The Toronto Rock (12-6) finished their regular season with a 15-9 win over the Vancouver Warriors (5-13) on Friday night at Rogers Arena. They enter the playoffs on a two-game winning streak, ready to face the second place Georgia Swarm in the first round next week.
The Rock used a dangerous power play to get past a Warriors’ team bent on ending their season on a positive note.
“We knew we needed some key goals and getting them on the power play is awesome, it gets the morale going,” Rock forward Dan Craig said to BR Live’s Shantelle Chand. Craig had three goals and two assists.
Toronto went 4/6 on the power play with one shorthanded goal, while the Warriors were 2/4.
Dan Lintner put Toronto up 1-0 at 34 seconds, scoring a backhand after Kieran McArdle found him cutting to the middle. Logan Schuss tied the game at 5:55, beating Nick Rose short side. Adam Jones scored a power play goal to give the Rock a 2-1 lead before Rose was denied an empty-net goal at the buzzer.
Toronto would have run away with the second quarter if not for Keegal Bal’s hat trick. Challen Rogers, now a regular on the Rock’s power play unit, picked up a goal on the man advantage at 3:43 before Jones put the Rock up 4-1. Bal then beat Rose with an underhand shot. Tom Schreiber scored 11 seconds later after Brad Kri’s faceoff win, and Rob Hellyer put a shot in from the restraining line before Bal’s shot over traffic went in. Kri then sprung Rogers for a shorthanded breakaway, to which Bal replied with an underhand power play goal. Hellyer found Latrell Harris cutting to the net 10 seconds later to send the Rock to the dressing room up 8-4.
Vancouver managed to outscore the Rock 3-2 in the third. Tony Malcom scored at the 3:03 mark but then it was quiet until 7:21 when Logan Schuss’ shot up the middle kicked off a run of a goal per minute. Schuss’ goal brought the Warriors within two at 8-6 before Dan Craig scored a low bouncer and Hellyer picked up a loose ball to beat Eric Penney. Warriors’ captain Matt Beers then found Brandon Goodwin with a long pass to bring Vancouver back within three.
But it was all Toronto in the fourth quarter as they outscored Vancouver 5-0 in the first seven minutes for a 15-7 lead, chasing Eric Penney after the 13th goal. Two came on a five-minute penalty to Mitch Jones for a high check on Adam Jay. The highlight of the run was Brandon Slade’s shot which ricocheted off the post and bounced in off Aaron Bold’s back.
Vancouver continued to push for the fans, though they weren’t able to get the win. Bal potted a fourth goal, scoring up the middle with 2:30 left to play, while Dallas Wade scored his first NLL goal with 11 seconds left, shooting from high-to-low.
“Being able to close out games strong is also key,” Craig said. “Sometimes we get up and [let our foot off the gas] in games but there was a big compete factor for us in the final quarter and a half.”
Rose made 46 saves in 50 minutes of work. The Rock finished the game with Riley Hutchcraft spelling Rose and making four saves. Penney made 31 saves and Bold five. Brad Kri, Latrell Harris and Brock Sorensen combined to go 20-28 on faceoffs.
Tom Schreiber led the Rock with a pair of goals and seven assists. Rob Hellyer (2G/3A), Adam Jones (2G/2A) and Kieran McArdle (4A) also contributed to the Rock’s win. Bal’s four goals led the Warriors. Logan Schuss had a pair and Mitch Jones added five assists.
The Warriors’ first season at Rogers Arena is now over, while the Rock are on the road next Monday, May 6th to face the Swarm in the NLL’s single-elimination Eastern Division quarterfinal.