Toronto Can Lock Up A Playoff Spot This Weekend
Oakville, ON – The Toronto Rock control their own destiny over the final two weeks of the season. This weekend the Rock are at Saskatchewan on Saturday night to face the Rush and travel to Buffalo next Saturday night, April 29 to finish the regular season against the Bandits. A Rock win over the Rush or a Buffalo loss to Georgia combined with a Rochester loss to New England this weekend, will clinch the Rock a berth in the post-season.
A tough 13-8 loss at home last Friday night to division rivals, the Buffalo Bandits was a tough pill to swallow for the Rock given that a win would have essentially locked up a playoff spot and the result of Saturday’s East Division matchup that saw Buffalo lose to Georgia played out in Toronto’s favour as well. However, the Rock are still in a strong position, locked in a tie for second place in the East Division with New England at 8-8. The Rock must finish ahead of the Black Wolves to finish in second as New England holds the tie-breaker, winning the season series 2-0.
“We need to win a game here, that’s our focus, we knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” said Rock Owner, President and GM Jamie Dawick. “You go on runs in your schedule, like you do in games, we’re on a bit of losing run here, but you have to stay focused and stay together. One win here this weekend will ensure we’re in the playoffs and that’s the sole focus right now.”
An overhaul of the roster with as many as six rookies in the lineup at any one time, and a new head coach have been keys to this year’s team transforming from a 5-13 squad that missed the playoffs, to a team that is 8-8 through 16 games and poised to make some noise in the playoffs. Of the Rock’s eight losses, four of them have been by a single goal and two of those losses came in overtime.
“Regardless of how the next two games play out, the team has made a lot of strides. We have rebuilt an aging roster with quality youth that can play for a long time in this league,” expressed Dawick.
The Rock also have several players and staff that will be in the mix for post-season individual hardware.
Goaltender Nick Rose leads the league with a goals-against average of 10.25 and has the third best save percentage in the league at .783. Add in the accomplishment of becoming the first goalie in league history to score two goals in a season and he just may be the frontrunner for this year’s goaltender of the year honour. Rose was a finalist for the award in 2016.
Head Coach Matt Sawyer will be in the conversation for coach of the year honours if his team qualifies for the playoffs after missing the post-season in 2016 and the same can be said for General Manager Jamie Dawick who will almost certainly be a nominee for the GM of the Year Award. A successful NLL Draft that landed Challen Rogers, Latrell Harris and Jordan Magnuson along with the signing of free agents Tom Schreiber, Kieran McArdle, Reid Reinholdt, Mikey MacDonald and Phil Caputo injected a youthful athletic infusion into Dawick’s roster.
Among those fresh new faces, Tom Schreiber is a virtual lock for the NLL Rookie of the Year award and is an equally strong lock to break the Rock team record for points in a season by a freshman. The 25-year old from East Meadow, NY has 82 points with two games remaining, just one point shy of Garrett Billings’ Rock record of 83 points set in 2010. Schreiber is also within striking distance of the NLL rookie record of 95 points set by Georgia’s Randy Staats last season.
Also, the Rock do have another rookie that just may finish near the top of rookie of the year voting in 19-year old defender Latrell Harris. He began the season as an 18-year old and has quickly become a reliable defender playing key minutes for the Rock. He has also shown a knack for pushing the ball up the floor to create offence, something that the current youngest player in the league will only get better at doing with more experience at the pro level in years to come.
All of the individual hardware will only serve as a consolation prize though should the Rock not take advantage of what is still on the table here over the final two games of the season. Two Rock wins and one New England loss or one Rock win combined with two New England losses over the balance of the schedule would cement Toronto in second place in the division and would mean they would host the Black Wolves in the East Division Semi-Final on the weekend of May 4-6. The Georgia Swarm have already clinched the East Division title and a first round bye.
The first order of business however is locking up a playoff berth, which is on the agenda this weekend in Saskatoon against the Rush. This is the second and final meeting of the season between the two teams. The Rock defeated the Rush in Toronto on January 14 by a score of 13-11.
“I feel really good about where the team is heading going forward, especially where we sit now versus where we sat nine months ago. Hopefully this group is rewarded with a playoff spot,” said Dawick.
2018 Toronto Rock Season Tickets and Season Passes are on sale now. For more information, please visit torontorock.com or call 416-596-3075.