By Katherine Hansenauer Cornetta
BOSTON, MA – Two weekends ago, the Boston Blazers were handed their first defeat of the season against a high-powered Toronto Rock offense. On Saturday night, they played their best defensive game of the season so far to douse the Rock offense, winning 9-7.
Dan Dawson, who had found himself in the feeder role for most of this young season, broke out for 3 goals on a night where he admittedly took many more chances than he has been. He led the team with 11-shots on the night.
“This year, I hadn’t buried the ball when I got the opportunity,” Dawson explained during his post-game interview. “My shot percentage is down, and I haven’t shot the ball enough. I’ve found myself standing on the outside, being the feeder, and letting other guys do the grunt work. Tonight, I took more shots – I could have taken more – but I just need to keep burying the ball.”
The Blazers scored the game’s first goal for just the second time this season when Casey Powell and Ryan Powell got fancy with some behind the back shots to feed Geoff McNulty for a goal a mere four minutes into the game.
The Rock tied the game up on Garrett Billings first goal of a three goal night. Billings had been out last week with injury, and looked like a man on a mission during the first half. But, a renewed Boston defense were able to hold him and teammates Stephen LeBlanc and Colin Doyle at bay. While the Rock stayed neck in neck with the Blazers for most of the first quarter, they couldn’t match the Blazers’ offensive output through the second and third quarters, only coming within one in the waning moments of the fourth before Blazer Josh Sanderson buried a shot to put the game away.
“They were real good defensively. We couldn’t penetrate the scoring area, and we only had 14 shots on the first half, which is not good,” said Troy Cordingley. “We were chasing them the whole time, and we can’t play catch up with Boston.”
Sharing the spotlight Saturday night with Dawson was Kevin Buchanan, who also had 3 goals on the evening. Two of those goals were from long-range, penetrating through a transparent Rock defense. He demonstrates a clear chemistry with the Powell brothers, who assisted on two of those goals. The Powells combined had 9 assists on the evening, having a hand in 6 of the Blazers’ 9 goals.
“(The Powells) have a definite chemistry,” said Blazers coach Matt Sawyer. “I say anytime you can have brothers play together, it’s good. They grew up playing together, and you know that they’re going to battle for each other, and be on the same wavelength.”
What sealed the deal for Boston was a deeper focus on defense than in games past. Defense was a focus of the entire roster, with offensive studs like the Powells and Dawson contributing to stop the usually high-flying Rock offense. The defensive effort held Rock star Colin Doyle off the goal tally for one of the first time’s in recent memory.
The renewed defensive focus helped goaltender Anthony Cosmo, who saw a drastic drop in shots from the two teams’ last meeting (60 in January and 36 Saturday night.) The Blazers knew they had to being supporting their league leading goalie a bit more if they wanted to right the ship after they dropped three of their last four games.
“(Cosmo’s) the heart and soul of this team,” said Dawson. “He’s our backbone, and when he puts together an effort like he did tonight, he’s fun to watch. We’re going to ride him as far as he’ll take us.”
The Blazers (4-3) host the Colorado Mammoth (1-4) next Saturday night at the TD Garden.