The Rock won their season opener over the Calgary Roughnecks 16-11 at the ACC.
The win however did not come without some loss. Defenceman Patrick Merrill didn’t dress and Bill Greer left the game (both lower body injuries). Both players have since been added to the Injured Reserve list and can be activated for the January 31st matchup against Vancouver. They join Defenceman Chris White who also started the season on the Injured Reserve.
The injuries will give rookies A.J. Masson, Mike Lum-Walker and Dustin Dunn an opportunity to gain some playing time, though it will be unclear who will get the call until game time on Friday.
Defensive Coach Dan Ladouceur said with the injuries they’ll be looking for guys to step up.
“They’re big losses for sure. There are some guys that are second year players, who we’ve already told they will have pivotal roles this year, whether those guys are healthy or not, so it’s more opportunity as opposed to pressure for those guys.”
The Bandits, meanwhile will be hungry coming into the game still looking for their first win of the season after dropping their opener 17-13 to the Philadelphia Wings.
GM Steve Dietrich said, while they didn’t take Philadelphia for granted, they did learn a lesson in their opener.
“I thought coming in to the game against Philadelphia, we had a little bit too much swagger for a team that finished 6-10. They definitely knocked the swagger out of us.” Dietrich went on to say they have been working on keeping things simple. “We’ve really dumbed things down, we need to get the loose balls and that will lead everything from there. When you have the ball, you have a better chance of winning.”
Here’s A Look At How The Two Teams Match-Up:
As always, there is no shortage of offense for the Rock, who have several players amongst the league leaders. Garrett Billings led the way with 1G-9A-10PTS in the season opener. Stephan Leblanc potted 5G-2A-7PTS. Third-year forward Rob Hellyer had a hat-trick against Calgary.
Sandy Chapman, Rob Marshall and Stephan Hoar will be counted on to lead the defensive corps in the absence of Merrill and Greer. Damon Edwards and Kyle Belton are among those players Ladouceur was referring to as players they will be looking to for help.
Between The Pipes:
Nick Rose is the Rock’s starting netminder and will likely get the call again. Rose made 40 saves on 51 shots against the Roughnecks and surrendered only 3 goals between the 2nd and 3rd quarters.
Who to Watch:
The six-pack of Colin Doyle, Josh Sanderson, Garrett Billings, Kasey Beirnes, Stephan Leblanc and Rob Hellyer are always a threat when on the floor. Sanderson’s next goal will be the 400th of his NLL career. Jesse Gamble and rookie Ethan O’Connor are key transition players and can catch the opposition sleeping with their blazing speed.
At The Helm:
Troy Cordingley was let go by the Rock at the end of last season and was their coach when they won their last Champion’s Cup in 2011. He returns to Buffalo where he spent the majority of his NLL playing career.
Mark Steenhuis led the way for the Bandits in their opener against Philadelphia with 2G-3A-5PTS. Dhane Smith, Shawn Williams and Ryan Benesch will also be counted on to carry the bulk of the load offensively this season. Veteran Forward John Tavares certainly will always get some extra attention when he’s on the floor.
Called a “future Bandits captain” by his GM, Steve Priolo is one of the marquee defenders in the National Lacrosse League and also had 4 assists in the season opener.
Between The Pipes:
Anthony Cosmo started the season opener against Philly, but was pulled in the 3rd quarter in favour of Kurtis Wagar.
Who To Watch:
Sophomore Dhane Smith is one of the key Transition players for the Bandits. Ryan Benesch came over in an off-season trade from Minnesota. The perennial All-Star had 34G-50A-84PTS for the Swarm last season.