Garrett Billings emerged from the showers just in time to get the last slice of Hawaiian pizza in the Toronto Rock dressing room Saturday night.
But while Billings had to scramble for his favourite piece of pie, the National Lacrosse League rookie is in full control on the floor.
Backed by an excellent defensive performance from his teammates, Billings scored five goals and had three assists Saturday night as the Rock crushed the Rochester Knighthawks 17-3 at the Air Canada Centre, giving Toronto its first 3-0 start in 10 years.
“I get put on my ass a lot in practice, so I know what (the Knighthawks) went through,” Billings said. “This is a whole new group of guys here and it’s going a lot better than we expected.”
The scoring bonanza was timely, considering that Rock owner Jamie Dawick announced prior to the game that the club would donate $1,000 to World Vision for relief efforts in Haiti for each goal scored by Toronto. A cheque for $17,000 soon will be in the mail.
“We did not know that was coming,” said Rock captain Colin Doyle, who had a goal and six assists. “It’s a great thing for Jamie to do. They’re in a horrible situation, and anyway we can help, I am grateful to be a part of it.”
It’s fair to say that the rebuilding phase for the Rock, which comes after two years of missing the playoffs, is on a fast track.
Coach Troy Cordingley has emphasized an aggressive defence, and it’s clear the Rock has the talent to score. Put goalie Bob Watson — who made 45 saves — into the equation and through three games it has been a successful mix, giving the Rock first place in the East Division.
Billings, 23, is a natural goal-scorer, and has 11 in three games after the Rock picked him sixth overall in the 2009 draft.
There’s little that can be done to stop him.
“We watched him all summer and it was a gift for him to drop to No. 6 for us,” Cordingley said. “We told him right from the get-go he was the guy we wanted. He plays like a 30-year-old veteran.”
Before a crowd of 10,104, Toronto held a 6-0 lead after one quarter, but what made the opening 15 minutes astonishing was that Watson had to make just three saves. By the time Scott Evans scored the first Knighthawks goal in the opening minute of the second quarter, only the scoreclock would have argued that the game was not over.
The 14-goal triumph was the Rock’s biggest against the Knighthawks (2-1) in franchise history, but the same probably will not be in order next Saturday when the teams meet at Blue Cross Arena in Rochester. Toronto is a career 1-16 in Rochester, including playoffs.
“We had them back on their heels, and they had a hard time recovering,” Watson said. “It was a total team victory. They will take it to heart and we will have our work cut out for us next week.”