Rock wins in return to Hamilton
HAMILTON — The life of this housewarming party ended up being the old guy.
Dan Dawson, the 39-year-old NLL legend beginning his 21st season in the league, took a pass from Latrell Harris and beat Albany FireWolves goaltender Doug Jamieson with 2:32 left, giving the Toronto Rock a 10-9 season-opening win in its FirstOntario Centre debut.
It was the second goal of the night for Dawson, who scored shortly before to tie a game where neither team has greater than a two-goal lead at any point.
Overall, the night was a success for the Rock as 8,043 fans, comparable to what they drew most nights at Scotiabank Arena the past few seasons, filled the lower bowl of the arena. Many of those in the stands identified themselves when asked as new to lacrosse. The arena seemed a better fit for the team as well as the atmosphere felt more like the team finally had a place to call their own after feeling like a lowly third tenant behind the Leafs and Raptors on Bay Street.
“We love it,” Rock head coach Matt Sawyer said. “And that is our intention, to make this our home.”
“Tonight couldn’t have been a better start. Anyone who came out to this game tonight, regardless of if you’re a lacrosse fan or not, got a lot of value and entertainment.”
The FireWolves, who relocated to Albany over the summer after six seasons in Connecticut as the New England Black Wolves, looked sharper at the start and took a 4-3 first-quarter lead on a goal by Charlie Kitchen with 0.3 seconds left in the period. Anthony Malcom, Andrew Kew also scored as did John LaFontaine in transition after strong defensive work from Jackson Nishimura.
The Rock’s power-play started well with three goals. Rob Hellyer scored the first goal in Hamilton, then Tom Schreiber scored twice, once coming from behind the net and once from long range.
The Rock gained control of the game in the second, taking a 6-5 halftime lead on a bullet by Dan Craig with 1.6 second left. Schreiber, who was injured for much of the shortened 2020 season, completed his hat trick. Reid Reinholdt added a power-play goal. Oakville native Kew scored his second for Albany.
Reinholdt added his second in the opening minute in the third. Reilly O’Connor kept Albany within one in a third quarter that turned into a battle between FireWolves goaltender Doug Jamieson and Rock netminder Nick Rose, both of whom were stellar in the game.
After Schreiber opened the final period with his fourth, again swooping in from behind the net, the Rock faced its biggest challenge when Mitch De Snoo was assessed a match penalty for an illegal body check. Jacob Ruest scored two minutes into the five-minute man advantage then Kew completed his hat trick with less than a minute in the power play. Kew scored his fourth midway through the period before Dawson put the game on his stick.
“There’s so much parity in the league,” Dawson said. “You’re not going to see a lot of blowouts.”
Dawson struggled to score for much of the night before finally breaking through. He understands beating NLL goaltenders and defences will always be a challenge.
“Doug (Jamieson) is one of the best in the league,” he said. “Every starting goaltender is one of the best in the league.”
“Their young defensive corps played really well. They were blocking shots. We scored 10 goals and they were 10 hard-fought goals.”
The Rock will travel to Halifax on Friday for a game against the Thunderbirds.