TORONTO - Believe it or not, there’s a very good home team in Toronto.
Unfortunately, not enough fans are paying attention.
If the Toronto Rock — 15-14 overtime winners over the Boston Blazers on Friday night — keep putting on shows like this, perhaps they might start.
A great contest was highlighted by an unbelievable almost 10 minutes of overtime before Stephan Leblanc netted the winner.
Leblanc led the Rock with five goals and four assists in what was the most thrilling contest in any sport at the ACC so far in 2011.
Though Boston’s outstanding trio of Casey Powell, Dan Dawson and Josh Sanderson gets the bulk of the attention, young Kevin Buchanan was a top performer too with five goals and three assists. Powell had five goals and nine points.
Playing head coach Troy Cordingely’s favoured high-pressure, high-tempo style, the Rock pushed the pace against a game Boston side that was the National Lacrosse League’s only other undefeated squad heading in.
Leblanc has now scored in every career game — regular season or playoffs.
Leblanc’s remarkable streak continued when he opened the scoring with a bizarre goal that bounced way up after hitting goalie Anthony Cosmo, before landing in the back of the net behind him.
A day after his 25th birthday, Leblanc got off to a great start with four goals and two assists in the first half and put the finishing touches on the win with a lucky winner.
Sophomore teammate Garrett Billings added a goal and six assists.
Rock goalie Bob Watson and Boston counterpart Anthony Cosmo were tremendous, particularly in the extra frame.
After years of futility, the Rock also started 3-0 a season ago, marching all the way to the NLL’s championship game, a 15-11 defeat.
This year’s edition seems to have both built on its success and come out angry after falling just short of a title.
The Blazers kept trying to creep back, but the Rock kept finding insurance markers until Ryan Hotaling tied the game at 11 with about seven minutes to play.
But defensive player of the year Sandy Chapman immediately after showed he had a little bit in his tank offence-wise as well.
Chapman raced all the way down the floor following a Boston turnover and deposited a shot behind Cosmo.
After a flurry of goals, Boston closed within one again with under a minute to go and Powell, the reigning NLL MVP, tied it with 27.2 seconds remaining, forcing overtime.
Both keepers made a couple of ten-bell stops in the extra session. Watson was on fire early, but Cosmo put up a wall before letting in the fluky winner.
Overall, it was a clinic put on by the two best goalies in franchise history.
Watson made 38 stops, Cosmo 45.
Cosmo is second on the Rock’s all-time saves list, a mere 5,000+ behind Watson.
The teams had not met since they opened the 2010 campaign with two spirited contests — won by the Rock 17-7 and 8-7 in overtime at the ACC.
Things don’t get any easier for the Rock, who head down the QEW for a date with the Buffalo Bandits on Saturday night.