The Halifax Thunderbirds headed on the road for the first round of the NLL Playoffs on Friday night, as they took on the Toronto Rock at FirstOntario Centre in front of 8,831 fans.
This was a rematch of last year’s East Division Semi-Final, where the Thunderbirds erased a six-goal fourth-quarter deficit to force overtime. An overtime goal by Challen Rogers sent the Rock to the next round against the Buffalo Bandits in that game.
Halifax finished the season with the best Goals For in the East Division and second league-wide with 238. That’s due in large part to a wide-spread offensive attack, led by Randy Staats (34g, 59a) and Clarke Petterson (32g, 52a).
With that, the Rock’s offence will take on a different look in this game with the news of Tom Schreiber out with an upper body injury. The right side will consist of former Thunderbird Stephen Keogh (26g, 28a), and Dan Dawson (8g, 16a). Also transition ace Challen Rogers (20g, 29a) would see a healthy dose of touches on the offensive side of the ball. On the left side, Corey Small (40g, 43a)) and Dan Craig (35g, 47a) are going to be leaned on to pick up the production lost from Schreiber. Small has been a big veteran addition for the Rock this year, and Craig has continued his strong play following a breakout year in 2022.
The goalie match-up had Warren Hill in net for Halifax against Nick Rose in net for the Rock.
After playing to a 5-5 tie in the first half, the Rock jumped out to an 11-6 lead in the second half. Dan Craig (2g,1a) and Randy Staats (3g,0a) traded goals to start the third quarter. Toronto then exploded with five goals. Corey Small (3g,2a), Latrell Harris (1g,0a), Stephen Keogh (2g,2a), Craig again, and Zach Manns (3g,3a) blew the game wide open. The Thunderbirds fought back within 2 goals a couple of times, but three empty net goals sealed the deal. Toronto advances to the Conference Finals with a 15-11 victory.
To The Game:
Stephen Keogh got the Rock on thr board diving across the crease off a Corey Small pass at 1:06, but was answered immediately off the faceoff by the Thunderbirds. Graeme Hossack picked up the loose ball off the faceoff and made no mistake just 0:03 seconds later.
Corey Small gave Toronto the lead on the power-play converting a Challen Rogers feed at 11:24, followed by Zach Manns scoring in transition. Nick Rose sent a long lead pass to Josh Jubenville, who spotted Manns to finishe off the play 0:18 seconds later.
After one quarter, Toronto 3 Halifax 1.
Dan Dawson increased the Rock lead to three on the power-play tip toeing along the crease off a Zach Manns pass at 1:44. Chris Boushy scored in transition for Halifax converting a Ryan Terefenko pass at 3:36, but was answered by Corey Small with his second of the game off a Dan Craig feed at 4:58.
The Thunderbirds took over the rest of the quarter scoring three times to tie the game. Randy Staats scored his second of the game off a Chris Boushy pass on the power-play to the shortside, followed by Ryan Benesch with a squeaker that just found it’s way over the line at 7:02. David Brock tied the game in transition off a Warren Hill lead pass at 13:39.
Tempers were boiling throughout the quarter, and finally boiled over with Chris Boushy and Brad Kri squaring off as the half came to a close.
At the half, Toronto 5 Halifax 5.
Dan Craig opened the second half scoring with a laser from the outside off a Dan Dawson pass at 2:43, but was answered by Randy Staats on the power-play converting a Ryan Benesch feed at 3:54.
The Rock took over the quarter scoring three more times to take a commanding lead. Corey Small scored on the power-play at 6:47, followed by Latrell Harris in transition finishing a Mitch de Snoo pass 0:39 seconds later. Stephen Keogh increased the Rock lead from the top of the crease off a Zach Manns pass at 8:07.
After three quarters, Toronto 9 Halifax 6.
Dan Craig with a great individual effort scored off a Brad Kri pass at 2:11, followed by Zach Manns scoring off a Corey Small pass at 3:05 increased the lead to 11-6.
Randy Staats converted a Chris Boushy pass at 3:55, followed by Boushy himself scoring twice to narrow the game to within two goals. His first was off a Cody Jamieson feed at 4:13, followed by a transition goal off a Dawson Theede feed at 5:59.
Zach Manns scored his third of the night off a Stephen Keogh feed at 8:30, but Ryan Bensech kept the Thunderbirds close netting a Chris Boushy pass at 11:57. Mitch de Snoo and Adam Jay both added empty net goals for Toronto to increase the lead to 14-10.
The Thunderbirds kept pressing. Clarke Petterson scored a power-play goal off a Cody Jamieson pass at 14:24, but Greg Downing, off a faceoff scored yet another empty net goal to put an exclamation point on the game.
Final score, Toronto 15 Halifax 11.
The Three Stars:
- Zach Manns
- Dan Craig
- Latrell Harris
- Shots on goal favored Toronto 53-42.
- The faceoff battle was won by Halifax 20-12.
- The loose ball battle went to the Thunderbirds 76-66.
- Halifax went 3 for 5 on the power-play, while the Rock went 3 for 7.
- Chris Boushy 3g, 3a
- Randy Staats 3g, 0a
- Ryan Benesch 2g, 1a
- Zach Manns 3g, 3a
- Corey Small 3g, 2a
- Stephen Keogh 2g, 2a
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Gary Groob has been involved with Lacrosse for the majority of his life, whether playing, coaching, or covering the sport for the media.
An avid fan, with a real drive about helping to “grow the game”, Gary became part of podcasts about the game in 2010. Through the podcasts, Mr. Groob was given an opportunity to write about lacrosse, and the rest as they say, is history.
Through many miles (flying and driving) Gary has made inroads with the National Lacrosse League, Major Series Lacrosse League, the Ontario Lacrosse Association, as well as the Arena Lacrosse League, covering the leagues, their teams, and players, working for, and in concert with all of them.
In the year 2020, Mr. Groob was made the media person for the Arena Lacrosse League, voted onto the board of directors of the Brampton Excelsiors Lacrosse Club, as well as being made administrator of the Lacrosse page “Global Lacrosse” with a membership of 9000 members in over 90 Countries. Gary was also made an administrator of Lacrosse History Past Present and Future in 2022.
Mr. Groob co-hosts a weekly Lacrosse show on Spanglish Sports World, and ZingoTV channel 250, as well as writes a weekly lacrosse column for La Portada Canada News (both in print, and online).
Gary also hosts a Lacrosse talk show and podcast for The Edge of Philly Sports Network, seen live Sunday nights at 9pm (ET), and archived on the Edge of Philly YouTube page, as well as Spotify.
Mr. Groob’s other sports interests include Hockey, Football, Boxing, Wrestling, and Baseball, competing competitively in Boxing and Wrestling for many years.