Rock end drought in Rochester

GORDON ANDERSON, special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:27 AM ET

TORONTO - Enough is enough said Bob Watson. The Toronto goaltender turned aside 50 shots as the Rock defeated the Rochester Knighthawks 12-9 in NLL action at the Blue Cross Arena on Saturday night.

The win put to bed a losing streak that had reached an embarrassing point. Going into the game, the Rock were an astonishing 0-15 in Rochester during regular-season play. Watson participated in every one of those games but, fittingly enough, he was the star of the show Saturday.

He is the first to admit the team is looking forward but said it was nice to kick the losing streak to the curb.

“For the few of us who have been around it’s been a bit of a monkey on our back,” Watson said. “It was a nice win for us.”

Toronto (2-0) continued its early season domination on defence.

Last week, the Rock allowed one goal in the second half against Edmonton and tonight it gave up only four in the final 30 minutes, including none in the third quarter.

To borrow hockey parlance, it is using down-ice pressure, forcing teams into shooting from low percentage areas and committing turnovers.

Last year, Toronto was second in the league for fewest goals allowed but this year GM and assistant coach Terry Sanderson thinks the team is better on the back end.

“It just doesn’t come to you overnight,” Sanderson said of his complex defensive system. “That’s why I feel we are better than last year because guys are more familiar with it and it’s certainly showing.”

When the Knighthawks got their chances, especially in the third quarter, Watson was there. He made 18 saves in the third quarter, with several being of the highlight variety, allowing the Rock to get the only two goals and take a 10-5 lead into the fourth.

“The first seven or eight minutes (of the third quarter), it was all to do with him (Watson),” Sanderson said of Watson’s stellar play.

Rochester (1-1) finally beat Watson with 9:12 remaining in the game when Cody Jamieson scored from close in.

Watson seems to be playing with a ton of confidence right now.

“I feel good,” Watson said. “Everyone is playing well and it filters right down.”

At the other end, Rochester goalie Matt Vinc (1-1) had a rough start to the game, allowing six goals on 11 shots in the first quarter, including a softy to Kasey Beirnes with 5:02 remaining in the opening 15 minutes that gave the Rock a 5-2 lead. He found his sea legs early in the second quarter and finished with 41 saves for the night.

Garrett Billings had two goals and six assists to lead the Rock. Stephan Leblanc had three goals and two assists while Blaine Manning had two goals and four assists. Colin Doyle and Aaron Pascas chipped in two goals each while Beirnes had the other.

The Rock took a 6-2 lead after the first quarter and led 8-5 at the half. Pascas scored the only two goals of the third quarter, giving Toronto a 10-5 lead heading into the fourth. The Nighthawks scored three goals in garbage time to close the scoring.


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