A rough start for the Calgary Roughnecks was the difference in the Toronto Rock’s home opener on Friday night. The Rock jumped out to an early 3-0 lead and never looked back, controlling the majority of the game.
Dane Dobbie sniped two back to back power play goals in the first to close the gap to 3-2 and it looked as though the Roughnecks were going to make a it a game but that was the closest they got as the Rock would go on to win 16-11 in front of 11,120 screaming fans at the Air Canada Centre.
Toronto was all over Calgary in the first quarter, leading 7-3 after 15 minutes on goals from Colin Doyle, Garrett Billings, Jesse Gamble, Stephan Leblanc, Josh Sanderson and two from Rob Hellyer while outshooting their opponent 19-11.
The next 15 minutes was little better for the Roughnecks. They opened the scoring on a long shot from Veltman but penalty trouble midway through the frame cost them. Mike Carnegie took a 5 minute major for illegal crosscheck and Toronto took advantage with Doyle and Leblanc getting their second goals of the game. The Rock were 3 for 5 on the powerplay in the first half and went into the break leading 9-4 while outshooting the Roughnecks 30-23.
The second half was much different as Calgary seemed to find their legs and were looking more like the team that many critics have pegged as the West Division favourites.
Toronto didn’t let up any though and every time Calgary tried to rally, the Rock would come back with goals of their own. This was the pattern for the next two quarters with both sides notching seven goals apiece in the second half.
The Roughnecks applied pressure early in the fourth and almost closed the gap to two goals but Josh Sanderson made a great defensive play to stop Calgary’s three goal run. The Roughnecks scored three unanswered goals in the first minutes and looked to be getting their fourth when Sanderson came through big in the Rock’s zone. Roughnecks goalie Mike Poulin launched a beautiful pass the length of the floor to an open Curtis Dickson who looked to have lots of room until Sanderson caught up to him out of nowhere and broke up the play, keeping his team’s lead at 10-7.
Dickson and Sanderson remained tied up in front of the Toronto net while Kasey Beirnes grabbed the loose ball and went the distance the other way for an end to end goal to make it 11-7, knocking the Roughnecks comeback train off the tracks in the process.
Geoff Snider did get that one back just 11 seconds later off the ensuing faceoff but then 48 seconds after that, with Poulin on the Calgary bench for the extra attacker, Ethan O’Connor would score his first National Lacrosse League goal into the empty net. Stephan Leblanc tucked one more past Poulin with less than a minute left for his fifth goal of the game and that was all she wrote.
Toronto controlled the pace for most of this game but take away the slow start from Calgary and this might have been a different story. Second half scoring was 7-7 and shots on goal were 29 apiece, with Calgary outshooting Toronto 20-14 in the final quarter. Unfortunately for Calgary it’s a sixty minute game and you have to show up for every quarter; Toronto worked hard all night and definitely deserved the win.
The Roughnecks were led by reigning NLL MVP Shawn Evans who tallied 1 goal to go along with 7 assists and Jeff Shattler who notched 4 goals with 2 assists; although shaky in the first quarter, goalie Mike Poulin was solid between the pipes, stopping 46 shots, including a huge save on Sanderson with 5:50 left in the game.
Toronto had a few big guns leading the way, including Colin Doyle (2g 2a), Josh Sanderson (2 g 3a), Rob Hellyer (3g 1a), Stephan Leblanc (5g 2a) and Garrett Billings (1g 9a). Rookie Ethan O’Connor had a solid debut with 1 goal and 2 assists while Nick Rose was strong in net making 40 saves.
Rock scorers: Rob Marshall (2a), Jesse Gamble (1g), Ethan O’Connor (1g 2a), Kasey Beirnes (1g 3a), Colin Doyle (2g 2a), Rob Hellyer (3g 1a), Josh Sanderson (2g 3a), Stephan Leblanc (5g 2a) and Garrett Billings (1g 9a),
Scott Arnold is the Toronto Rock Beat Writer for In Lacrosse We Trust and the Director of Broadcasting for the Lacrosse Radio Network. He is also the play by play voice for the Canadian Lacrosse League (CLax), Major Series Lacrosse (MSL) and the Peterborough Jr. ‘A’ Lakers. You can follow him on Twitter @ScottArnold12.