|Jason Noble is a key player in the success of the Oakville Rock defence that is leading the league in goals against in 2016.|
(Photo: Dave Fryer)
Oakville improved to 5-2 with their third straight win and fourth in their last five games. Despite their star-studded offence, led by the likes of Rob Hellyer, Stephan Leblanc and Wes Berg, the Rock are the lowest-scoring of the four teams battling near the top of the standings with 8.6 goals per game.
They lead the league in goals against, though, even though the Brooklin Redmen and Six Nations Chiefs have played one less game than the Rock. Oakville has surrendered just 46 goals, an average of 6.6 per outing.
The Rock trumpeted the additions of Dan MacRae, Challen Rogers and Bradley Kri before the season. That trio has meshed quickly with veterans like Jason Noble, Alex Crepinsek and Glen Bryan as well as emerging young players Mitch de Snoo and Brad Gillies, both of whom were drafted in the first two rounds of last year's NLL draft.
Besides keeping opponents in check, the Rock defence corps pitches in with the scoring. Last night, de Snoo and Crepinsek scored back to back goals in the second period as the Rock pulled away. The score had been 3-3 after the first, with Berg scoring shorthanded to tie it up with just over four minutes to go in the frame.
With Nick Rose making 29 saves in the second and third periods to shut the Excelsiors out the rest of the way, de Snoo's goal stood as the winner.
Things will only get tighter in the race for first place tonight, as Brooklin and Six Nations, with nine and eight points, respectively, play in Whitby at 8 pm. A Chiefs win would create a three-way tie atop the standings between them, Oakville and the Peterborough Lakers. Brooklin could leapfrog the Rock and Lakers into first with a win.
Or, if tonight's game were to end in a tie, things could get really tight. That result would leave Oakville, Peterborough and Brooklin with 10 points each and Six Nations with nine. Of course, with Oakville at Brooklin Wednesday and Six Nations visiting Peterborough Thursday, there'll be more movement before the standings have a chance to settle in.