Rock roll, Rush halt losing skid, Mammoth no longer perfect and Swarm crush Stealth

Stephan Leblanc found his shooting touch last night with four goals in the Rock's win over Rochester.
Stephan Leblanc found his shooting touch last night with four goals in the Rock's win over Rochester.

The roller coaster ride that is the 2012 National Lacrosse League season continued last night. The Toronto Rock rode big nights from Kasey Beirnes and Stephan Leblanc to a 16-12 win over Rochester a week after being dominated by the Wings. The unbeaten Colorado Mammoth finally fell, thudding to earth 21-10 at the hands of the Calgary Roughnecks. The Rush took advantage of returning to Edmonton to snap a three-game losing streak with a 12-10 win over Philadelphia. And Minnesota rebounded from drubbing last week to manhandle the Washington Stealth 15-7 and give Joe Sullivan his first win as an NLL head coach. After the jump, see more on the games.

Toronto took control early, blanking Rochester 5-0 in the first quarter, and outshot the Knighthawks in every period to return to a first-place tie at 4-3. Beirnes had 5 goals and 2 assists, including at least one goal in each quarter, for the Rock, which raised Hall of Fame goaltender Bob Watson’s number 29 to the rafters before the game. Leblanc’s big night was concentrated in the second half as he scored all of his 4 goals and 2 assists after the intermission.

“Obviously I’ve been struggling putting the ball in the back of the net all season,” Leblanc said after the game. “Just positive vibes from the dressing room, positive vibes from the coaching staff, having a lot of confidence in me and telling me to continue what I’m doing. In the first half they weren’t sinking and then it just clicked and I couldn’t miss. I came into the game knowing that if you throw enough [stuff] at the wall something’s gonna stick and you know what, that was my game plan coming in. I probably had the most shots I’ve had all year and luckily 4 went in.” He was accurate in his estimation, as Leblanc led all players with 17 shots.

Garret Billings chipped in a goal and 8 assists for Toronto, who outshot Rochester 60-37 on the night. One of the reasons for the lopsided total was a lack of accuracy by the Knighthawks, who seemed to be shooting high and wide all night long. “We were trying to be too fine and pick that pretty spot as opposed to taking what’s available to us and not adjusting our shooting,” said Head Coach Mike Hasen. “We were just trying to get that perfect shot every single time. That was the good thing about the second quarter was we adjusted ourselves a little bit and we got on a bit of a run and we were picking our spots that were open as to opposed to the one I want.”

The win moved Toronto into a first-place tie with Philadelphia, who scored the first goal but then trailed the rest of the way in Edmonton. The Rush were led by Zack Greer’s hat trick and the first 2 goals of the year from defender Derek Suddons. Kevin Crowley scored 4 times and Drew Westervelt added 3 goals and 3 assists for the Wings, who had a rare perfect night on the power play, scoring on both of their man advantages.

Colorado had some rust to shake off after their bye weekend. Calgary throttled the Mammoth 11-1 in the first half and held on for their big win. Daryl Veltman had 3 goals and 6 assists while Shawn Evans and Curtis Dickson each added hat tricks for the Roughnecks. John Grant Jr. continued his torrid scoring pace, notching 4 goals and 3 assists for Colorado, who went 6-10 on the power play.

On the west coast, Washington outshot the Swarm 50-39 but Minnesota rode a 7-0 second quarter for a win that moved them back above .500 at 4-3 while dropping the Stealth to a stunning 1-6 in Chris Hall’s return behind the bench from cancer treatment. Five different players scored a pair of goals for the Swarm, with Ryan Benesch leading the way by adding 6 assists. Evan Kirk had the second straight outstanding outing to start his career, making 43 saves for his second win. Dean Hill led Washington with a hat trick.

Toronto 16 – Rochester 12
NLL.com story
Game sheet

Edmonton 12 – Philadelphia 10
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Game sheet

Calgary 21 – Colorado 10
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Game sheet

Minnesota 15 – Washington 7
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Game sheet

Stamp is a TV sports announcer and lacrosse lover whose skill set made him a defender but who always dreamed of being a goal-scorer. He can be reached at stamplax@hotmail.com.

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