THE CANADIAN PRESS
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Gary Gait rediscovered his misplaced scoring touch and the Toronto Rock paid the price.
The 41-year-old National Lacrosse League Hall of Fame member, who came out of a three-year retirement to help the injury-riddled Rochester Knighthawks, scored four goals including the winner in the team’s first victory, 13-11, after four losses to begin the season.
"You get into those runs, you go into a slump," said Gait, who scored five goals in his Knighthawks debut and only one in three games leading to Saturday night. "It’s been a while since I battled through one of those.
"It’s all mental. You’ve got to prepare mentally and let the game come to you. I relaxed a bit more and took the shots I knew I could take. It was a much better result this time."
Jason Henhawk and Aaron Wilson added three goals each, Shawn Williams two and Shawn Evans one for the Knighthawks (1-4) in front of an announced Blue Cross Arena crowd of 7,088.
Henhawk injured his left leg battling for a loose ball with just under two minutes remaining and the 28-year-old Six Nations resident was taken on a stretcher to an ambulance.
Kasey Beirnes scored four goals, Jason Crosbie two and Luke Wiles, Rob Marshall, Stephen Hoar, Scott Campbell and Lewis Ratcliff one each for Toronto (1-3) in the Rock coaching debut of Jamie Batley.
"Our offence started to click better than it had in the past," said Batley, looking for the bright side. "I thought we should have shot the ball a lot more.
"Defensively, they scored the goals the way we knew they would. There was no secret there. They didn’t do anything special. Gait got a couple of goals we should have been able to defend and we gave them a couple of really easy goals.
"We made some mistakes but, overall, the effort was there. Our guys worked hard. We don’t like losing but the guys worked hard. The mistakes aren’t something we can’t fix."
Playing in Rochester has always been a broken proposition for the Rock. They now are 1-15 in Blue Cross Arena in their 11 years in the league. Their only win was in the 2003 championship game.
Gait, shaking free from a check on goaltender Bob Watson’s doorstep, made it 12-11 at 9:55 of the fourth quarter. It was his patented power move.
"I was fresh," he chuckled. "I didn’t play much in the first half.
"I got some good looks. That’s what I’m here for — to put that ball away."
Williams, finding a top corner as he was falling into the crease, completed the scoring at 12:25, and a season that had been so frustrating suddenly showed some promise.
"We’ve had a lot of things happen to this squad from injuries, to just chemistry, to change of players," said Gait. "We’re putting pressure on ourselves and it was nice to play smart and have guys step up and win the game for us."
The presence in the creases of Watson and Rochester’s Pat O’Toole, two of the sport’s goaltending greats, suggested it would be a low-scoring battle, but shooters on both sides managed to find chinks in the vets’ armour.
Rochester led 2-1 after one quarter and 4-3 at halftime.
Wiles converted a cross-crease pass from Crosbie on a power play to tie it early in the third quarter, and Wilson countered with a power-play goal on an almost-identical setup from Henhawk. Marshall then got credit for a 5-5 goal after Batley threw a flag to demand a video replay of a goal initially waved off for a supposed crease infraction.
.Henhawk beat Watson with an overhand bullet from a distance and Crosbie countered off a slick pass from Wiles and it was tied again, 6-6.
Goals were scored at a furious pace in the second half as the goalies tired.
Hoar gave Toronto what would be its only lead at 8:35 of the third quarter when he caught O’Toole flatfooted on a long shot, and Williams tied it 7-7 with a long shot of his own that Watson couldn’t block at 12:00.
Gait scored the next two 45 seconds apart. He leaned into the crease and dropped in a sidearm shot at 13:45, and he held off Chris Droscoll with his left arm and took a one-handed overhand shot with his right hand that sent the ball bouncing past Watson’s feet at 14:43.
Wilson scored from the edge of Watson’s crease at 3:38 of the fourth quarter to give Rochester a 10-7 lead, and Toronto charged back to tie it 10-10. Campbell put one in on the short side from the crease off O’Toole’s left shoulder, Beirnes bounced one in as he was falling into the crease and Ratcliff blazed an underhand shot past O’Toole from a distance at 6:17 to cap the Rock flurry.
Evans put Rochester up 11-10 with an outside shot six seconds later.
Beirnes tied it 11-11 when he broke through the middle of the defensive box to score from the front of the crease at 7:49 on a power play.
Gait and Williams capped the Knighthawks’ best performance of the year.
Notes: Toronto had a 46-44 shots edge … Toronto was 3-for-5 and Rochester 2-for-4 on power plays … Toronto activated Craig Conn earlier in the week but didn’t dress him … Next Rock game is at home against Edmonton next Saturday afternoon … Paul Day, Tim Soudan and Duane Jacobs, who now coaches the Minnesota Swarm, were honoured before the game as the first members of the Knighthawks Hall of Fame … Watson is a printing plant supervisor in Guelph, Ont., while O’Toole works in shipping and receiving for an Oakville, Ont., company.