It seemed almost fitting that the matchup between the final two undefeated National Lacrosse League teams would go into overtime.
The Boston Blazers erased a three goal deficit in the fourth quarter but a broken play in overtime proved to be the difference as the Toronto Rock won 15-14 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. The Rock now take sole possession of first place in the Eastern Division.
Stephan Leblanc finished with five goals and four assists in the game for Toronto, including scoring the game winner nearly nine minutes into the extra period.
"I got lucky on a couple of them," Leblanc said of his five goals. "You have to give credit to Aaron (Pascas) and Colin (Doyle) for bumping bodies all night and it was just my turn to put them in the net tonight."
Boston’s Casey Powell also finished with five goals and four assists and scored a late heroic goal as well, beating Toronto goaltender Bob Watson with an outside shot to tie the game at 14 with 28 second left.
Coming into the game, Toronto knew they had to do their best to contain the Blazers big three on offense: Dan Dawson, Josh Sanderson, and Powell.
The Rock’s defense was up to the challenge in at least limiting the scoring of Dawson and Sanderson as Dawson finished with two goals and seven assists on 14 shots while Sanderson was held to just three assists on nine total shots.
Watson didn’t play great in net for Toronto, but he made big saves when he had to, including stopping seven Boston shots in overtime. The veteran goalie finished the night with 38 saves on 52 shots.
“Bobby had some clear cut shots on him in overtime and made some huge saves,” said Toronto head coach Troy Cordingley. “We’re happy he’s on our team.”
On the other side of the floor, Anthony Cosmo also had his bumps in the game, but he came up big late in the contest to help fuel Boston’s late run. Cosmo made 45 saves on 60 shots.
Down by three with time running out, Dawson, Powell, and Kevin Buchanan each scored in the final 2:02 to help the Blazers make one last run to tie the game.
Giving up late runs may be a cause for concern for Cordingley and the Rock as the season goes on.
“We’re pleased with the [end] result but there’s a lot that we’re not pleased with,” Cordingley said after the game. “Giving up a [three] goal lead late in the game is uncharacteristic of us.”
Buchanan had a big night for Boston, as he scored five goals and three assists on 12 shots. Three of his goals came in the first half to keep the Blazers to within a reasonable scoring distance of the Rock, even though Boston was down 7-5 at the half.
Saturday’s game also marked Boston head coach Matt Sawyer’s return to the Air Canada Centre. Sawyer spent last season as an assistant on the Rock coaching staff and was preparing for the same position this season until he was hired by the Blazers less than two weeks before opening night.
Though Sawyer’s return home didn’t have the ending he was hoping for, his team battled back and showed why they were 2-0 to start the season.
One thing Sawyer will need to work on with his squad will be keeping possession of the ball as the Rock forced 22 turnovers compared to the Blazers’ 12.
Toronto and Boston will meet one more time during the regular season, on Feb. 5 at TD Garden in Boston
Here is a look at the other five week three games in the National Lacrosse League.
Buffalo wins home opener in OT as Toronto loses its first game of the season
After winning in overtime on Friday, the Toronto Rock couldn’t repeat the feat on Saturday.
Scott Self scored nearly four minutes into overtime to give the Buffalo Bandits the 15-14 victory and the Rock their first loss of the season.
Both teams swapped scoring chances to begin the extra period, but it was Self’s breakaway goal that sent the 16,685 in attendance at HSBC Arena in Buffalo home with a Bandit win.
Veteran John Tavares led the Bandits in scoring with three goals and two assists while Brendan Thenhaus, Brett Bucktooth, Tom Montour, and Roger Vyse all finished with two goal nights for Buffalo.
“The biggest stat that I look at is how many players had a point on your team,” said Bandit head coach Darris Kilgour. “That means the ball was moving, the team was transitioning and you had a lot of goals.”
Colin Doyle had four goals and two assists for Toronto while teammates Garrett Billings and Stephan Leblanc both scored three times.
Even with the loss, Toronto remains atop the Eastern Division with a 3-1 record while Buffalo is tied for Rochester for second place with a 2-1 mark.
The Rock and the Bandits will play again next Saturday at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
Blazers fall to the middle of the pack as Knighthawks get road win
On Thursday afternoon, Boston was tied for the lead in the NLL Eastern Division. By Saturday night, the Blazers had fallen to the middle of the pack with two heartbreaking losses.
