NLL: Rock steal win from Roughnecks in overtime

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The Toronto Rock exploded out of the gates like a thoroughbred horse Saturday night in Calgary. In the blink of an eye it was 7-1 and with their stocked stable, it appeared that Toronto would be able to ride out a comfortable victory. The young and persistent Roughnecks would not be discouraged though and mounted a furious comeback in the final minutes to draw even at the end of regulation. However, it was the old war horse Stephen Keogh gobbling up a rebound and beating Christian Del Bianco giving Toronto an 11-10 overtime win.

“Tonight, Calgary came out with a game plan to try to take Tom (Schreiber) away. They were guarding him real tight with and without the ball and it just opened up opportunities for other guys. You mentioned two players who were key additions to the roster this off season (Keogh and Small), and they both know how to put the ball in the net and they did it tonight for us,” said head coach Matt Sawyer via Toronto Rock Instagram. “Stevie Keogh was a big money player. He got a big goal for us.”

Corey Small and Stephen Keogh led the Rock – scoring seven of their team’s 11 goals. Perhaps the unsung hero of the night was the play of face-off specialist TD Ierlan, who went 20/24 at the face-off dot. Despite what analytics say about face off’s not mattering, the fact is that Toronto had a guaranteed possession at every draw including when it mattered the most – in overtime.

Despite digging a big hole early, the score was not an accurate indicator of how Calgary played. The offense generated some good looks that Roughneck shooters were unable to capitalize on.

“We were still getting really good looks on offense. The ball just wasn’t dropping. Those things happen. Again, I thought we didn’t play that bad in the first half. I just thought that their shots dropped and ours didn’t,” stated Roughnecks’ captain Jesse King after the game.

In contrast, Toronto was shooting the lights out at nearly a 50% clip (seven goals on 15 shots). Calgary’s high-powered transition game was able to keep the score close and for a portion of the game Christian Del Bianco was leading his team in assists. Del Bianco factored in on the goal of the game when he heaved a 150-foot pass to Travis Cornwall who scored with under a second left in the first half to make the score 7-5 in favour of the visitors.

Toronto continued to lead the game throughout the third and most of the fourth quarter. With the score 10-7, Calgary pulled Del Bianco in favour of an extra attacker and it paid off. Jesse King scored first followed by Tyler Pace. Then with 25 seconds left in the game, Jesse King knocked down a Challen Rogers clearing attempt and Tyler Pace scooped up the loose ball. Pace fed King and he buried the ball top corner to tie the game and send it to overtime. In overtime, Toronto called a timeout following Ierlan’s faceoff win. On the set piece, Dan Craig whistled a shot over the net and Keogh collected the carom and deposited the ball in the net.

The win moves Toronto to 5-2 on the season and they’ll return home next week for a game against the Riptide. Calgary’s record drops to 3-3 and they will travel across the country for a game against the Halifax Thunderbirds.