WADE BABINEAU EDITORIAL CARTOON: Saturday, March 28, 2020
CINDY DAY: MMM...marvellous maple
World Meteorological Week
FIDDLER'S FACTS: A disappointing end for Summerside Western Capitals
City of Charlottetown purchasing state-of-the-art drone for police ...
MARGARET PROUSE: During times like this, it's easy to find a bit of ...
VIDEO: P.E.I. man writes, directs $1 million thriller expected to ...
P.E.I. woman looking to be next Inked Magazine cover girl
SALLY COLE: A timely tale for P.E.I.
It wasn't pretty but the Halifax Thunderbirds got back to their winning ways.
The Thunderbirds scraped and clawed to their first victory in a month, defeating the Toronto Rock 9-8 in a tense National Lacrosse League battle between the North Division rivals before 9,300 fans at Scotiabank Centre on Friday night.
“We’re in a battle against Toronto all year and we’ll probably see them in the playoffs,” Halifax forward Mike Burke said. “It’s always a good rivalry between us.
“Sometimes the wins don’t have to be pretty. They’re still two points and we’ll take them.”
Burke, back in the lineup after missing a game with what he said was an upper body injury, potted a pair of goals for Halifax (7-2), which snapped a two-game losing skid and moved back into first place in the division.
It was a rematch of a Jan. 31 game in Toronto in which the Rock defeated the Thunderbirds – then on a six-game winning streak – 12-9 for their first loss of the season.
“My injury happened against Toronto, too, so it was nice to get back and contribute tonight,” said Burke, a Brampton, Ont., resident in his fifth NLL season. “Having a couple weeks off felt good; I felt refreshed.”
Captain Cody Jamieson also tallied twice, his first came on a penalty shot late in the first period.
There's no love lost between the Thunderbirds and the Rock (6-3), who entered the game winners of three in a row to pull even with Halifax atop the division through eight games.
Each team laid out solid hits – Thunderbirds defenceman Graeme Hossack delivered a punishing check near the Rock penalty box in the fourth quarter – and there was plenty of pushing and shoving after the whistle.
The teams exchanged pleasantries at halftime as a skirmish broke out in front of the team benches as each club was heading to its respective locker rooms.
“It was just boys being boys,” Burke said. “A few words were said and some guy pushed somebody. But our team has a pack mentality. We have a lot of great friends on the team. If one guy is challenged, we’re all going to step in there. We have to show force and that we’re willing to sacrifice for each other.”
Jamieson was handed a match penalty and gross misconduct as a result and could face a game suspension.
“I have to wait on the ref’s report to comment fully on it but he argued a call and a scrum ensued,” Thunderbirds head coach Mike Accursi said. “Words were exchanged and I don’t know if the ref thought they were directed at him.
“We can always appeal it. It could end up being one game for him if we don’t win the appeal. But again, we need to wait for the report first.”
After falling behind 3-1 in the opening quarter, the Thunderbirds took a 7-5 lead into the intermission. Coming off a 16-15 loss in overtime to the Saskatchewan Rush last Saturday night in which Halifax scored eight third-quarter goals to erase a nine-goal deficit, only one third-quarter goal was scored on Friday.
Burke tallied in the third and Brandon Robinson added another early into the fourth quarter as he took a behind-the-back pass from Ryan Benesch and beat Rock goalie Nick Rose to stake Halifax to a 9-5 advantage.
“We had been really slow out of the gate the last few games so the focus in practice was about getting out to a good start,” Accursi said. “We wanted to control where this game was going to be played. They are a team that likes to run and we needed to control their transition which I thought we did a good job.”
The Rock roared back with three unanswered goals to pull to within one.
Toronto pressed late on the power play and with an extra attacker but Thunderbirds goalie Warren Hill stood tall and turned aside the Rock with some key kick stops, including one just before the Rock shot clock expired with 30 seconds left in regulation.
“Our defence is what will win us games,” Burke said. “They’re solid and they’re aggressive. We have to play against them every week in practice and that make us better. And then you have Warren back there. He’s played unbelievable all year. We don’t expect anything else.
“It can be nerve racking coming down the stretch but with Warren and our defence, it’s still an easy feeling on the bench in those pressure moments because we have them back there supporting us.”
Hill finished with 38 saves while Rose turned aside 50 shots.
Benesch had four points (one goal, three assists) and Hossack, Clarke Petterson and Kyle Jackson each added single markers for the Thunderbirds.
League goal-scoring leader Rob Hellyer netted a hat trick for the Rock to give him 29 goals on the season.
The Thunderbirds travel south of the border next week to face the Buffalo Bandits on Feb. 29 and the New England Black Wolves on March 1. Their next home game is March 8 against Buffalo.
“We have some tough games coming up,” Burke said. “But we needed a humbling experience like the last two losses. Sometimes it’s good to face adversity.
“There are so many good teams in this league, nobody will be able to run off that many wins in a row. But with this team, we have a chance to win every game.”