Toronto Rock avoid collapse against Halifax

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HAMILTON — The Toronto Rock did just enough to avoid ending their season in a monumental meltdown. And it was up to the captain to deliver.

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Challen Rogers scored 2:27 into overtime to give the Rock a 14-13 win over the Halifax Thunderbirds at FirstOntario Center on Friday. Rogers turned a tip attempt into a free stray ball and found himself on a breakaway. He then put in a low shot from Thunderbirds goaltender Aaron Bold to send his team to the East Division Finals of the National Lacrosse League playoffs.

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“I had an idea of ​​what I wanted to do,” Rogers said. “I thought Boldy would stretch out a bit, so I looked like he was shooting on the short side.”

Two-time NLL Transition Player of the Year Rogers has been solid at both ends of the court, so enjoying the moment didn’t surprise his head coach Matt Sawyer.

“Rogers is by far the best all-around player in the game of lacrosse,” Sawyer said. “We ask him to do a lot for us.”

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“I’m glad he had that moment.”

Rogers’ goal ended a game that looked completely different in the second half than in the first. The Rock gave up his slow start and dominated the first half for the opening faceoff. The defense strangled the Halifax offense and the Toronto offense often clicked as the Rock took a 9-3 locker room lead.

But the Thunderbirds, who were 8-1 midway through the season, showed their tenacity and skill in the second half, cutting the deficit to 12-8 after three. They tied the game in the fourth and had chances to win it in the last minute. But two big saves by Rock goalie Nick Rose and a supposed goal that didn’t beat the clock sent the game into overtime.

The Rock was led by Tom Schreiber with three goals. Zach Manns and Dan Dawson scored twice as did Rob Hellyer, who was returning from injury. Snoo’s Mitch also scored twice on transition.

The Thunderbirds were led by Austin Shanks, Stephen Keogh and Cody Jamieson, all with two goals apiece.

The Rock will now wait to see who his opponent will be in the best-of-three division final. The Buffalo Bandits host the Albany FireWolves on Saturday.

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