Rock's reign grinds to halt

RYAN WOLSTAT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:34 AM ET

ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- In a season filled with uncharacteristic letdowns, the biggest one of all cost the Toronto Rock a chance of repeating as National Lacrosse League champions.

The Rock fell asleep again early in the fourth quarter on the way to a 16-8 loss to the Knighthawks in the East Division semi-finals.

After looking terrible throughout a one-goal third quarter and trailing 7-6 entering the fourth, the Knighthawks stormed out of the gate with five quick goals -- two from Shawn Williams and three from NLL goal scoring leader John Grant -- to pull away from the Rock in a game that was closer than the final score indicated.

Toronto tried to come back, as it has so many times this year, but another five Rochester goals -- the last three into an empty or lightly guarded net -- made the task impossible.

"How do we play perfect lacrosse almost three quarters and then it just goes away?" asked a puzzled Rock coach/general manager Terry Sanderson.

The 10 goals allowed in the fourth was a new Rock low.

The team had no answer at either end of the floor for Rochester goaltender Pat O'Toole, who made 46 saves.

With many Western New Yorkers concentrating on the Buffalo Sabres' playoff opener, and since Maple Leaf and Raptor fans had no such post-season plans to worry about, empty seats dotted the usually jam-packed Blue Cross Arena and the normally intimidating facility was peppered with vocal Rock supporters.

The 7,295 in attendance didn't give the Knighthawks -- now winners of 11 of 12 games versus the Rock lifetime in Rochester -- as much of an advantage as usual ... until the offensive explosion in the fourth, that is. With the goals coming in bunches, the crowd woke up and one fan held up a sign that summed everything up: "Watch for falling Rock."

The Rock, last year's NLL champion, put itself in an early hole but found itself tied after the first and second quarters.

Watson was the best Rock player on the floor last night and deserved a better result.

The normally potent Rock offence ran dry when it was most needed. Josh Sanderson, Colin Doyle and Blaine Manning combined for just nine points, while Grant managed six, five of them goals, by himself.

Still, Rock captain Jim Veltman said the Rock doesn't need to be overhauled.

"I don't know if you blow this thing up. We're still a pretty good team," he said.


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