Toronto, ON- There was a different feeling inside the Scotiabank Arena on Sunday afternoon. Kids packed the arena from head to toe, making every cheer just a little bit higher pitch. Other than the kids, the game held significant importance in many ways. However, the Rock suffered in the most important factor, the standings, as they fell in both the NLL table as well as in the Alterna Cup
For the Alterna Cup, the Rock came into the game in sole possession of the first place, while also being in the competition mindset. This was the third straight game that the Rock played against Canadian opponents, giving them an advantage in the mind game. However, the game is not won in the head, but on the floor.
While the players were mainly the same, the Rock was much more active in attack. No longer were they holding and running with the ball, rather every ball was quickly passed. It’s that quick passing which was the key to drawing defenders away and allowing University of Pennsylvania alum Dan Craig to score the first goal of the night.
Although the quick passing was a wonder of itself, that is until former Vancouver Stealth fan favourite, Rhys Duch tied it up with some skill of his own not long after, bring the Ropughnecks to level terms. The Roughneck’s opening goal sparked a run of three straight.
The problem for the Rock in the first quarter was that they were aiming to score the pretty goal. It worked for them once, but the rest of the time they were unable to threaten Christian Del Bianco in the Calgary net. It was only when forward Dave Brock simplified the tactics and scored on a breakaway to jumpstart the Torontonians, who tied the game less than a minute later.
After 15 minutes of afternoon lacrosse, the game was knotted at three.
While the Rock had turned their performance around at the end of the first, the second flipped the script once again. The Roughnecks grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck, as they ran the score up with five consecutive goals. Sometimes it is easy to shut a team down, especially if it is one specific player who is doing the scoring. However, the Roughnecks offence comes from all parts of their roster. Of the five goals in the streak, none of them were scored by the same person. It makes the defensive task all the more difficult for opposing teams, a lesson the Rock learned on Sunday.
Although the game went back and forth, there was one constant- scoring from Tom Schrieber. “Captain America” as he is known as by fans returned to the lineup after a lengthy absence, but he didn’t miss a beat. By the time the first half came to a close, Schreiber had a pair of highlight-reel goals.
The third quarter was not what the Torontonians had hoped for. It took four minutes for them to get their first offensive possession of the day, and the defence often looked mismatched. The Rock have two players who are experienced in shutting down the opposition, but one of them, Latrell Harris remained out with injury, leaving Bill Hostrawser as the lone shutdown man. Four goals were scored in the third, and as the period went on, the Rock seemed to get their defence sorted out to the point where they could focus on the offence. Once they got into their offensive groove, they scored some very pretty goals. Their ninth of the night was a behind the back pass from Dan Dawson, which was finished by a diving Challen Rogers.
It took a little while for the Rock to get their tenth goal, but it took just as long for the first CUFLA player to get on the board. The Rock’s decade marker came with eight minutes left, as Nippising Laker Scott Dominey scored on one of his trademark breakaways to bring the home side within two.
Dominey’s marker was as close as the Rock got, as they fell to the defending NLL Cup champions 12-10.
After the game, the talk was all about Tom Schriber. “Great to have him back, he missed a while so it’s nice to have him back,” said Rock captain Challen Rogers. “He had som,e jump out there, I liked to see that. His second goal was great going to the net, he’s a good guy to have back.”
Schreiber, a Princeton University grad has been a crucial member of the Rock for a few seasons. Although the team found success in his absence, his addition will help the team as they enter the final playoff push of the season.
The Rock are back in action on Friday night against their highway rivals, the Buffalo Bandits. Although not an Alterna Cup matchup, getting back on a winning note will be very important for the Toronto side.