Something had to give when the Toronto Rock arrived to play the Minnesota Swarm on Sunday. The Rock were looking for their first National Lacrosse League road win of the 2014 season, and the Swarm were looking for their first home win of the season. It took an extra 96 seconds to decide the matter, but the Toronto Rock is the team celebrating today after carding a 9-8 overtime win over the Swarm. Colin Doyle scored the winner on an open look from his side in a game had the potential to create an interesting logjam for third place in the East Division. As it is, the Rock now have a full 2-game lead over the Philadelphia Wings and a 2.5-game lead over the Swarm for the division’s third and final playoff spot. “It relieves a lot of pressure off of us,” Doyle told NLL.com. “Not because of the position we put ourselves in but because we got a win.”
But as much as the Rock are celebrating today, it was a win that almost wasn’t. And it was a familiar nemesis that haunted Toronto late in Sunday’s game: A run by the opponent. It’s become a familiar theme for Toronto this season, and it’s cost them games and maybe even a few hairs from the head of the coaching staff.
On Sunday, the Rock built a 5-0 lead with goals from 5 different players in the first quarter. Logan Schuss finally got Minnesota on the board at 6:24 of the second and by halftime, the Swarm cut Toronto’s margin to 7-4. The only goal of the third quarter — from Garrett Billings — gave Toronto an 8-4 lead, but the Swarm scored 4 unanswered goals in the fourth to send the game to overtime.
That set up Doyle’s heroics in the added time, and sent a sigh of relief through Toronto. Less than 24 hours earlier, the Rock saw a 9-5 halftime lead at home against Rochester turn into a 17-12 loss when the Knighthawks outscored the Rock 12-3 in the second half.
“After playing last night and having a tough loss,” Toronto coach John Lovell told NLL.com. “I don’t know if you can get a much more character win than that for us.”
Speaking of Rochester, the Knighthawks enjoyed a 2-0 weekend with the aforementioned win over Toronto on Saturday, then a Sunday road win over Philadelphia, 11-7. Rochester’s fourth straight win moves it into a tie for first place in the East Division with the Buffalo Bandits. Buffalo (8-2) is ahead of Rochester (9-3) by percentage points, .800 to .750.
Rochester set the tone early with goals on their first 5 shots. Brad Self, Craig Point, Dan Dawson, and Point twice more had Rochester ahead 5-1 early in the second quarter. But the Wings showed some moxie with 4 goals in the third quarter, and Ryan Ward’s strike about 30 seconds into the fourth brought Philly to within 8-7.
Rochester responded with goals from Cody Jamieson, Joe Walters and Point to pull away as the defense didn’t allow another Wings goal.
The Knighthawks have won 6 of their last 7 games and have a chance on March 29 to redeem one of their 3 losses this season when the Edmonton Rush come to town. The Wings, meanwhile, are reeling. They were 3-3 at one point, but their sixth straight loss means they haven’t won a game since a 15-9 win over the Vancouver Stealth on Feb. 7.
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The Wings were pleased with the rally against Rochester on Sunday that brought them to within a goal. But as they discovered, momentum can be lost as quickly as it’s gained as the Knighthawks responded with a 3-0 run to ice Sunday’s win. “We saw that pretty explosive offense last night and they came down and got a couple of goals and all of sudden the one goal game becomes a three goal game real quick and when you’re in a three goal game with a half a quarter to go and your offense isn’t really clicking, it comes a bit of a tough go — so it got away from us at that point in time,” Wings coach Blane Harrison said. (NLL.com) … Another tight score late in the game put the Buffalo Bandits to the test, and they answered the bell in Saturday’s 12-9 home win over Colorado. Late goals by Shawn Williams and Mark Steenhuis sealed Buffalo’s eighth win of the year. “The last couple of years, it seems like we found ways to lose. This year we’ve found ways to win. That’s the sign of a good team,” said John Tavares. (Buffalo News) … The Calgary Roughnecks took their second shot at the Edmonton Rush this season on Friday night. The result this time was much like the first with the unbeaten Rush posting a 15-7 score, sparked by a 7-2 run in the second quarter. “That was gross. You have to come and be ready to go and be accountable in this league. Anyone on this team can be an impact player and we didn’t have many of those tonight,” Calgary captain Andrew McBride said. (Calgary Herald).Chavez is an avid lacrosse player in Rochester and a journalist for the Democrat and Chronicle as well as a longtime Inside Lacrosse contributor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to RochesterSports.com.
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