Season Opens This Weekend
Toronto – The Toronto Rock will begin their quest for a league record seventh NLL Champion’s Cup on Saturday night in Calgary against the Roughnecks at the Scotiabank Saddledome with a 9pm ET start time. The game will be broadcast live on TSN2 and will also be available on TSN Mobile TV. Toronto follows that up with a Sunday afternoon date in Edmonton at 4pm ET at Rexall Place.
Toronto’s roster that begins 2013 isn’t dramatically different from the group that finished the 2012 season. Forward Dan Carey has retired and defender Phil Sanderson begins the year on the injured reserve list along with Drew Petkoff, Ryan Sharp and 2012 draft pick Mike Lum-Walker. Traded away are Glen Bryan and Jamie Rooney who were both sent to Buffalo in the off-season.
New faces in the Rock lineup include defender Chris White who was signed as an unrestricted free agent. White previously served as the captain of the Buffalo Bandits and the 32-year old who hails from Peterborough, ON is a 10-year NLL veteran.
Up front, the biggest addition is another Peterborough, ON native. Scott Evans was released by the Edmonton Rush early in this year’s training camp and has provided an offensive spark scoring 7 goals in two pre-season contests. Free agent Brandon Ivey also joins the forward group along with Rob Hellyer who returns from a concussion that forced him to miss all but one game in 2012.
The veteran group that returns is led by forwards Colin Doyle and Garrett Billings hot off his team-record setting 114 point season of 2012. In goal, 24 year-old Nick Rose posted a 5-1 regular season record after being acquired at the trade deadline in 2012 and is looking to make his mark in his first full season as a starting netminder in the NLL. The defensive corps is once again led by veterans Sandy Chapman, Patrick Merrill and Cam Woods.
The Rock and Roughnecks split their two head-to-head meetings in 2012 with each team winning in the opposition’s building. Calgary spoiled Toronto’s 2012 home opener by coming into Air Canada Centre and leaving with a 12-9 win. The Rock got a measure of revenge less than a month later, posting a thrilling 14-13 overtime win on a goal by defender Cam Woods.
“We have our work cut out for us facing one of the top teams in our league right off the bat,” said Rock GM and assistant coach Terry Sanderson. “They had the best record in our league last year for a reason. This is a very talented group.”
The Rock will have a very short break before hitting the turf in Edmonton at Rexall Place to face the Rush. The oil city laxers made an unexpected run to the Champion’s Cup final in 2012, coming up just short against the Rochester Knighthawks in the title game.
Toronto won each of last season’s meetings with the Rush, coming out on top 12-8 on home floor and escaping with a narrow 12-11 win in Edmonton at the end of the 2012 regular season.
Edmonton opened a lot of eyes with their run to the Champion’s Cup as well as their off-season retooling to get younger and faster with the addition of first overall pick Mark Matthews.
“They have made a commitment to a skilled youth movement,” said Rock forward Garrett Billings. “Their defence makes you earn everything and they have a really solid group from top to bottom. These back-to-back games make for the most difficult start to a season I’ve faced in my four years in the league.”
Scott Johnston will be unavailable to Toronto for Saturday night’s season opener. The second-year defender will be serving a one-game suspension as a result of a high hit delivered in the Rock’s December 8th pre-season game against Edmonton.
The Rock will open the home portion of the 2013 schedule on Saturday, January 19th at Air Canada Centre at 7pm against the Philadelphia Wings. For the best ticket in town, please call 416-596-3075 or visit www.torontorock.com.