Toronto rocks on to NLL title, 13-10

Rochester falls short in league championship

April 24, 1999|By Stephen Knight | Stephen Knight,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

TORONTO -- The old hockey barn hasn't seen a championship since the Maple Leafs won their last Stanley Cup in 1967.

But fans didn't mind that it was green turf instead of ice as the hometown Toronto Rock defeated the Rochester Knighthawks, 13-10, to win its first National Lacrosse League championship last night at Maple Leaf Gardens.

"I'm a Canadian kid. I grew up watching Hockey Night in Canada. This is overwhelming for me to be behind the bench at Maple Leaf Gardens," said a champagne-soaked Rock coach Les Bartley, who won three championships with the Buffalo Bandits before last night's triumph.

With the score 10-9 and the raucous crowd of 15,691 on edge, the Rock reeled off three straight goals to put the game out of reach.

The Knighthawks had a power play for the last few minutes of the game, but only got one back as the Rock captured the Champion's Cup.

Rock forward Colin Doyle was named the game's Most Valuable Player as he got four goals and two assists, including a first-quarter hat trick.

"I don't always want to handle the ball, but when I feel it, I want the ball," said Doyle, the NLL's Rookie of the Year in 1998. "I didn't come here to lose. Some people say I'm not a big game player and I wanted to prove them wrong."

The Rock led 5-2 after the first quarter on the strength of Doyle's efforts. Two of Toronto's first-quarter goals were scored while short-handed.

Toronto held a 7-5 lead at halftime after a tightly played second quarter. Several times there were scrums after the whistle and there were a couple of fights.

The momentum seemed to be shifting Rochester's way until the Rock got three goals in less than three minutes in the third quarter to take a commanding 10-5 lead.

Rochester, which was led by Duane Jacobs with three goals and two assists, got two goals back to trail 10-7 after three quarters.

The Rock overcame a fourth-quarter lapse to win. The Rock outshot the Knighthawks, 45-43.

Toronto defeated the defending champion Philadelphia Wings, 13-2, in last weekend's semifinal, while the Knighthawks beat the Thunder at the Baltimore Arena, 14-12, to earn their berth in the championship game.

The Rock was the regular-season champion and competed last season as the Hamilton-based Ontario Raiders.

The Knighthawks were the 1997 NLL champions and finalists in 1995 and finished this season 8-4, third overall.

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