CALGARY - After squandering away most of what once was a comfortable five-goal lead, the Toronto Rock turned to a pair of veterans Saturday night to hold off a late comeback.
Kasey Beirnes scored a hat trick, with his last two goals late in the game set up by Colin Doyle, as the Rock held off a furious Calgary rally to open the NLL season with a 13-11 win over the Calgary Roughnecks.
"Obviously they had the pressure on us and we needed to stop the bleeding in a hurry," said Beirnes, who also had two assists.
Calgary trailed 10-5 in the third quarter and 11-7 in the fourth quarter before getting three unanswered goals to ignite the Scotiabank Saddledome crowd of 11,653.
"We noticed that they were starting to cheat a lot more defensively to start catching up so that was a big part of it, a lot of their defence were taking off and it left me wide open and Colin found me two times," said Beirnes, whose clinching goals came at 11:51 and 13:46 of the final quarter.
Josh Sanderson and Stephan Leblanc each scored twice for Toronto (1-0). Other scorers were Stephen Hoar, Jesse Gamble, Mike Hobbins, Scott Evans, Rob Marshall and Blaine Manning. Doyle had a game-high five assists.
"Kasey and Colin with the back-to-back goals, what can you say, those were hard battles and these guys know what it takes," said Toronto coach Troy Cordingley.
Shawn Evans scored three goals to lead the way for Calgary (0-1). Also scoring was Curtis Dickson with a pair, Geoff Snider, Jeff Shattler, rookie Joe Resetarits, Aaron Pascas, Daryl Veltman and Andrew McBride.
It looked like Toronto had the game in hand after consecutive power-play goals from Sanderson gave the Rock a 10-5 lead halfway through the third quarter.
However, McBride, the Roughnecks captain and a fan favourite, brought the crowd back to life with a rare goal.
Sent in alone on a feed from Nolan Heavenor, the rugged defenceman beat Rock goalie Nick Rose at 14:18 for just his fourth goal in the last five seasons.
Off the faceoff, Calgary went right back on the attack again with Veltman scoring just 19 seconds later.
"It's about learning, it's about getting better and understanding what we need to do," said McBride. "We didn't panic, which was a great sign. We were able to come back when we were down a couple goals and you have to take the positives out of that."
The loss spoiled the debut of new Calgary head coach Curt Malawsky, who became the Roughnecks sixth coach in their 12-year history when he took over for Dave Pym in the off-season. Malawsky spent the last three seasons as an assistant coach.
"Toronto had a good game plan. They came out and they executed and they handed it to us, but we're young and we're going to bounce back," said Malawsky. "This is a process for us. We want to see some adversity. It's all going to be proof in the pudding next week. If we learn from this and come out and win next week, that's what we're looking forward to."
Rose had 45 saves to record the victory for Toronto. The Roughnecks outshot the visitors 56-48.
"We earned it," Cordingley said. "We played a 60 minute game, we played really well, played against a very good team. It takes a little pressure (off) going into tomorrow's game."
After knocking off the NLL's top team in the regular season from last year, the Rock are hopping on the bus and driving to Edmonton where on Sunday they'll meet the Rush, who lost to Rochester in the NLL's championship game last season.
Notes: Calgary F Dane Dobbie did not play as he served a one-game suspension for a game misconduct in the Roughnecks season-ending playoff loss last May to Edmonton ... Calgary played its first game since the Dec. 20 retirement of Kaleb Toth, who had been with the team since it joined the NLL in 2001. Toth is the Roughnecks' all-time leader in games played (16), goals (274) assists (354) and points (628). ... Pascas was acquired from the Rock in the off-season. The native of Port Coquitlam, B.C. scored 15 goals in his rookie year in 2011 but was suspended for the entire season last year for refusing to move to Toronto. ... Calgary falls to 9-15 all-time against Toronto and 5-7 at home.