TORONTO – The Toronto Rock hopes to avenge an opening-night loss when they host the divisional rival Buffalo Bandits Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the Air Canada Centre.
There are still great tickets available for the game, which can also be seen live on Rogers Sportsnet Ontario and on the Fan 590 in Toronto.
Head coach and general manager Terry Sanderson said he hopes to build on the much improved second-half play displayed by Toronto in the second half. Toronto scored 10 second-half goals in the 14-13 overtime loss. A repeat of last weekend’s second quarter – in which Toronto was outscored 8-1 – is unacceptable.
“It’s too uncharacteristic of a club like ours to go through that. I’m still pissed off about if if you want to know the truth,” Sanderson said. “We seem to have one of those every year, why it was in our first game I’m not sure.”
Last year, Toronto won the season series 2-1 with road teams winning all the games. Despite the Rock’s recent success over the Bandits, Sanderson isn’t taking them lightly at all. Sanderson used to serve as an assistant coach to Bandits head coach Darris Kilgour prior to his hiring in Toronto.
“They’re equal rivals to us in what most people consider the toughest division in the league,” Sanderson said. “Kilgour-coached teams are always the toughest to play against. Buffalo brings out the best in us… you can’t have those lapses like we did last week (against Arizona) or they’re going to really expose us.”
“It’s going to be a gritty lacrosse game.”
While the Rock enters the contest with a healthy roster, the Bandits will bring in a banged up squad, even though it’s only the team’s first regular season game of the season.
Roger Vyse suffered an MCL tear while training in the off season and will require surgery later this month. Kim Squire and Lindsay Plunkett are both nursing hamstring injuries. And Billy Dee Smith may be unavailable due to personal circumstances.
Head coach Darris Kilgour said his team must focus on capitalizing on special-teams chances to be successful against the defending NLL champs.
“We gave up a tonne of chances (last year on special teams), and a lot of goals. In particular our powerplay didn’t do well and allowed a lot of short-handed opportunities.”
“It’s not just about them scoring, it’s about them getting back and helping the team,” Kilgour said. “You really do need to score on power plays in lacrosse.”
“With us I’m not really worried about that right now.”
While Kilgour said Buffalo must play a physical game to be successful, he added that discipline will be the key to any success for the Bandits this season.
“I don’t mind the aggressive penalty if we double team a guy and a stick slips up, or we make a really big hit. I don’t’ mind that,” he said. “The penalties that seem to haunt us are the dumb, retaliatory penalties… it’s the ones that are unnecessary are the ones that seem to cost us.”
Toronto will leave immediately following the Buffalo game to prepare for their Saturday-night tilt in Rochester. They face the Knighthawks in a rematch of the 2005 NLL East Divisional final, Saturday Jan. 14 at 7:35 p.m. at the Blue Cross Arena.
For tickets, visit the Air Canada Centre Ticket office or buy online at www.ticketmaster.ca.