Toronto, ON – The Toronto Rock are East Division Champions after defeating the 3-time defending NLL champion Rochester Knighthawks 11-8 in Game 2 of their two game series and then winning the tie breaker game by a score of 8-2 in domination fashion.
The Rock will host game 1 of the NLL Best of 3 Championship Series next Saturday night at 7:00 pm at Air Canada Centre against the West Division Champions.
"Nobody lost belief in each other," said Rock Head Coach John Lovell. "At practice we talked about that a bit on Tuesday night and again this morning at shoot around. I didn't see anybody nervous. It was a quiet determination."
Riding the wave of energy from a charged up crowd at Air Canada Centre, the Rock stormed out of the gate and built a 3-0 lead just 3:20 into the first quarter. The two teams exchanged goals before Rochester's Craig Point drew the Knighthawks to within a pair, trailing 4-2 at the end of one.
Toronto scored four straight goals to lead 8-2 going into the final minute of the half. With just 3 seconds left in the second quarter, Rochester's Stephen Keogh broke up the Rock run. Brandon Miller was sensational in the Rock goal stopping 19 of 22 shots and pacing the Rock to an 8-3 lead at the break.
The Rock struck first in the second half, but the Knighthawks showed they weren't going down without a fight. Rochester scored 3 consecutive goals, chipping away at the Toronto lead making it a 9-6 game heading to the final quarter.
Rochester scored their fourth straight to open the fourth quarter, closing the Knighthawks to within a pair at 9-7. Josh Sanderson scored shorthanded moments later to give Toronto back their 3-goal lead and Stephan Leblanc scored to give the Rock a little more breathing room. Keogh scored his sixth of the game to make it 11-8 but it wasn't enough and the Rock were successful in forcing the 10-minute Tie Breaker game.
Keogh took a penalty at the end of Game 2 with 45 seconds remaining, which meant the Rock would begin the Tie Breaker game on the power play. Sanderson buried a cross-crease pass from Brett Hickey and the Rock were off to the races.
"Hickey gave me a layup on the power play and that always gets you feeling good and got the crowd back into it," said Sanderson who also scored the second goal of the Tie Breaker game to go up 2-0.
Every shot the Rock took seemed to go in the net from there building a 7-0 lead before Rochester got on the board. They managed to score a couple goals but the Rock and Miller held the Knighthawks offence virtually silent in the deciding 10-minute tie breaker game.
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(May 23, 2015) ... The Rochester Knighthawks' season came to an end tonight, as the Toronto Rock won Game Two and the 10-minute tie-breaker game in the East Division Finals. Rochester, who captured Game One, finished one game shy of advancing to its fourth straight Champion's Cup Finals.
After the game, Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen reflected on the past four seasons, which produced three Champions Cups. The four-year run has been the most successful in team history.
“When you look back, there's not a better group than the one we have this year,” said Hasen. “We had to battle all year long. I am proud of each and every one of these guys, and they should be proud of each other. They battled as long as they could tonight.”
Rochester entered the postseason with a 12-6 record and a second place finish in the East Division. The Knighthawks then knocked off the Buffalo Bandits 14-11 in the East Division Semifinals to set up the showdown with the Rock.
On Saturday at the Air Canada Centre, the Knighthawks fell 11-8 in Game Two as the Rock evened the series at one win apiece. Rochester battled back all game and roared back in the second half to get within two goals of Toronto.
Stephen Keogh was the catalyst, scoring two of his game-high six goals during a 4-0 run. Keogh's goal at 10:16 of the third was his most impressive, as he scored while lying on the turf to make it 9-5 Toronto.
“I was just shooting tonight and luckily they were falling for me,” said Keogh. “My teammates were getting me open and they were creating space and creating lanes for me. I was just firing.”
Brad Self, one of the heroes from Game One, followed with a transition goal to make it 9-6. Rochester kept pressing in the fourth and Keogh notched his fifth of the game at 1:06 of the fourth and Rochester was within two at 9-7. Dan Dawson, who setup the tally, finished the game with four assists. Keogh tied his career high with his sixth of the night, netting a late power-play goal. The Rock held off the Knighthawks 11-8, despite being outscored 5-3 in the second half by Rochester.
In the 10-minute tie-breaker game, the Knighthawks got goals from Joe Resetarits and Joe Walters, but dropped an 8-2 decision to the Rock.
With the season now over, Knighthawks team captain Sid Smith was already focused on next year when asked if the team will be back for a run at a title in 2016.