It’s difficult to outclass the Saskatchewan Rush on a given night, but the Toronto Rock managed to do so for much of Friday’s contest.
Everything was working for the Rock in the 16-13 victory. Their offence kept the opposition guessing, the defence played fast and physical, they got a few goals in transition, and goaltender Nick Rose put in another solid shift.
Dan Lintner and Rob Hellyer got the Rock going early with two goals in the first three minutes. The first quarter score was far from done, however, as Mark Matthews and Ben McIntosh would combine for three goals in less than a minute to give the Rush a 3-2 lead. The two teams combined for 11 goals in the first quarter, with the Rock holding a slight 6-5 advantage.
Toronto would get a pair of goals from Adam Jones and additional markers from Kieran McArdle and Johnny Powless. For the Rush, Matthews scored his second of the night before Nick Finlay converted in transition.
The second frame belonged to the Rock. Off the opening draw of the quarter, Jay Thorimbert would push the ball up and feed Brandon Slade, who potted his third goal of the year to make it 7-5. Saskatchewan would get markers from Curtis Knight and Matthew Dinsdale but they would come in the middle of multiple-goal runs by the Rock.
Toronto’s defence began to clamp down on the potent Rush attack, allowing little to no chances through the middle of the floor. The Rock forwards also did a good job of getting off the floor and allowing the defenders to limit transition opportunities – something that the team struggled with to open the season.
Heading into the half, the Rock held an 11-7 advantage off the strength of a 5-2 goal advantage in the second frame.
The teams would score three goals apiece in the third, leaving the Rush with a four-goal deficit heading into the final quarter.
The Rush made sure to check Tom Schrieber hard throughout the game. Saskatchewan defender Mike Messenger even sent Schreiber flying into the Rock bench during the second quarter.
It was the Toronto forward who would get the last laugh, however. Messenger would take a five-minute major penalty for elbowing Schreiber with 3:39 remaining in the game. The righty would convert just 26 seconds into the man advantage, scoring his first goal on his 10th shot of the evening.
Saskatchewan would get the game to within three goals on multiple occasions, but the Rock managed to fend off some late efforts to take the win.
“We’ve been finding different ways to win,” Rock Head Coach Matt Sawyer said postgame. “We’re battle-tested in a few areas now, and it is nice to see us win a game against a real quality opponent when our goaltending and defence weren’t A-plus. Having said that, I thought Nick Rose was great in the second half and especially in the fourth quarter.”
The Rock had 10 different goal scorers on the night but were once again led by the Big Three of Schreiber (1 G, 4 A), Hellyer (2 G, 5 A), and Jones (4 G, 4 A). McArdle and Lintner each finished with two goals and four points on the night, while Powless had a goal and three helpers.
Matthews (2 G, 4 A) and McIntosh (3 G, 2 A) were the Rush’s offensive leaders. Church and Ryan Keenan also had a goal and three assists apiece.
Toronto moves to 6-1 on the year with the win. They will get the next week off before returning to home floor, where they’ll welcome the expansion San Diego Seals to town in a showdown of the leaders of each division.