TORONTO - The Toronto Rock celebrated winning the NLL East title and the birth of captain Colin Doyle’s third child Sunday afternoon.
Kasey Beirnes scored three goals, Garrett Billings, Stephan Leblanc and Josh Sanderson got two each, Roger Vyse added one and Nick Rose matched Matt Vinc save for save as the Rock led all the way in defeating Rochester 10-9 in front of a season-best Air Canada Centre crowd of 13,073.
Doyle did not face the Knighthawks as he was with wife Stacey to welcome their third daughter into the world.
"We had to come out guns-a-blazin’," said Beirnes. "We went hard to the net and once we started getting to Vino our confidence went up.
"Being without Colin, we showed how much depth and character we have. Colin is the leader of our team and we knew how bad he wanted to be here but, obviously, he had more important things to take care of. Everyone stepped up, right from Rosie to the defence and the offence.
"The joke is that Colin might have a tough time getting back into this lineup."
A big win and a new Rock fan on the same day — the combination put smiles on every face in the dressing room.
"We’re so happy for him," said Billings. "We wish he could have been here but we’ll see him soon."
The Rock, 10-5, can finish first overall by completing their 16-game schedule with a win in Philadelphia on Saturday.
Dan Dawson and Johnny Powless scored two each and Cody Jamieson, Mike Accursi, Cory Vitarelli, Joe Walters and Joel McCready one each for the Knighthawks, 6-7.
Toronto outshot Rochester 54-42. The Rock jumped to a 3-0 lead and held quarter leads of 5-3, 7-4 and 8-6. Power-play efficiency aided the Rock cause as they were 3-for-5 while Rochester was 0-for-3.
"We were playing a good team that was coming in with some momentum," said defenceman Cam Woods. "We won this one for our captain. We’ve got one more game before we start playing for keeps so we’re pretty happy right now."
There was no mystery among the Knighthawks as to why they lost.
"The difference was our first quarter," said defenceman Paul Dawson. "We came out flat. We let in five in the first and only five the rest of the game. They played really well. They deserve full credit for the win. We play better in that first quarter and it gives us a better chance to win."
"You hit double digits and you should be doing good, don’t hit them and you can’t expect to win too many games in this league because of the parity," said Rochester’s leading scorer. "You’ve got to score goals to win games."
The Rock lost 12-8 in Rochester eight days earlier but this win gave them the season series 2-1.
"It definitely feels nice," Rose said of clinching the division. "We had been trying for the last couple of weeks and to finally be able to clinch is nice. Now we can focus on Philly then get ready for the playoffs."
Six Knighthawks shots struck the posts behind Rose.
"They’re great shooters," Rose said of the Hawks. "You can’t completely shut down guys like Jamieson and Dawson so you just have to kind of stick with what you’re doing and hope it works out for you."
The Rock completed their home schedule with a 5-3 record.
"We’re playing better at home,’’ said Sanderson. "This one felt like a playoff game. We were without our captain but everybody showed up. We needed all the guys to step up and everybody left it all out there on the floor."
Toronto will be at home for an East semifinal game on Sunday, April 28, regardless of the outcome in Philadelphia on Saturday. A Rochester-Toronto East final is entirely possible.
"It’s going to go down to the wire every time we play Rochester," said Leblanc. "They’re a tough team. Today our shots fell and last game Matt Vinc shut the door. If we end up playing them again it’s going to be a hard-fought game again and we’ll see who’s got the most guts."
NOTES: An assist on Billings’ 3-0 goal was the 500th career point for Beirnes . . . Billings had four assists to pad his NLL-best points total to 98 _ six more than Calgary’s Shawn Evans . . . Beirnes and Blaine Manning each had three assists . . . Toronto gathered in 67 loose balls to 57 for Rochester . . . Besides Doyle, Toronto deleted Scott Evans and Scott Johnston . . . Rochester scratched Craig Point, Jon Sullivan and Jimmy Purves . . . Kyle Belton was back in the lineup after sitting out the previous two games . . . Defenceman Pat Merrill received the Les Bartley Award for inspirational team leadership.