May 1, 2011

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Toronto Rock forward Kasey Beirnes tries to slip a shot by Rochester Knighthawks goalie Matt Vinc, the reigning NLL Goalie of the Year whom the Knighthawks acquired in the John Grant Jr. trade. © Rich Barnes
Toronto Rock forward Kasey Beirnes tries to slip a shot by Rochester Knighthawks goalie Matt Vinc, the reigning NLL Goalie of the Year whom the Knighthawks acquired in the John Grant Jr. trade. © Rich Barnes

Doyle, Billings Propel Rock to NLL Semifinals

from press release

TORONTO - The Toronto Rock inched themselves one step closer to a Champion's Cup final berth by defeating the Rochester Knighthawks 10-8 at the Air Canada Center in front of 10,228 fans. Colin Doyle and Garrett Billings scored six points each (3G, 3A) to lead the Rock. With the win, the Rock will head to Buffalo to take on the Bandits at the HSBC Arena next weekend.

"We seem to be a better team when our backs are against the wall," said Colin Doyle, captain of the Rock. "We were kind of lost in the shuffle there at the end of the year. We didn't know what we were playing for. But we were a focused group today and we beat a really good team over there."

The Rock moved the ball around early on and tried to impose some aspect of control on both sides of the ball. Still, it was the Knighthawks who struck first when Jarrett Davis snuck in the middle and buried the first goal of the game for the Knighthawks.

However, less than a minute later, the Rock answered back when Sandy Chapman sprinted down the field and deposited a goal past Matt Vinc to tie it up at one.

Before the Rock could snatch momentum, Shawn Evans rocketed a shot past Bob Watson to make it 2-1 with just over six minutes to go. Rochester continued to put the pressure on while slipping through the defense almost at will, but it was the Rock offense that answered the ball when things began to get tough.

After Jordan Hall scored to make it 3-1, Colin Doyle dove across the back of the net and tucked a goal past Vinc to make it 3-2. Then, just 25 seconds later, Aaron Pascas jetted down the lane to net the equalizing goal to end the quarter off at a 3-3 tie.

The second quarter witnessed the resurgence of Toronto's offense as Garrett Billings whipped a show past Vinc to take their first lead of the game. Meanwhile, the Rock finally began to physically pressure the Knighthawks offense on defense while Bob Watson began to make save after save.

"Defense played really well, it says something about how much we focused on it," said Watson. "Guys were really focused tonight, trusted each other and that was the key for
us. We stayed together and didn't get down on each other."

The results played dividends as Merrill even broke away from the pack shorthanded to give the Rock a 5-3 lead. Soon after, Billings notched his second of the game on a Rock power play to solidify a three goal advantage heading into the half as the Rock dominated the second quarter.

Toronto picked up right where they left off in the first half to start the third quarter. Watson manufactured some huge saves while the defense kept up the pressure on an uncoordinated Knighthawks offense.

"When things weren't going, our defense wasn't going," said Doyle, referring to the end of season stretch. "We rely so heavily on them. We feed off it (because) they can hold us through stretches where we aren't getting our looks and they did it tonight. They really found their stride tonight."

"(Watson) was excellent. He had a lot of his plate the last few weeks and it's just a testament to his mental toughness and preparation. He's playing with a heavy heart and he gave us what we expect from him. He never ceases to amaze us."

With just over eight minutes to go in the third frame, Billings fired his third goal of the game past Vinc to capture a four-goal Rock lead and it didn't stop there. Blaine Manning scored his first of the game just over a minute later to make it 8-3.

The Knighthawks responded with one goal to cut the Rock's lead to 8-4 heading into the fourth quarter.

The fourth quarter saw a change in momentum when Aaron Pascas hobbled off the field with a sprained ankle. Almost immediately after, Knighthawks forward Shawn Williams laced a shot past Watson to cut the lead to 8-5.

A penalty shot by Hall helped the Knighthawks come to within two, but Colin Doyle grabbed the reins and fired a shot past Vinc to take the Rock up to a 9-6 lead.

The Knighthawks refused to go down without a fight though as a nice offensive series led a goal by Shawn Evans to cut the lead back to two.

That's as far as Rochester could get though as Colin Doyle iced the game with his third goal of the night to give the Rock a 10-7 lead. Accursi scored a late goal to no avail as the Rock won the game 10-8.

"We had a very bad second quarter and they took it to us," said Mike Hasen. "We didn't do ourselves any favours and we stopped doing the little things that made us successful. We have to take this one and learn from it (because) we've come a long way."

"I thought we had control of the game," said Troy Cordingley, head coach of the Toronto Rock. "We did the little things real well tonight. I thought the defense was spectacular and we did a real good job of pressuring their top guys and forcing them into the areas that they didn't want to go.

"(Buffalo) came into our rink and took it to us pretty good so we're going to enjoy this one tonight and be focused on Buffalo."


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