NLL: Rock fall out of first place

Dereck Downs had three goals for the New England Black Wolves against the Toronto Rock. (Photo credit: Tracey Happold-Brown)

It was a weekend to forget for the Toronto Rock. Not only did they fall to the New England Black Wolves 13-11 at Mohegan Sun Arena, they also fell out of first place in the NLL’s Eastern Division as their loss combined with the Buffalo Bandits’ win puts them a full game back of the Bandits.

The Rock had a comfortable 10-7 lead in the fourth but squandered it away with sloppy defensive play, allowing the Black Wolves to score five goals in less than three minutes early in the period. Stephan Leblanc scored on a delayed penalty. Callum Crawford followed that up with a one-handed wraparound that closed the gap to one goal. Leblanc’s tying goal was waved off for being in the crease after a challenge from the Rock bench, but it didn’t matter because Crawford scored a few seconds later. Leblanc’s next goal did count and it put the Black Wolves up 11-10. Colton Watkinson capped the run, getting an edge on a defender behind the net and beating him back out front.

Even with Crawford out of the game in the last five minutes for an illegal cross check that caught Bradley Kri in the head, the Rock were unable to find the back of the net again.

“Maybe it’s a good reality check for us,” Rock head coach Matt Sawyer told “We’ve been pretty good this year and that was the first (game) we haven’t been too happy with our effort and execution.”

The Rock didn’t just end the game poorly, they started that way as well. Dereck Downs popped in the first two goals for the Black Wolves in the first 48 seconds. The Rock settled down defensively but it took them until the 9:10 mark for Dan Craig to get them on the board with a seeing-eye shot on the power play. Davey Emala then scored but Johnny Powless replied 1:01 later.

Adam Jones tied the game at three 1:03 into the second quarter. Dan Lintner toed the crease line to put the Rock up but Tyler Digby tied it at four on the power play. The game went back and forth until Rob Hellyer scored through a screen to put the Rock up 7-6. Tom Schreiber put them up by two, though Downs’ hat trick goal 11 seconds later negated that. Hellyer scored again with .04 seconds left in the half.

There was a furious penalty kill by the Rock midway through the third featuring a great job by Rose to make saves out of position. Brock Sorensen did a yeoman’s work blocking shots. Schreiber’s jump shot, the only goal of the frame, put Rock up 10-7 soon after.

Schreiber led the Rock with a hat trick and three goals. Hellyer (2G/3A) and Jones (2G/2A) also contributed. Crawford (3G/5A) led the Black Wolves and took over the NLL’s goal scoring lead with his 30th tally of the season. Doug Jamieson got the win, making 47 saves.

The Rock have a bye week before returning to action against the Calgary Roughnecks on March 9th at Scotiabank Saddledome. The Black Wolves are back in action with another Sunday matinee at Mohegan Sun next Sunday against the Colorado Mammoth.