Oakville, ON – Here we go. Rock fans have had this weekend circled on their calendar since the schedule was released. It’s the long awaited home and home weekend with their archrival, the Buffalo Bandits.
Things get started on Friday night in Buffalo at First Niagara Center at 7:30pm. The game will be broadcast live across Canada on TSN1 & 3 and TSN GO. The following night, the Rock will host the Bandits at Air Canada Centre at 7pm and it’s also Pizza Pizza Kidz Night.
“It’s a very difficult building to play in, it’s intimidating, Buffalo feeds off their fans and we have that to deal with,” said Rock Head Coach John Lovell. “We played a pretty good game last weekend, but we know this is probably going to be our biggest test of the season given where we are (on the schedule).”
Rob Hellyer continued his incredible scoring pace with an 11-point game in last week’s 17-9 Rock win in Colorado. He now has 71 points on the season and surpassed teammate Josh Sanderson for the league’s overall scoring lead. Sanderson still leads the NLL with 56 assists in just 10 games.
The Bandits have a pair of offensive dynamos of their own in the form of Dhane Smith and Ryan Benesch. Smith is currently 4th in the league scoring race with 57 points and Benesch is in second spot on the goal scoring leaderboard with 27 tallies.
Two weeks ago, the Bandits turned to rookie goaltender Davide DiRuscio with veteran starter Anthony Cosmo sidelined with a non-lacrosse related injury. DiRuscio filled in admirably and earned his first NLL victory by defeating the Colorado Mammoth 14-11 in Buffalo. Bandits assistant coach Dan Teat declared Cosmo as, “ready to go” for this weekend’s games.
In the Rock cage, Nick Rose was brilliant in Toronto’s 17-9 win over the Mammoth and has ascended the NLL goalie leaders ladder. He’s first in goals-against average and save percentage. He also sports a perfect 4-0 record this season. His teammate Brandon Miller isn’t far behind and is 5-1 this year. Coach Lovell has stated both goalies will get one start each this weekend, however he hasn’t shown his hand as to who will play which game.
If either of the games comes down to special teams, one would have to think the edge would go to the Rock. Buffalo’s powerplay is operating at a league worst 26.5 percent efficiency rate, while Toronto boasts the league’s best powerplay, which is rolling along at 56.4 percent. The Rock’s penalty kill is also tops in the league at 71.1 percent. The Bandits are 6th in the league at 48.2 percent. Toronto has also scored a league-high 9 shorthanded goals.
The Rock are 10-10 all-time at home against the Bandits, but oddly enough hold a 14-9 edge in games played south of the border in Buffalo.
Following this weekend, the Rock will be at home again next Saturday night against the Edmonton Rush at 7:30pm. It’s also Josh Sanderson Bachly Construction bobblehead night. The first 5,000 fans in attendance on Saturday, March 21st will receive one of these limited edition collectibles. For tickets and more information, please visit torontorock.com or call 416-596-3075.