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Special teams key in Rock's win over Mammoth

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The Canadian Press
3/9/2013 12:51:21 AM
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TORONTO -- Power plays told the tale as the Toronto Rock defeated the Colorado Mammoth 14-10 on Friday to improve their National Lacrosse League-best record to 7-3.

The Rock struck for five power-play goals and got another on a penalty shot, while the Mammoth came up empty during four man-power advantages in slipping to a league-worst 2-7.

Blaine Manning and Jesse Gamble, who connected on the penalty shot, scored three goals each, Colin Doyle and Stephan Leblanc added two each and Garrett Billings, Josh Sanderson, Scott Evans and Kasey Beirnes chipped in one each in front of an Air Canada Centre crowd of 10,823.

Doyle and Billings each had six assists as the Rock dispelled the disappointment of blowing a big lead and dropping a 15-13 home-floor decision to Buffalo in their previous game.

"It was a real gutsy effort," said defenceman Pat Merrill. "They played very desperate and made us earn everything out there.

"We really wanted to respond after what we felt was a letdown last week effort-wise. We wanted to start taking charge at home. We really willed that out tonight."

John Grant Jr. scored three goals for the Mammoth, who gave it their best effort but still lost a fifth consecutive game despite a 51-46 advantage in shots on goal.

"I thought we played a pretty good game," said Grant. "We didn't shoot overly well, starting with me. I have to be better and our power play, if we'd been able to get a couple there we're right in this game and it could have gone either way. They're a good team and it's a tough place to play."

Adam Jones got two and Gavin Prout, Mat MacLeod, Jordan McBride, Richard Morgan and Joel Dalgarno one each in Colorado's first appearance in Toronto in six years.

"When it comes down to it, when we execute our plays we've got to be able to score goals," said Prout, Colorado's captain. "I think we hit six posts in the fourth quarter alone. Last year they were going post and in and now they're going post and out."

Colorado led 4-2 after one quarter and went up 5-2 early in the second.

"We've been struggling at home with starts," said Manning. "It's tough to put your finger on it but that's lacrosse. It's a game of runs."

The biggest run of the game was Toronto's five-goal binge to close the second quarter for a 9-6 Rock lead. It was 8-6 when starting Mammoth goalie Dan Lewis was replaced by Tye Belanger, who was beaten on the first shot he faced.

Belanger matched Nick Rose save for save in the third to give his teammates a chance to get back into it, and they did. Grant beat Rose with a long overhand shot at 5:45 and Dalgarno dove into the crease to drop the ball over Rose's right shoulder at 9:15 as Colorado closed to within 9-8.

Billings fired in a waist-high sidearm shot from the top of the power-play setup at 12:37, Grant replied with a bouncer from the middle of the zone at 12:57 and Sanderson snuck one in from the edge of Colorado's crease at 14:22 to send the Rock to the fourth quarter up 11-9.

Jones made it 11-10 at 3:31 of the fourth when Toronto's defence backed in too far, allowing the 2012 NLL rookie of the year plenty of shooting room.

Grant leapt from behind Toronto's net and, with only his right hand on his stick, stuck the ball behind Rose at 5:56 for what was at first ruled a goal. Rock coach Troy Cordingley threw his challenge flag. It didn't take refereeing crew chief Chris Williams long at a monitor to determine that Grant came down in the crease before the ball crossed the goal line. Toronto still led 11-10.

Rich Morgan was penalized for roughing and Manning scored Toronto's fifth power-play goal at 7:58 to make it 12-10.

"We played with passion and intensity and it showed," said Doyle.

"We put up 14 and got some in transition," said Manning. "Those are real difference makers."

Evans had a goal disallowed on a Colorado challenge before Gamble beat Belanger with a bouncer at 13:18 to put it away for the Rock.

Toronto was awarded a penalty shot when too many Mammoth players rushed onto the floor and Gamble put an exclamation mark on the win when he bounced a shot in for his third goal with 17.7 seconds left.

"I didn't really think I was going to get it," said Gamble. "I don't think I've ever had a penalty shot in my life. I'm just glad things turned out the way they did."

Rock coach Troy Cordingley seconded that emotion.

"We gutted out a win," said Cordingley. "When they got within one, our guys started playing confident again and really battled."

NOTES: Gamble scooped up a game-high eight loose balls . . . Ilija Gajic of the Mammoth was 15-for-26 on faceoffs, while Merrill was 11-for-25 . . . Rose made 41 saves . . . Lewis made 17 saves and Belanger made 21 . . . The Mammoth hadn't played in Toronto since beating the Rock 13-12 in overtime on March 17, 2007 . . . Toronto deleted F Rob Hellyer, F Roger Vyse and D Damon Edwards . . . Colorado scratched D Dan Coates, F Jamie Lincoln and F Colton Clark . . . 14 of the 23 men on Colorado's active roster are from Ontario . . . Toronto's next game is at Philadelphia next Saturday afternoon. The Rock then play a Sunday afternoon game at home March 24 against Edmonton.

Toronto Rock in the crease (Photo: NLL/Graig Abel)

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(Photo: NLL/Graig Abel)
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