There’s no need to look any further than special teams for the key to Friday night’s 14-10 Toronto Rock win over the Colorado Mammoth in National Lacrosse League play at the ACC. The home side went 6 for 7, including a penalty shot goal by Jesse Gamble that gave him a hat trick and wrapped up the scoring in the game.
Both of Colin Doyle’s goals came with the man advantage and the Rock captain added 6 assists to lead the game in scoring, just ahead of Garrett Billings‘ 1/6/7 line. Blaine Manning also scored a hat trick and Josh Sanderson chipped in 5 points (1g, 4a) for the Rock, who moved to 7-3 and retained sole possession of first place in the East Division. John Grant, Jr. had 3 goals and 2 assists and Adam Jones 2 goals and 3 assists for the Mammoth. Colorado (2-7) stays in last place in the West Division and overall in the NLL.
“[The power play] has been a strength of ours all year and especially in a tight league like this you’ve got to bury on your power play,” Billings told IL Indoor. “It’s been a real strong point for us in this last couple of games.”
Grant said that his club needs to be better and shouldered most of the blame himself and his cohort on the offensive side of the ball. “Their power play is really good. We were tops in the league last year and this year we’re letting our team down,” he said. “We’ve got to go back to the drawing board and just be better tomorrow. We’ve got to shoot better and it starts with me.”
Colorado led 5-2 at one point and looked like they’d come back from a big momentum swing towards the Rock to tie things up at 11-11 in the fourth quarter. A video review, however, disallowed a Grant goal on a gorgeous Air-Gait style move on which he reached his stick around Nick Rose to sneak the ball in. Instead of the game being tied heading into the stretch, Toronto held its one-goal lead and put up the next three goals to wrap up the game.
The game marked the debut of the Mammoth’s young goaltending duo. It was the first game where both 24-year-old Dan Lewis and 22-year-old Tye Belanger played. Lewis started and was pulled after Toronto’s eighth goal, at 11:27 of the second quarter. Belanger was victimized by a Kasey Beirnes quick-stick goal on the first shot he faced but then was very effective at holding the Rock at bay and allowing Colorado to get back in the game. He had to leave briefly after being shaken up in the fourth quarter but was able to return to finish the game.
While the Colorado goaltending situation remained a bit up in the air, Nick Rose was the picture of stability at the other end of the floor, looking very solid in stopping 41 of 51 shots. “He’s always solid. That’s Nick Rose,” Billings said. “I think if people watch and they don’t know the game that well they get a little frustrated because he doesn’t move that much so when he gets beat he really gets beat. But 90% of the time he’s standing there blocking that shot and making it look boring. And that’s what a goalie does, like Martin Brodeur, when you watch him play it’s kind of boring and that’s what the best goalies do—they make it look boring.”
Their was nothing boring about the win for Toronto fans. Colorado supporters, meanwhile, get to see their team take another crack at turning things around tonight when the Mammoth are in Buffalo to face the Bandits at 7:30 pm.
In Calgary, the Roughnecks and Swarm made life miserable for both starting goalies. Mike Poulin and Evan Kirk each gave up 15 goals. Tyler Carlson replaced Kirk in the Minnesota net and the Riggers beat him three times on seven shots to account for the margin of victory in their 18-15 win, moving them into a first-place tie in the win column with Washington.
Dane Dobbie was massive again for Calgary, scoring 6 goals to take over the league lead with 30 and adding 4 assists. Shawn Evans‘ 8-point night (1g, 7a) kept him atop the overall scoring lead and Jeff Shattler added 4 goals and 2 assists for Calgary.
Callum Crawford matched Dobbie’s 10-spot with a hat trick and 7 helpers for Minnesota. Ryan Benesch had 4 goals and 3 assists to become the third player in Swarm history to crack the 300-point plateau with the team. Rookies Kiel Matisz and Shayne Jackson continued to make big contributions, each picking up 4 assists while Matisz scored twice and Jackson once.
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