It took an extra frame to decide a winner on Friday, but when the dust settled, it was the Toronto Rock who came out with the 11-10 overtime victory over the Philadelphia Wings.
The term defensive battle doesn’t get thrown around too often in lacrosse, but both teams had a playoff-like intensity in their own ends. After the first quarter, they were deadlocked at a goal apiece.
The second frame played out in a nearly identical fashion. Both teams had the contest looking like a hockey game heading into the half, with the Rock leading 3-2. The second half would bring a new intensity – and more goals.
Both teams managed to deposit four goals into the back of the net in the third. In the fourth, the Wings would begin to convert in transition. Anthony Joaquim, Liam Patten, and Kiel Matisz all managed to get goals off the rush before Blaze Riorden would get the go-ahead goal on the run with 2:24 left.
“We let them run and they shoved it down our throat,” Rock head coach Matt Sawyer said of the Wings, according to Anna Taylor of NLL.com.
The game looked nearly done and dusted after Sheldon Burns went to the box in the final minute of play with the Rock down one. In an extremely rare – or perhaps never used – move, Matt Sawyer sent out forwards Rob Hellyer and Tom Schreiber to get the ball back in the defensive end.
It paid dividends, as an errant shot by the Wings sent Schreiber the other way on a partial breakaway. He buried the ball over the shoulder of Philadelphia starter Doug Buchan to tie the contest with 19 seconds left.
Philadelphia still had a chance to win the game on the power play in the final seconds, but the Rock managed to hold them off to force overtime.
In the extra frame, Toronto still had to kill off over a minute before getting back to even strength. After trading possessions with the Wings, Jones would cap off his terrific night by backing down a defender and firing far side to walk off Philadelphia.
“We lost a tough one at home last week (to Georgia), to drop that one we would have been pretty upset,” Jones said postgame. “Schreiber had a great play, Rosey and the D shut it down when we needed to and we were fortunate to get one in overtime.”
Toronto managed to squeak out a victory despite only having three goal scorers on the night. Schreiber and Jones accounted for 10 of the Rock’s goals – on 28 combined shots – while Brandon Slade notched the only other marker for the home team.
Philadelphia managed to spread out the offence a bit more, with Matisz, Cloutier, Patten, and Riorden finishing with a pair of goals each. Brett Hickey – who was left unprotected by the Rock ahead of this past summer’s expansion draft – finished the night with two assists.
It was a very successful night for Wings faceoff man Trevor Baptiste. The best faceoff man on the plant lived up to his billing Friday, winning 16 of 24 draws against Jay Thorimbert – who sits second all-time in faceoff wins. Baptiste also registered his first career point on Matisz’s third-quarter goal.
Buchan, who was pulled in his first start of the year, came up huge for the Wings on several occasions, stopping 51 of 62 shots in a losing effort. His counterpart, Nick Rose, made 42 saves and produced some massive denials on transition and high-danger opportunities.
The schedule only ramps up from here for the Rock. They will return home for a rematch with the Georgia Swarm on Jan. 18. Next week, however, they travel to one of the loudest buildings in the league – The Pepsi Center – to take on the Colorado Mammoth.