For the Toronto Rock, wins have been hard to come by against the Georgia Swarm, but a complete team effort on home floor Friday night saw the hosts come out with a 14-9 victory.
It couldn’t have been a better start for Toronto, as they managed to put up four goals and blank the Swarm after the first frame. The early run saw one of the goals of the year from the stick of Kieran McArdle.
Nick Rose was pulled on a regular five-on-five offensive set with about 11 minutes gone in the first quarter – there was no delayed penalty so the Rock left themselves vulnerable for an empty-net goal the other way if there was a turnover. After running half the possession with a six-on-five advantage, Tom Schreiber sprinted to the bench to get Rose back on, leaving Kieran McArdle unattended behind the cage. Adam Jones put the ball on the lefty, who dunked it from behind the net.
Rose was locked in early, turning away all 10 Swarm shots he faced in the first 15 minutes.
“You don’t win in lacrosse without goaltending – without top-flight goaltending. If your goalie is average, chances are you’re going to lose the game,” Rock head coach Matt Sawyer said postgame. “We don’t have an average goalie, we have a great one. He showed that.”
Georgia would turn up the pressure in the second by scoring three of the first four goals of the quarter. Shayne Jackson got his fifth and sixth goals of the season off transition opportunities. The Swarm put up five goals in the frame, but they still trailed the Rock 7-5 at the half.
Toronto would get goals from Challen Rogers, Adam Jones and Dan Craig to open the third quarter. Craig completed the hat trick after putting home an outside shot off a feed from Kieran McArdle.
“We had a little bit of a different mindset coming into this game – attacking a little bit more from the left side. So that gives us a little more room as lefties and we were able to capitalize on some opportunities,” Craig said.
Georgia would answer with a three-goal run of their own, highlighted by a pair of goals by Lyle Thompson.
Heading into the final frame, the Rock held a 10-8 advantage. The Swarm were only able to muster a single goal, while the Rock potted four, including a backbreaking marker from Dan Lintner with just over two minutes to go.
Hellyer (2 G, 4 A) and Schreiber (1 G, 4 A) led the way for the Rock offensively, while Craig (3 G, 1 A), McArdle (1 G, 3 A), and Lintner (2 G, 1 A) also chipped in with solid performances. Challen Rogers had a pair of transition goals and Brock Sorensen sealed the game with an empty-netter.
“We have a great group. We felt that way since training camp. We have a great unit. Front end, back end: we’re deep,” Sorensen said following the game. “There’s another five guys that are just chomping at the bit that can support any position at any time too so we’re feeling good and we’re gonna keep working to keep this thing going.”
With the win, Toronto moved to 4-1 on the year and are now tied with Georgia atop the East Division standings.
The Rock travel to the Wells Fargo Center next weekend for a showdown with the Philadelphia Wings, who forced overtime in the team’s last matchup.
“I’m sure it’ll be a tough trip. We’re looking forward to playing there. Back in the day, it was nice to go to Philadelphia. It was exciting to see the support they got in the first couple of games and we’ll have our hands full, Sawyer said. “We’ll enjoy this for 24 hours, get back to it on Tuesday, and every game in this league is tough and that’ll be a tough one for sure.”