The Toronto Rock host the Buffalo Bandits in the East Division National Lacrosse League semi-final on Saturday, May 1 at the Air Canada Centre. Game time is 7:30 p.m. ET and will be broadcast live on TSN2.
The Rock head to the NLL post-season for the first time since 2007. The game against Buffalo will mark the first Toronto home playoff game since the 2005 championship.
“We’re playing a team that we know really well,” said Rock rookie forward Garrett Billings. “There are no secrets between us, we play the same style of defence, and both have the fire-power upfront.”
After ending the 2010 regular season leading all rookie’s in points with 83, the Langley, British Columbia native says he doesn’t get nervous.
“I’m really excited,” he said. “Because of the rollercoaster season we had we didn’t know if we’d make it to the playoffs, let alone host a game.”
The Rock played Buffalo three times this season and fell 2-1 in the series. Seeded second in the East Division, with their first winning season since 2005, Toronto will wipe clean their 9-7 regular season record for the single-game elimination NLL playoffs.
“We are expecting a very tight game,” said Rock GM-assistant coach Terry Sanderson. “I can’t see any reason why it wouldn’t play out much the same as the other three games.”
Three games between two very talented teams that were won by the team that executed best.
“You draw on experience going into games like these,” adds Sanderson.
Even though 10 players have never continued their season past 16 games, 13 members of the active roster have a depth of experience to draw on. Defender Pat McCready has played in 24 playoff games, Steve Dietrich and Colin Doyle follow close behind with 20 and 19, respectively.
McCready says his best advice to the young players that have never experienced a professional post-season would be “not to change much” and keep their game consistent.
“Don’t get too high, don’t get too low. Everyone just needs to play their assigned role and keep playing the system we’ve been playing all year,” adds the veteran defender. “Bring your best and let the hard work speak for itself.”
Billings doesn’t have any pro experience to pull from but he’s not too concerned.
“I think experience is important but at the end of the day I think that the talent of this team will shine through.”
All systems have to be firing properly to hold off Buffalo’s explosive offence that features veterans John Tavares and Mark Steenhuis, and to get past their strong-hold defence.
The Bandits bounced back from a 1-5 season start to end 8-8, third in the East, winning six of their last eight games. The cross-boarder rivals have confidence coming into Toronto for the second time in 2010 but aren’t going to look ahead of the game.
“We know Toronto has a strong team, and are very well coached,” said Buffalo head coach Darris Kilgour. “I think it’s going to come down to execution. We are expecting a tough game and a close game.”
Tickets for Toronto’s first round playoff game are available through the Toronto Rock website at www.torontorock.com. Fans nationwide that are unable to make the game on May 1 can watch live at 7:30 p.m. ET on TSN2. Outside of Canada the game will be streamed online on the LiveStream Network at www.nll.com.
On Saturday night, McCready says there is only one outcome the Rock are looking for.
“Everything is on the line, and you have to win to move on.”