Oakville, ON – The Toronto Rock (10-2) are about to embark on arguably their toughest three-game stretch of the season with the Edmonton Rush (5-4) up first on Saturday night at Air Canada Centre. The game will be broadcast live at 7:30pm on TSN2 and TSN GO. The first 5,000 fans in attendance will receive a Josh Sanderson bobblehead courtesy of Bachly Construction.
The Rock seemed to wrestle total control of the game away from the Rush on a couple of occasions in their first meeting on February 27th at Rexall Place in Edmonton. However, each time they were down on the mat, Edmonton rallied and the game had to be decided in extra time when Rob Hellyer snuck a shot past Rush netminder Aaron Bold.
“I believe Edmonton is still the strongest team in the west, if not the strongest team in the league,” said Rock Head Coach John Lovell. “They’re good in every area. We had a great game with them in Edmonton, both teams probably gave up more goals than they would have liked to. We’re expecting a really tough game and we’re looking forward to it.”
The Rush have a balanced and deep attack on offence and are led by the always dynamic Mark Matthews. The former first overall pick has 60 points in just 9 games and is on his way to surpass his career-best 78 points he scored in 18 games a year ago. Rookie Tyler Melnyk made his debut last weekend and scored 4 goals against Vancouver only adding to their depth up front.
Edmonton’s defence is widely regarded as the best and deepest among the 9 NLL teams. Kyle Rubisch, Chris Corbeil, Ryan Dilks and Brett Mydske are among some of the best defenders in the league and they all wear the silver and black of the Edmonton Rush. Aaron Bold also leads all NLL goaltenders with a stingy 9.40 goals against average.
On the other bench, the Rock now have four players with 25 or more goals. Rob Hellyer (31), Brett Hickey (30), Stephan Leblanc (25) and Kasey Beirnes (25) comprise the potent Rock offence. And it doesn’t end there; Josh Sanderson continues to pace the league with 61 assists.
Toronto’s defence continues to improve with each passing game and is led by a veteran group of defenders. That leadership might all centre around a guy who has logged a lot of miles in a Rock jersey, Sandy Chapman.
“We’ve really bonded as a team,” said Chapman. “It’s been our great goaltending that’s given us a lot of confidence from the back end out. As this year has gone along, our confidence has really grown as a unit on the defensive end. We’ve had some hiccups for sure, but we’ve also seen that we can be really good out the back door.”
The Rock got some good news this week as well. Transition player Jesse Gamble has been cleared to play by team medical staff and has been placed on the Active Roster from the Injured Reserve. Gamble suffered an upper body injury against the New England Black Wolves on February 20th and hasn’t played since.
On the flip side of the coin, the Rock have also moved Bill Hostrawser to the Suspended Player List following the withdrawal of his match penalty appeal. The rugged Toronto defender was assessed a match penalty for engaging in the second fight on the same stoppage in Toronto’s March 13th game in Buffalo. Hostrawser appealed the match penalty, which carries an automatic 2-game ban, prior to last Saturday’s rematch with the Bandits allowing him to play in that evening’s game. He will serve the first game of his 2-game suspension on Saturday night.
In 8 meetings at Air Canada Centre, the Rock hold a 6-2 advantage and overall have beaten the Rush 11 times in 18 tries. In last year’s meeting in Toronto, Edmonton posted a fairly complete 13-10 win over the Rock in a Sunday matinee.
Tomorrow night’s game against Edmonton will be broadcast live on TSN2 and TSN GO at 7:30pm ET. For the BEST ticket in town and more information, please visit torontorock.com or call 416-596-3075.