Riding a four-game home win streak, the Toronto Rock received an offensive boost Sunday prior to their lone matchup this season against the Calgary Roughnecks. Both Tom Schreiber, who missed six games to injury, and Dan Dawson, who missed the last two, returned to the Rock lineup. The excitement surrounding their return was evident in the building, but it would be short lived as Calgary eventually spoiled the party with a 13-10 victory.
While Toronto fans waited patiently to hear from their returning offensive stars, the aerial attack of the Calgary Roughnecks became the story of the first quarter with both Zach Herreweyers and Curtis Dickson scoring diving goals within 2.5 minutes of each other. Dickson thought he’d scored his second; however, offsetting penalties blew the play dead. The no goal turned into a bigger break for Toronto as David Brock then scored in transition, followed by a transition two-on-one goal from Damon Edwards. Despite Calgary outshooting Toronto 16 to seven in the frame, the score sat tied at three after the first.
The game also featured two of the league’s top goaltenders in Calgary’s Christian Del Bianco and Toronto’s Nick Rose. They started the second strong trading spectacular saves in the opening minutes – Rose going side to side and Del Bianco stopping a transition breakaway.
On the ensuing possession, Dickson completed his hat trick with a low shot from outside. The goal, paired with a dominating half at the faceoff dot from Tyler Burton, triggered a three-goal run for Calgary with Dan Taylor and Mitch Wilde scoring 12 seconds apart. A Curtis Manning minor allowed Toronto’s power play to get one back, but following another Burton faceoff win, Dickson got a step on his defender to put the Roughnecks ahead by three.
Eight minutes into the period, Schreiber finally capitalized on an outside shot. As with the first quarter, the Rock put a run together led by a Johnny Powless power play marker, a steal and transition breakaway from Josh Jubenville and finally a second from Schreiber who scored while lying on the carpet after being hit.
Not only did head coach Matt Sawyer praise his effort, but Schreiber himself said of the goal, “that was the main thing in terms of coming back, I didn’t want to be cautious. If I was going to go, I knew I wanted to be one hundred per cent.”
Dane Dobbie scored before the half to put Calgary up 9-7 at the break.
The lead quickly grew back to three when Taylor scored in the opening minute of the third. Back-to-back Rock penalties led to a Tyler Pace goal and an 11-7 lead at the first media time out. With Challen Rogers putting Toronto back on the board, it looked like Dickson answered with a beautiful off balance shovel shot. However, after review, he stepped in the crease before shooting and it was called back. Toronto could sniff momentum and they pushed the pace, but Del Bianco turned aside all but two shots in the quarter, the best of which stopped Dawson twice on the crease. He also benefitted from a crease call against Rogers just before the buzzer to end the quarter 11-9 for the Roughnecks.
“We knew we weren’t at our best. It was an uncharacteristic game for us but we hung around in that game,” said Sawyer.
Despite the desperation to claw back, the Rock were never able to put a run together throughout the contest. In the fourth quarter the teams traded goals, with Del Bianco stopping 11 of 12 Rock shots.
Dan Dawson’s assist on Schreiber’s second goal was the 909th of his career, and moved him into second all time in NLL assists, ahead of Josh Sanderson. The Rock will return home Friday night to face the Buffalo Bandits, one day after the NLL trade deadline.