It took Toronto Rock team leader and Captain Colin Doyle 1 minute and 6 seconds to open the scoring on the 2011 NLL season. And it sparked the home side to an opening night win, the Rock defeating the Edmonton Rush 13-7.
While the Rock fans were still clapping and appreciating how nice it was to have lacrosse back after Doyle’s goal, only 12 seconds elapsed before Scott Stewart tied the game at 1-1. His teammate Ryan Ward would open a 2-1 lead for Edmonton before Port Coquitlam, B.C. native and Rock rookie Aaron Pascas tied the game.
Pascas took a pass while cutting through the middle for his first in a Toronto uniform. He added a little spark to an already formidable offensive line-up that Toronto can offer up. He finished the night with 2 goals and 1 assist.
The first quarter ended tied at 2-2, with both teams shaking off the Winter Rust. The second quarter however was another story. Toronto outscored Edmonton 6-4 in the second with both teams opening up their offenses. Toronto sophomores Garrett Billings and Stephan Leblanc both scored twice, while Pascas got his second of the night and Kasey Beirnes added a single. For Edmonton, Ryan Ward got his second, while Andy Secore and Gavin Prout also scored. The Rock took an 8-6 lead in at half time.
The 15 minute break is an opportunity for Coaches to adjust their game plan as needed and both staffs must have talked about the pending shootout that was looming. Toronto came out in the third quarter and Blaine Manning scored his first of the season only a minute and a half in. Leblanc would get his hat trick goal with only 22 seconds remaining in the quarter and that was all the scoring there was as the Rush were shut out for the entire third.
Early in the fourth Toronto did it again, as Patrick Merrill would capitalize early on a 3 on 2, with a bounce shot that found its way between the legs of Edmonton’s Matt Disher. Beirnes would get his second converting a very nice give and go with Manning to open the lead to 12-6 with just under 7 minutes left. Corey Small would notch Edmonton’s first goal of the second half with just over 4 minutes left. Small fired a low under hander from about 35 feet out that fooled Toronto goalie Bob Watson. Drew Petkoff score on a semi empty net to round out the scoring.
It was a rough start for the Rush who in the second half seemed to have no offensive spark, missing passes and committing a few costly turnovers. The Rock looked to get more momentum as the game went on and one might argue that defensively they forced the Rush turnovers.
Other Game Notes:
– Manning ended the night with a goal and 5 assists
– Watson let 2 goals in, in the first 2 minutes of the game, but settled in nicely, particularly in the 2nd half.
– Toronto fired 76 shots at Matt Disher while Edmonton had 56
– A relatively tame game, Edmonton was 0/2 and Toronto 0/3 on the PP
– I chatted with retired goalie Steve Dietrich in the Press Box. Chugger was up for his first game as the Rock Goalie Coach.
– Sophomores Billings and Leblanc, veterans Doyle and Manning, and newcomer Pascas should have Rock fans hoping for another return (and win) in the 2011 Champions Cup.