Challen Rogers’s second goal of the game with 2:54 remaining broke a 9-9 tie as the Toronto Rock (11-5) pulled away from the Rochester Knighthawks (3-12) in the final minutes of regulation and held on for an 11-9-win Saturday at Segar & Sciortino Field at The Blue Cross Arena.
Ryan Smith led the Knighthawks with a four-point night, including his sixth hat trick of the season, while Ryland Rees (2+0), Jeff Wittig (1+1), Charlie Bertrand (0+2) and John Wagner (0+2) all finished with two-point efforts as Rochester saw its winless streak reach seven games. Joel Watson made his fifth straight start, recording 42 saves in the losing effort.
Rochester native Jared Conners made his professional debut while also recording an assist for his pro point. Bradley Voigt, who signed with Rochester earlier in the week for the remainder of the season, also made his Knighthawks debut after beginning the season with the Georgia Swarm.
WATCH: GAME HIGHLIGHTS
Latrell Harris led Toronto’s offense with a five-point night (2+3) while Tom Schreiber added four points (2+2) to surpass the 40-goal mark. Mitch de Snoo (1+2) notched three points and Dan Craig also scored twice behind a 41-save effort from veteran goaltender Nick Rose, who picked up his 11th win of the season while also backstopping the Rock to their third straight win. Dan Dawson, a 20-year veteran and a former Knighthawk in the previous organization, tallied two points, including his 935th career assist to become the NLL’s all-time leader in that category.
Rochester opened the scoring in all four quarters and never trailed until the waning minutes of the fourth quarter when the Rock used its second three-goal run of the contest to ultimately take the lead for good.
With the game tied 9-9 entering the final minutes of regulation, Toronto took its first and only lead of the night on a goal from Rogers. Rochester pulled Watson in favor of the extra attacker for the final 90 seconds, but the Rock controlled the final possession before Craig found a vacant net with 33 seconds left to seal the 11-9 win.
The Knighthawks seized control early with Smith scoring his first of back-to-back goals from Dan Coates and Holden Cattoni just 16 seconds into the contest to give Rochester a quick 1-0 lead.
Toronto was quick to answer, however, as Dawson converted on an acrobatic stuff-in attempt from behind the cage for his 13th goal of the season.
Smith restored Rochester’s one-goal lead at 2:43 with his second of the quarter and Coates’s first of the season less than five minutes later provided the Knighthawks with a two-goal advantage after the veteran defenseman capitalized in transition.
Coates began and ended the play on a spectacular individual effort, forcing a turnover in the Rochester zone before kicking the ball up the floor while he sped off in the opposite direction in transition. Coates corralled the loose ball in stride and fired it past Rose for his first as a Knighthawk to make it a 3-1 game.
The teams traded goals in the final minutes of the opening quarter beginning with Schreiber connecting on a feed from Reid Reinholdt and Rogers for his team-leading 40th of the season at 12:51.
Rees countered for Rochester 13 seconds later when he grabbed a loose ball on the ensuing face-off and ran the length of the floor before beating Rose for the unassisted tally.
Rogers brought the Rock back to within one to close out the opening frame after converting from the top of the crease with 51 seconds remaining. With the secondary assist, Dawson, a seven-time NLL All-Pro selection, moved ahead of John Tavares to become the NLL’s all-time assist leader (935).
The Knighthawks carried the momentum into the second, scoring back-to-back goals 48 seconds apart to take their largest lead of the contest. Wittig netted his second of the season and Curtis Knight followed up with his 16th to spot Rochester to a 6-3 lead.
Toronto, however, followed suit with a pair of goals of its own in a 55-second span to cut the deficit to one. Schreiber found a wide-open Craig, who managed to evade coverage from the Rochester defense, all alone at the top of the crease and Sheldon Burns took advantage of an open lane to the net and beat Watson on the short side for a shorthanded tally and his first of the season.
A long-range goal from Cattoni would put the Knighthawks ahead 7-5 entering halftime.
Coming out of the break, Rochester would open the scoring for the third straight quarter with Rees beating Rose off a 2-on-1 fastbreak, but three straight goals by the Rock would make it an 8-8 game entering the final frame.
Schreiber and Harris both converted on consecutive breakaway opportunities two minutes apart and de Snoo evened the contest on an impressive diving effort with 2:08 remaining in the third.
Rochester regained the lead 3:10 into the fourth as Smith connected on the rush off a set-up from Wagner and Conners, who also picked up his first pro point after providing the outlet pass to Wagner.
Harris, though, would ignite another three-goal run for the Rock, scoring exactly six minutes later off a long stretch pass from Rose to knot the contest at 9-9.
Rogers broke the stalemate 54 seconds later with his second of the night and Craig clinched the 11-9 win for Toronto with Watson on the bench.
The Knighthawks head out on the road one final time this season on Saturday, April 16 to close out their season series with the New York Riptide at Nassau Veterans Coliseum. The Eastern Conference matchup gets underway at 7:30 p.m. and will be carried live on The Bull 107.3 FM as well as ESPN+.