NLL: Rock take backbreaker over winless Knighthawks

Rochester’s Doug Utting keeps Toronto’s Dan Dawson in check. (Photo credit: Anna Taylor)

Saturday night the Toronto Rock (3-1) won their third straight game by defeating the Rochester Knighthawks (0-4) 13-12 at Scotiabank Arena in front of 8,685 fans. With the win, Toronto has also secured the season series tie breaker versus Rochester should the teams finish with the same record. Back on December 28th the Rock came up victorious 14-11 in Rochester.

Rob Hellyer led the way for the Rock (3G/3A). He became just the fifth player in Rock history to hit the 500-point plateau in a Rock uniform. He joins some elite company alongside Colin Doyle, Blaine Manning, Josh Sanderson and Stephan Leblanc.

“Robbie’s been on a pretty good run here for the last three games and that’s something that you kind of expect,” said Rock head coach Matt Sawyer. “He’s constantly moving and getting opportunities from different areas.”

After losing their season opener, the Rock have rolled off three straight victories, scoring double digits in all three including back-to-back wins against the Knighthawks. This was their first win of the season in front of their home crowd.

The teams exchanged early goals before Rochester would take a two-goal lead. Throughout the first half neither team could get on a run as they would match goal-for-goal and the Knighthawks would take a slim 7-6 lead at the half.

“We found a way and it was a pretty gritty effort,” Sawyer said. “Certainly not our best moment but you’re going to have them some nights and it’s important that you find a way to win.”

Hellyer and Adam Jay would find the back of the net just 12 seconds apart to give the Rock the lead early in the third, and they would never look back. Once again the teams would match goal-for-goal, and in fact it was two specific player going goal-for-goal: Holden Cattoni would score and Zach Manns would answer, three times. Cattoni would scored his fifth of the night at the 43 second mark of the final quarter to tie the game 10-10. Manns and Dan Craig would net the next two goals for the Rock and with just under 10 minutes they would hold a 12-10 lead.

Dan Michel of the Rochester Knighthawks lines up against Toronto’s Billy Hostrawser. (Photo credit: Anna Taylor)

Curtis Knight would score his only goal on the night to inch Rochester closer, but Damon Edwards got the eventual game winner on a beautiful fast-break dunk shot. Phil Caputo would score for the Knighthawks at 11:19 to make the score 13-12, but stellar goaltending by Nick Rose would keep the score that way until the final buzzer.

Rochester had a final chance with 12 seconds as Shawn Evans would fire a pass to Dan Michel, but Billy Hostrawser would get his stick in the way and the shot went into the netting. Toronto put the ball in play and fired it down the floor and the remaining seconds ticked to zero.

“It all starts with Rosey,” said Manns. “Those were some of the most unbelievable saves I’ve ever seen, friggin’ three of them in one game! It all starts with him and when our defense is stepping out and pressuring, I don’t think there’s an offence that can get to the net on us.”

The game did have some fireworks on several occasions, especially at the end of the contest as Billy Hostrawser and Holden Cattoni would square off before they were quickly separated. Josh Jubenville would end up in a quick wrestling match with Shawn Evans on the floor, but cooler heads somewhat prevailed.

“That’s good stuff,” smirked Sawyer. “I’m sure the fans enjoyed it. The game needs more of it.”

The teams will meet again on April 17 back in Toronto.

Balanced scoring led the Rock offense as the rookie Zach Manns had his first hat trick and added two assists. Hellyer’s hat trick and three assists also helped lead the way.

Rochester was led by Holden Cattoni (5G/4A) and Shawn Evans (2G/7A), who became the sixth NLL player to reach 1200 career points.

Nick Rose stopped 30-42 for the win, while Craig Wende stopped 46-59 and took the loss.

After losing their opener by 10 to the Swarm, Rochester lost the next three by a total of four goals. It seems like the team is close but just can’t get over the hump.

Toronto will visit Buffalo in another epic battle Saturday at 7 p.m. while Rochester hosts the Calgary Roughnecks at the same time. The Knighthawks then travel to face the Philadelphia Wings on Sunday night at 7 p.m.