dan Dawson each collected career loose ball number 1100, Brad Kri scooped career number 700, Hostrawser hit 400 career penalty minutes, Craig reached 100 career assists, and Rose became just the seventh goalie in league history to win 80 career games.