Toronto Rocks Halifax, Handing ‘Birds First Loss

TORONTO—Notwithstanding some late-game heroics, the Halifax Thunderbirds were unable to overcome a deep early deficit and were shaken from the pedestal of being the National Lacrosse League’s lone undefeated team, succumbing to Toronto, 12-9, before 10,946 in Hogtown.

In truth, the ‘Birds had been plagued by slow starts in a number of their more recent outings, and the Rock had obviously studied the game film from those matches, exploiting a number of weaknesses in the visitor’s defense. Although Halifax opened the score sheet on a Kyle Jackson goal at 5:58, the Rock logged the next three tallies for a 3-1 lead after the first quarter. Dan Dawson, Damon Edwards, and ScottDominey netted for the Rock.

Halifax roared to life in the second quarter, netting goals from Colton Armstrong and Cody Jamieson 12 seconds apart in the 3rd minute to tie the game, and then taking the lead at the 8:12 mark on Clarke Petterson’s first of two goals of the evening.

It would be the only lead of the night for the T-Birds.

Although missing five regulars (Adam Jones, Tom Schreiber, Dan Craig, Brandon Slade, and Latrell Harris), the home side relied on fierce transition play to take over the game, scoring four unanswered goals to close out the half.

Toronto’s transition game was key in negating an again utterly-dominant Jake Withers, who bossed the X, winning 22 of 24 draws on the night, boosting his league-leading faceoff win percentage to a mind-boggling .793.

Halifax again opened the scoring in the third frame, with Austin Shanks scoring at 2:30, but the Rock again dominated, scoring another four unanswered goals to take a commanding 11-5 lead. ‘Birds netminder Warren Hill (6-1/9.14/.817) was not particularly sharp when his team needed him to help stem the tide, stopping only 5 of 9 shots in the quarter.

Entering the fourth quarter, however, Halifax remembered it was an undefeated team and began to use its own transition game to storm back into the match. With Withers winning every draw, Halifax was able to take full advantage of the “make it, take it” game, scoring 4 goals in the space of six-and-a-half minutes to close the gap to two, including a shortie from Jamieson. An ill-advised penalty by rookie Petterson at 13:37 drained Halifax’s momentum, however, and an empty-net goal by Toronto at 14:20 sealed the result.

Toronto’s Dan Dawson earned star of the game honors with a hat trick. Petterson’s 2 goals and 4 assists paced the visitors. Toronto goalie Nick Rose stopped 42 of 51 shots (.824), including 12 down the stretch.

Halifax has a bye week to lick their wounds, before hosting Saskatchewan on February 15.

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