TORONTO – Garrett Billings was so good Friday night that he was scoring when he wasn’t even looking at the net.
The National Lacrosse League’s leading scorer fired in six goals and assisted on four as the Toronto Rock stunned the Calgary Roughnecks 17-12 in a showdown of the division leaders.
“It’s not often the ball jumps in the net for you so any time you have a night like that you’ve got to be happy,” said Billings.
“His shot was pinpoint,” said head coach Troy Cordingley.
Billings upped his output to 50 points — 15 goals and 35 assists — in eight games.
Colin Doyle scored three goals, Jesse Gamble, Stephan Leblanc and Josh Sanderson got two each and Mike Hobbins and Kasey Beirnes added one each for the Rock, who improved the league’s best record to 6-2 in front of an Air Canada Centre crowd of 10,026.
“I feel good about that one,’’ Doyle said as he pulled off his shoulder pads. “We showed a lot of guts being down early then capitalizing on things we’re supposed to capitalize on, play hard and win little battles. That’s what we’re all about.’’
Nick Rose put on another outstanding goaltending display as Calgary had a 58-48 advantage in shots on goal.
Dane Dobbie scored five goals for the Roughnecks (4-3), Curtis Dickson and Jeff Shattler got two each and Scott Ranger, Dan MacRae and Pete McFetridge added one each.
Penalties killed Calgary’s chances. Toronto was 9-for-11 and Calgary 2-for-3 on power plays.
“I don’t mind that at all,’’ said Doyle, captain of the East Division leaders. “You’ve got to capitalize on power plays in this league and if you do that you put teams behind the eight ball.’’
The Roughnecks entered the game atop the West Division on a four-game winning streak and dominated the first quarter in taking a 5-3 lead and outshooting the Rock 17-9. Shattler made it 6-3 just 10 seconds into the second.
Everything was about to change.
Billings started a sizzling Rock run when he froze goalie Mike Poulin with a sneaky over-the-back goal as he trotted away from the crease.
“If you can sneak it in there, it looks pretty good,’’ said Billings. “You’ve got to catch the goalie sleeping and obviously he was. I didn’t really put it that tight to the pipe so I guess I got a little lucky.’’
That goal was pure talent more than luck.
“That’s sick, that’s what that is,’’ said Cordingley, meaning sick as in unbelievable. “You don’t teach that. That’s Garrett.’’
The Rock kept rollin’.
Hobbins scooped up a loose ball in his own end, ran the floor and fired the ball into a top corner of the net. Billings followed with two overhand lasers to top corners. Beirnes shovelled in his own rebound.
The five consecutive goals gave the Rock an 8-6 lead to take into the halftime break.
Make that six in a row. Gamble got a loose ball in his own end, ran the floor and bounced a ball past Poulin 1:16 into the third quarter to make it 9-6.
Dickson got one back but power-play goals by Doyle and Gamble, on another breakaway, put Toronto up 11-7.
It was a total Roughnecks meltdown. Geoff Snider couldn’t take it. He dropped his gloves and started punching Scott Evans. Snider was assessed an instigating minor, a fighting major, and was ejected. Evans was not penalized.
“I’ll take a seven-minute power play any day of the week,’’ Evans said afterwards.
When Leblanc and Doyle scored power-play goals to make it 13-7, Poulin was lifted and Frankie Scigliano was sent in. Billings quickly made it 14-7 with Toronto’s seventh power-play goal of the night. Poulin was soon back in the crease but it made no difference.
It was 14-9 after three quarters. The ‘Necks would creep within four in the fourth but could get no closer. Rose wouldn’t let them.
“We knew they were going to come out strong,’’ said Rose. “Our main strategy was to try and stay with them and slowly take over. You could see that happen out there.’’
The two fast-break goals by Gamble, a defenceman, were huge but he preferred to rave about the Rock offence.
“For our offence to put up 17 against them is phenomenal,’’ he said. “You can’t ask for more than that.’’
Toronto reached the midpoint of its 16-game schedule. It won both meetings with Calgary this season, which could loom large when the schedule ends and playoff home dates are set, but don’t expect Rock players to rest on their laurels.
“At the end of the day, you can’t get too ahead of yourself,’’ Billings cautioned. “You can’t pat yourself on the back too much. We can’t think about this one too much. We’ll enjoy it tonight and get ready for the next one.’’
The visitors’ dressing room was like a morgue.
“We got completely outplayed in every facet of the game,’’ said head coach Curt Malawsky. “The result was well deserved. They’re a good team.
“It’s a lesson learned for our guys. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us. We made some mistakes in key situations. I’m not going to elaborate. When a team hands something like that on you it’s a personal pride thing. By no means are we feeling sorry for ourselves. We’ll regroup.’’
NOTES: Members of the CFL-champion Toronto Argonauts sipped from the Grey Cup in a pre-game appearance on the floor. Calgary captain Andrew McBride declined when offered a taste so one of the football players poured the beverage over McBride’s head . . . Toronto deleted F Rob Hellyer, F Brandon Ivey and D Scott Johnston . . . Calgary scratched T Curtis Manning, F Jackson Decker and F Aaron Pascas . . . Next game for the Rock is at home against Buffalo on Thursday, Feb. 28 . . . The Roughnecks are at Minnesota on Saturday and play in Everett, Wash., next Saturday.