The Rock Overcome Slow Start To Come Away With Victory

Gary Groob
Lax PhillyA Division of Edge of Philly Sports Network

The Philadelphia Wings (2-1) visited the Toronto Rock (2-1) in a battle of two high powered offenses, with two very stingy defenses.  The result was a very entertaining game that saw the Rock walk away with a 12-9 victory. 

Another side story to this game was the first NLL game of faceoff specialist TD Ierlan, who the Rock drafted in 2020.  Ierlan had a tall order going against one of the premiere faceoff men in the league in Trevor Baptiste, fairing quite well going 11 for 24 at the X.

Alex Crepinsek, and Corey Small for the Wings, and Tom Schreiber for the Rock were scratched due to Covid-19 protocols.

To The Game…

The Rock started quick when Rob Hellyer (3g,3a) had a beautiful individual effort jumping across the crease putting the ball past Zach Higgins (Wings goalie) at 3:48.  That would be it for the Rock offense for the rest of the quarter, as the Philadelphia defense continually pressured the Rock, forcing them into bad passes, and low percentage shots.

The Wings got rolling when Cory Vitarelli (1g,1a) converted a Brett Hickey pass at 5:04, then took the lead on a Blaze Riordan (1g,1a) goal just 1:32 later.  Brett Hickey (1g,2a) added a goal of his own and Philadelphia was in control.

After one quarter, Wings 3 Rock 1.

Second Quarter:

Of note in this quarter…when the Rock were to score their first goal of the quarter, fans who brought stuffed teddy bears for charity were to toss them on the field.

Philadelphia picked up right where they left off with Kevin Crowley (2g,1a) faking a shot with a double pump, then firing a shot past Nick Rose (Rock goalie) just 0:41 seconds into the quarter.

Toronto finally got back on the board after 19:11 being scoreless, when Brandon Slade took the ball on transition, passed to a trailing Dan Dawson (1g,5a) who buried it at 7:59.

The Game was halted for a few minutes as the Teddy Bears rained down on the field.  After a brief cleanup we were off and running  again.

The teams traded quick goals.  Kiel Matisz (1g,2a) stormed back for the Wings converting a Matt Rambo pass just 0:24 seconds later, but Rob Hellyer scored his second of the night 0:21 seconds after that, making the score 5-3 for the Wings.  Challon Rogers (2g,2a) fired an overhand high to low shot, beating Higgins stick side to make this just a one goal game.

The Wings thought they had a two goal lead again when Zach Higgins hit a streaking Blaze Riordan with a long lead pass.  Riordan beat Rose, but on a coaches challenge was deemed to be just inside the crease, disallowing the goal.

At the half, Philadelphia 5 Toronto 4.

Third Quarter:

Whatever was said inside the Rock dressing room certainly lit a fire under the team.  Toronto came on the floor focused and ready to battle in the third quarter. 

The Rock opened the quarter with a sneaky trick play.  Toronto pulled their goalie for a 6 on 5 advantage.  Challon Rogers (the sixth attacker) shot, missing the net on purpose, which turned into a pass to Reid Reinholdt (1g,2a) who scored jumping from behind the net to tie the game.  Off the ensuing faceoff, Brad Kri battled Trevor Baptiste as the ball was heading to the Wings net.  Kri one timed the ball into the net.  The goal was originally waved off due to a crease violation, but on a coaches challenge was reversed giving the Rock the lead.

Toronto opened their lead further when Latrell Harris hit Brandon Slade (1g,1a) with a pass in transition beating Zach Higgins at 3:39.  Rob Hellyer then scored his third of the game off a Dan Dawson pass at 4:38 giving the Rock a three goal lead 8-5.

Matt Rambo (1g,6a) stopped the six goal Rock run when he scored on the power play to bring the game within two goals heading to the fourth quarter.

A scary event happened near the end of the quarter when Rob Hellyer fired a shot point-blank on Zach Higgins.  The ball got wedged inside Higgins’ helmet giving him a bloody nose.  Although shaken up, he left the floor on his own, but was replaced by Wings backup, Nolan Clayton.

After three quarters, Toronto 8 Philadelphia 6.

Fourth Quarter:

The teams exchanged goals all quarter long…

Challon Rogers scored his second of the night off a Dan Dawson pass at 0:53 seconds, but Ryan Wagner scored unassisted at 3:12 for the Wings to keep it a two goal game.  Justin Scott (1g,1a) scored his first NLL career goal when he converted a Reid Reinholdt pass at 5:10, but was answered 0:25 seconds later when Kevin Crowley fired a shot past Nick Rose. 

The game had opened up, with the Wings being more aggressive, but the Rock’s defense stood tall.

Dan Craig (1g,1a) converted a Zach Manns pass for the Rock at 7:22, but Ben McIntosh (1g,1a) answered back for the Wings burying a Matt Rambo pass at 13:39.  Toronto finished the scoring with an empty net goal when Brad Kri scored his second of the night at 14:07.

Final score, Toronto 12 Philadelphia 9.

Three Stars:

1. Rob Hellyer
2. Challon Rogers
3. Brad Kri

  • Shots on goal favored the Wings 48-46.
  • The Wings won the faceoff battle 14-11.
  • Toronto was 0 for 1 on the power play while Philadelphia was 1 for 1.

“Overall, I thought our execution and commitment to doing what we needed to do to be successful was good,” said Rock Head Coach Matt Sawyer.  “I’m really happy with the win and the result.  Hopefully this win gives us some confidence and we start feeling good about ourselves.”

“We were playing a lot more relaxed and doing what we do best and playing to our strengths,” said Hellyer.  “Offensively, we moved the ball well and played as a unit.  Defensively, they are the backbone of our team, Rosey and the D played great.”

Top Scorers


Matt Rambo 1g, 6a
Kevin Crowley 2g, 1a
Kiel Matisz 1g, 2a


Rob Hellyer 3g, 3a
Dan Dawson 1g, 5a
Challon Rogers 2g, 2a

Philadelphia’s next game is at home on January 8th vs. the Georgia Swarm.

Toronto’s next game is in Buffalo on January 8th, when the Rock face the Buffalo Bandits.

Quotes courtesy of the Toronto Rock
Photo Credits: Gary Groob

Gary Groob
Gary Groob

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.