The Toronto Rock returned home to play a familiar rival in the Georgia Swarm on Friday night, and unfortunately for the hosts, they came out on the losing end of a 12-11 final.
Toronto started the game off on the right foot. Their forwards were moving the ball well and the defence was swarming – no pun intended – Georgia’s forwards. It would be the visitors that would come out ahead after the first frame, though.
Rob Hellyer had a massive night, posting five goals and 10 points on 13 shots. The best of his chances came in the fourth quarter when he drove the crease and dunked the ball over Georgia goalie Mike Poulin’s left shoulder to bring the Rock to within a goal.
After Kieran McArdle knotted the game at 10, Hellyer would strike again from distance to give the Rock their first lead since the first quarter.
McArdle finished with a six-point night, while Tom Schreiber finished with five points of his own. The former managed to use his heavy shot to score each of his goals on the night.
As for his own game, Hellyer said that while he liked the individual accomplishments, the team’s desired goal wasn’t met. Over the next few games, he’s hoping to gain more chemistry with some of his teammates on the offensive side of the ball.
“I think there’s some growing pains in there. I haven’t played a whole bunch with Tommy (Schreiber) – I was hurt the first year and then he was hurt last year. So I think we’re still finding some chemistry in there. And then with Johnny (Powless), obviously, he’s a great player and has great vision, so it’s just finding chemistry over the first few games and I think we’ll be alright.”
Lyle Thompson continued to be a thorn in Toronto’s side in this game. The Swarm’s top gun managed to tie the game in the fourth on a fantastic individual effort.
The Rock defence managed to cut down on the high-danger chances on Rose in the second half, but the veteran tender still had to bail his team out in the final minutes.
Rose managed to stop a breakaway with just over a minute left, however, the Rock were handed a bench minor on the play for an illegal substitution – which carries an automatic penalty shot in the final two minutes of the game.
Thompson stepped up to take the shot, but he was stuffed by Rose The pair of saves helped fire up both the crowd and the Rock bench.
“Well, in the moment there, it was ‘attaboy Rosie,’” head coach Matt Sawyer said of the team’s reaction to the stops. “It was a big one for us and he kind of kept us alive. “He’s a big part of our team and – how do it put it – we almost expect him to do it. He was great in the second half.”
Rose managed to make 43 saves on 55 shots. He has faced 95 shots over two contests – the second-highest amount in the league – and sits fourth among goaltenders with a .798 save percentage.
Poulin was solid for the Swarm all night, stopping 45 of 56 shots on the night. He now has an 11.50 goals-against average and a .791 save percentage in two starts.
Unfortunately for the Rock, Thompson got another shot on net with 24 seconds left and made no mistake, as he sunk Toronto with his fourth tally of the contest.
While the Rock came out on the losing end, there are more than enough positives to extract from this performance.
“Another heck of a lacrosse game with Georgia – we’ve had a few of them – but they hit one more shot. That’s what it came down to, Sawyer said. “We certainly had our opportunities and we were good in a lot of areas, just need to find a way to come out on the right end of one against them. But we’ll get another crack at them.”
Toronto will get another chance to beat Georgia in January. The Rock will get their first opportunity to play the expansion Philadelphia Wings on home floor in a weeks time.