By Graeme Perrow
The Toronto Rock moved one game closer to the Championship game on Sunday with a 10-8 win over the Rochester Knighthawks. Bob Watson, in what might have been his last-ever game in Toronto (only one of the four possible outcomes of next week's games means another Rock home game), was great but Toronto's defense was even better, only allowing 41 Rochester shots and keeping the Knighthawks scoreless for over 30 minutes from the first through the third quarters. The offense seems to have overcome the problems they had in the last few games of the season, though there were still a few situations that looked like a drill where the idea was to pass as much as possible and not shoot at all. Shawn Evans, Jordan Hall, and Mike Accursi each had 2 goals for Rochester, while Garrett Billings and Colin Doyle each had hat-tricks for the Rock.
The Knighthawks took an early lead but down 3-1 after ten minutes, the Rock scored seven straight goals to take an 8-3 lead. The first was a beauty by Colin Doyle, diving from behind the net to stuff the ball in behind Vinc in a mirror-image of a Tracey Kelusky goal against Boston the night before. Rochester didn't score their fourth goal until ten minutes into the third, but then scored four in the 4th to make it close. One of those four included a rare penalty shot, scored by Jordan Hall after a Rock defender left the bench a touch early when Hall was on a breakaway.
The game was a fairly typical Toronto-Rochester matchup, a close game with no fights and not much chippiness. Somehow Shawn Evans was not aware of this, and seemed to think that more chippiness was just what this game needed. At one point Evans (5'9", 180 lbs) got into a pushing match with Jeff Gilbert (6'4", 215 lbs) and even managed to take Gilbert's helmet off, but Gilbert just stood his ground and didn't retaliate or let it develop into a full-blown fight. I'm not sure he even knew there was someone hitting him, actually. In the end, nobody was even penalized. There weren't that many penalties called at all, actually; I thought the refs did a pretty decent job for the most part, though there was one "warding off" call early in the game – that happens all the time, but when is it ever called?
Toronto's third goal was scored by Aaron Pascas, and I don't think the ref had brought his arms down from signalling the goal before Mike Hasen had thrown the challenge flag. It looked pretty cut-and-dried to me – Pascas shot the ball, Vinc got a piece of it, Pascas ran through the crease, and then the ball crossed the line. Pascas was definitely in and through the crease before the ball went in, so I thought it was a no-brainer – no goal. So when the ref came out of the video booth and signalled that the goal was good, we (as Rock fans) were pleased but thoroughly confused. It turns out that if the player goes into and gets out of the crease before the ball goes in, the goal counts. This makes no sense to me, but I'll take it. Pascas later left the game on a painful note – in the 4th quarter, a Knighthawks player fell on him in the Rochester crease and after the Knighthawk got up and ran off, Pascas half-crawled half-dragged himself through the crease, in obvious pain. The Rock trainer went out and after a few minutes, Pascas was helped off the floor, making sure to put no weight at all on his left leg. It didn't look good, but according to TSN, Pascas should be ready to go for next week's game.
Note to Rock promotional staff: it was nice to give the white "rally towels" to everyone, but you are aware of the phrase "waving the white flag" and what it signifies, right? Or "throwing in the towel"? That said, seeing ten thousand people spinning them around at the same time was pretty cool.
The Rock travel down the QEW to Buffalo to meet the Bandits in the Eastern division final next Saturday. The game is televised on Versus on Sunday afternoon, for those of you who get Versus (i.e. not Canadians). The winner of that game makes it to the Championship game – the winner either travels to Calgary or hosts Washington.