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The Toronto Rock will open their 2008 NLL home schedule this Friday night at 7:30 p.m. at the Air Canada Centre with the first game of an important home and home series against division rivals the Minnesota Swarm.

This is the second match-up between the teams in less than a month, with the first coming in a December pre-season tilt at the General Motors Centre in Oshawa. The Rock won 17-12 on the strength of 6 goals from super-sophomore Ryan Benesch.

In 2007, the Rock split the season series with the Swarm, winning 13-6 in Minnesota, before falling 13 -11 in Toronto. Josh Sanderson was Toronto’s leading scorer in both games with 6 points (5 goals, 1 assist) in the first contest and 7 points in the rematch (3 goals, 4 assists).

Friday night’s encounter will be the season opener for the Swarm, while the Rock kicked off their 2008 campaign with a solid 11-9 victory on the road last weekend against the Chicago Shamrox. The Rock are looking forward to returning to the friendly confines of the Air Canada Centre and are hoping to build on their season opening victory with a second consecutive win, which would be their first 2-0 start since the 2005 season.

The Rock victory over the Shamrox was a solid team effort that was keyed by tenacious team defence and outstanding performances from offensive catalyst; Blaine Manning (4 goals, 4 assists) and notable off-season addition; Kasey Beirnes (3 goals,1 assist).

Manning’s MVP performance in Chicago earned him both NLL Overall Player and Offensive Player of the Week Honours for his contribution to the Toronto win. Rock defender Rob Marshall was also honoured for this game by being named NLL Defensive Player of the Week. The NLL Weekly Player Awards are determined by a vote of the General Managers and Head Coaches of the league’s twelve teams.

Friday night’s game will give Toronto fans their first live opportunity at home to see the new 2008 Rock roster, which added several outstanding veterans like Beirnes, Cam Woods, Peter Lough and Jon Harasym, along with fresh-faced rookies; Mark Scherman, Jay Winder and Nate Sanderson. In addition, Rock fans will be able to get the season long celebration underway for team captain Jim Veltman, who will be ending his stellar playing career at the end of this year.

The live game broadcast will be available on Rogers Sportsnet Ontario with coverage beginning at 7:30 p.m. EST and is among 4 other Rock games being broadcast on Sportsnet for the 2008 season.

After their Friday night game, the teams will travel to Minnesota for the Saturday night rematch at the Xcel Energy Centre scheduled for 8:00 p.m. EST.

Both Rock games this weekend will also be available online via the B2 Network at 7:30 p.m. EST. on Friday night and 8:00 p.m. EST for the January 12th game in Minnesota. A high speed-internet connection and a current version of Microsoft Windows Media Player will be required to watch the games. Fans can access the webcast by clicking the B2 icon at
-J. Nevins-

Toronto Rock