Though the Toronto Rock’s schedule is weeks long in length, their matchup with the Philadelphia Wings was one both teams had circled, but one that Toronto came out on top of 11-10 in overtime.
Adam Jones scored the game winner four minutes into the extra frame as he worked on his defender, turned and wired his fifth goal of the night into the cage. Tom Schreiber also scored five goals in the win.
With the win, the Rock move into third place in the Eastern Division; one win behind the Georiga Swarm for the lead. The visiting Wings are in possession of last place in the East at 0-3.
The was the first time since the 2013/14 season that the Wings and Rock squared off. With the Rock losing one of their cornerstone pieces in Brett Hickey to the Wings in the expansion draft, this game was one that promised nothing but entertainment.
Unfortunately, Hickey was held to just two assists and left late in the game with a lower-body injury that saw him leave the building on crutches.
But fans in attendance at Scotiabank Arena got their excitement anyway as the first quarter was wall-to-wall action. This has been come to be the theme with the Rock as through two home games, the first quarter has kept fans on the edge of their seats. Last week against the Swarm, it was the battle of the goaltenders in Nick Rose and Mike Poulin. On Friday night, it was more of the same as Rose and St. Catharines’ native Doug Buchan faced off in this reborn rivalry.
With a combined 19 shots but only two goals by both clubs in the opening minutes of the contest, this game became very reminiscent of the old days – with solid net minding from Bob Watson and Dallas Eliuk and, and high-flying players like Colin Doyle and Tom Marechek. This time around, it was the likes of Blaze Riorden and Tom Schreiber who sparked life into the scoreboard which read 1-1 after the first.
The second quarter of play saw more back-and-forth action as these teams seemed on-par with each other all night.
Early on in the frame, the Rock sprung out to a two-goal lead with large offensive efforts from Jones and Brandon Slade. Jones beat Buchan on a picture-perfect pick-and-roll goal off a pass from Kieran McArdle. Slade, on the other hand, decided to do it all on his own as he dodged around the Wings’ defense down near the crease and beat a dancing Buchan as Slade buried it.
While the Rock’s play made the air in Scotiabank Arena electric, a missed dunk attempt from Schreiber saw the ball go the other way. Loose ball battle after loose ball battle later, the Wings saw themselves on an odd-man rush deep in Rock territory. A flick of the wrist later, the Wings brought the game within one as Liam Patten beat Rose to make it a one-goal game.
The Rock entered the third on a two-man advantage after a slashing minor to Hickey and a goalie interference penalty to Riorden gave Toronto a five-on-three.
They quickly took advantage as Jones scored on the man-up. Schreiber’s came 39 seconds later to put the Rock up 5-2. Chris Cloutier got one back for Philadelphia after finding an open lane in front of Rose.
With six minutes left to play, both teams let their offensive weapons out. With five goals in the last six minutes of the third, both teams let their offensive weapons out. Jones and Schreiber both recorded their third goals. A few Wings goals sprinkled on top but it was 7-6 Rock with 15 left to play.
Philadelphia took exception to the Rock’s dominance in the third as they opened the fourth with a run of their own.
Recording three goals early, the Wings looked as if they were capable of running away with the game as they suddenly led 9-6. But the hot hands of Jones and Schreiber came knocking again, each adding another, tying the game at nine.
Moments later, the once energetic atmosphere of Scotiabank Arena fell silent as Riorden scored his second of the game as he came off the bench in transition to give the Wings a 10-9 lead with two and a half minutes left.
“A young group means a lot of speed,” said Wings’ head coach Paul Day. “We’re going to try and push the tempo of the game. We have good speed and we have some young guys that can finish. It’s tough to score five on five so we need to score in transition.”
Although the Wings’ transition game was deadly, with seven of their goals coming on the run, the Rock turned the tables in the final minute. Schreiber was out helping to kill a late Rock penalty when Rob Hellyer corralled a loose ball to Schreiber who ran in, dodging a defender, and went airborne to beat Buchan to tie the game at 10 with 20 seconds left.
Postgame, Rock bench boss Matt Sawyer spoke on his team’s efforts though it was not the game he imagined, saying:
“We gave up a lot of transition goals and that was on us up front. Having said that, sometimes the ugliest end up being the prettiest and we found a way here tonight.”
Now having to face the face the Wings a few more times this season, Sawyer hinted at the possibility of Philadelphia becoming a new rival.
“Well they’re in our division,” he said. “There’s always a rivalry there and this is the new edition of the Philadelphia Wings. But, if you go back in time, there was a big rivalry between Philadelphia and Toronto so I’m sure that will develop.”
Toronto’s next game will take place in a different time zone as they travel to the Mile High City to tangle with the Colorado Mammoth on January 12th. The Wings host the Rochester Knighthawks the same night.