NLL: Thunderbirds exact revenge on Rock with 9-8 win

Clarke Petterson shoots on Nick Rose. NLL – Halifax Thunderbirds vs Toronto Rock – Scotiabank Center, Halifax, Nova Scotia – February 21, 2020. (Trevor MacMillan/Halifax Thunderbirds)

The Halifax Thunderbirds exacted a measure of revenge on the Toronto Rock Friday night at Scotiabank Centre with a 9-8 win that put them back on top of the NLL’s North Division.

The Rock were the first team to defeat the Thunderbirds back on January 31, so it was time for the newest Canadian NLL team to step back up and show who’s boss.

After the loss to the Rock, the Thunderbirds had a bye week and then lost a heartbreaker 16-15 in overtime to the Saskatchewan Rush.

“The boys came to play today and there’s nothing better than getting a win here and stopping that little losing streak,” goaltender Warren Hill said to Dana Jackson in a post-game interview. “We didn’t want it to get out of hand.”

Dan Craig and Mike Burke traded goals to start the game. Halifax then hit a post on the power play which allowed Rob Hellyer to sprint down the floor shorthanded and score on a spin move. Challen Rogers put the Rock up 3-1 until Cody Jamieson scored on a penalty shot over Rose’s left shoulder after the Rock were called for a minor penalty and for a defender closing his hand on the ball at the same time. Kyle Jackson tied the game at three with a sidearm shot on the power play.

Graeme Hossack started the second with a transition goal. Rob Hellyer then kicked off a spate of four goals in 1:20. Ryan Benesch and Jamieson scored for Halifax but Dan Dawson answered so fast that Jamieson’s goal hadn’t even been announced in the arena. Rookie Clarke Petterson gave the Thunderbirds a 7-5 lead heading into halftime with an individual effort, barrelling his way to the front of the net and stretching with a dive past Nick Rose.

Mike Burke scored the only goal of the third quarter, 19 seconds in.

Benesch popped a behind-the-back pass to Brandon Robinson to start the fourth. Robinson bicycled his legs as he avoided the crease. Hellyer and Johnny Powless replied to cut the Halifax lead to 9-7. Damon Edwards brought the Rock within a goal on a transition run but Hill then denied Dawson to stop the momentum. Halifax did not score on a late power play, and then were hit with a penalty of their own as Hossack dragged down Rogers on a scoring chance. The Rock did everything they could, holding possession for most of the last minute of play, but couldn’t find the equalizer.

“We were clicking on all cylinders and they made my job easier. Everyone was on their assignments and it was a total team effort,” said Hill.

Burke led the Thunderbirds with a pair of goals and one assist. Jamieson scored twice. Benesch scored once and contributed three helpers. Jake Withers won 18 of 21 faceoffs and Warren Hill made 38 saves.

Rose was the busier of the two goalies, making 50 saves including 30 in the first half alone. Hellyer led with a hat trick and three assists and now leads the NLL’s scoring race with 29 goals.

Both teams are in action again next Saturday with the Thunderbirds visiting the Buffalo Bandits at 7 p.m. and the Rock travelling to Saskatchewan to meet the Rush at 8:30.