Shawn Evans scored 48 seconds into overtime to give the Rochester Knighthawks the 11-10 win and deliver the Blazers (2-2) their second straight overtime loss of the weekend on Saturday at TD Garden in Boston.
“They were two tough loses,” said Blazers head coach Matt Sawyer of the weekend. “We’ll try and focus on the positive and there were a lot of good things that happened this weekend.”
Down one goal with only a couple ticks left, Rochester rookie Cody Jamieson beat Anthony Cosmo with six seconds left on the clock to send the game into overtime, before Evans’ won the contest in the extra frame.
Evans finished with three goals and two assists while Jamieson also scored three times for the Knighthawks (2-1). It is Jamieson’s second straight game with him scoring three goals.
Josh Sanderson and Casey Powell both had four goals each for Boston.
The Blazers will be back at home next Friday to take on the Philadelphia Wings before Rochester and Boston faceoff again on Saturday night in New York.
Mammoth lose heartbreaker at home, Wings get first win
The Colorado Mammoth were on the verge of winning their first home games since 2009. Then they played the second half.
Down 7-3 at halftime, the Philadelphia Wings scored eight second half goals and played great defense for the final 30 minutes as they grabbed the 11-10 victory on Saturday at the Pepsi Center in Denver.
"I'm really proud of our team the way we hung in there to come back from a 7-3 deficit against a good team,” said Wings head coach John Tucker. “It shows a lot of character from our guys."
Max Seibald led the Wings (1-2) in scoring with three goals but it was Paul Dawson’s goal with 1:30 to play that gave Philadelphia the late lead and their first win of the season.
Brian Langtry finished with three goals and one assists while John Grant Jr. ended up with two goals and six assists for the Mammoth (1-2).
Colorado outshot Philadelphia 51-41 in the contest.
The Mammoth and the Wings will face each other again next week, but this time in Philadelphia. Faceoff at the Wells Fargo Center is set for 7:30 p.m. EST on Saturday. The Wings will also play at Boston the night before.
Edmonton’s road woes continue as Minnesota takes Western Division lead
It has been a tough start to the 2011 season for the Edmonton Rush; three road games and losses in all of them.
Aaron Wilson scored the game winning goal with under two minutes left in regulation to give the Minnesota Swarm the 9-8 victory and continue Edmonton’s misery on Saturday night at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.
Swarm goaltender, Nick Patterson, had his second straight great game in net, making 47 saves in the win and putting Minnesota atop of the Western Division standings.
"I was feeling pretty good out there," Patterson said. "Our defense was playing unreal, and everyone stepped it up and came together to get the win."
Wilson, Mat Giles, and Callum Crawford all finished with two goals apiece for Minnesota (2-1) while Brodie Merrill led Edmonton (0-3) in scoring with three goals and two assists
Next Friday, Edmonton finally plays their first home game and it will be against Alberta rival, the Calgary Roughnecks. The Rush and the Roughnecks will play again on Saturday in Calgary to complete the weekend home-and-home series. Minnesota will host Washington also on Saturday.
Washington’s offense explodes as Stealth get back on track
It took four games but the Washington Stealth’s offense is finally looking to be living up to expectations as one of the deadliest in the league.
Luke Wiles had five goals and five assists, Rhys Duch had four goals and four assists, and Craig Conn had four goals and one assist as the Stealth defeated the Calgary Roughnecks 19-14 on Saturday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary.
Scott Ranger led the Roughnecks in scoring with four goals and two assists.
The victory ends a two game losing streak for the Stealth (2-2) which began against Calgary (2-2) in Washington’s second game in week one.
After being embarrassed at home a week ago by Minnesota, Washington came out with a vengeance, scoring six times in the first quarter.
"We weren't too happy about losing at home,” said Stealth head coach Chris Hall. “We got pummeled by Minnesota by eight goals at home so I think we were a bit angry at home amongst ourselves about how poorly we have been playing. It was great to see us play the way we did tonight."
The Stealth ran away with the game in the second half, scoring four times in the third quarter and eight times in the fourth.
Washington will look for more revenge as they’ll play at Minnesota next Saturday. Calgary will play the Edmonton Rush in a home-and-home series next weekend.