Toronto – It’s no secret that the Rock and Bandits is the most heated rivalry in the National Lacrosse League and Saturday night when the two teams faceoff in Buffalo in front of what’s expected to be a near sellout crowd at First Niagara Center it will no doubt be another instant classic.
The Rock are coming off a 12-9 season opening loss at home to the Calgary Roughnecks as they celebrated their sixth NLL Championship in franchise history by raising the title banner to the rafters at Air Canada Centre. Facing a team in the Roughnecks who boasted the best regular season mark in the NLL in 2011 was no easy way to begin defence of the Champion’s Cup. Following that up this week with a trip to perhaps the toughest building in the league to play in is certainly a challenge the 0-1 Rock are prepared for.
“We have a veteran group that has played a lot of big games in Buffalo,” said Rock Head Coach Troy Cordingley. “We had a great practice earlier this week and the guys are more focused than they were for the Calgary game.”
Last year, Toronto also played Buffalo in their home opener and the Rock were handed their first loss of the season after the team had won their first three games of the season. Starting the season 0-2 is not something the Rock can afford to do in the incredibly tight East Division.
“When you have a stinker like we did in the opener, you want to rebound and prove it’s just a bump in the road,” explained Cordingley. “It’s a tight league and you don’t want to play catch up all season long.”
Buffalo won the season series with the Rock 2 games to 1 in 2011 earning the Bandits the right to host the East Division final after the two teams, along with Rochester, all finished the regular season tied at 10-6. The Rock are 12-6 all-time in the 18 regular season games the two teams have played against each other in Buffalo.
The Bandits saw their 2011 season come to an end at the hands of the Rock. Toronto defeated Buffalo 12-11 on the strength of a tremendous first half in which the visiting Rock jumped out to a 6-0 lead early in the game. The memory of that loss is still fresh in the minds of the Bandits players, coaches and fans.
“When we’re at home, we’re hoping for a better start out of the gate,” said Bandits head coach Darris Kilgour. “We didn’t get it and that’s what really cost us our season. It’s not like we owe them one, it’s more that it was on us. We were unprepared in the first quarter and they came out and took it to us and we were behind the whole game. We have a big enough rivalry with them and we don’t need to throw any more gas on the fire.”
Rock defenders Bill Greer and Bruce Codd both missed last week’s opener against the Roughnecks with nagging lower body injuries sustained in training camp. The veterans will each be game time decisions on Saturday evening.
Saturday’s game will be broadcast live on TSN at 7:30pm and will also be available on TSN Mobile TV. Additionally, a tape delayed French broadcast on RDS2 airs at 11pm.
Toronto returns home on Friday, January 27th when they host the Rochester Knighthawks at Air Canada Centre. For tickets, please visit www.torontorock.com or phone 416-596-3075 and speak with a Toronto Rock ticket representative.