January 8, 2016
SEASON BEGINS ON SATURDAY IN GEORGIA
Rock Begin Long Road Back To Another Shot At The Cup
Oakville, ON – The Toronto Rock will embark on a season-long journey in search of redemption this Saturday night in Duluth, Georgia when they face the young and talented Georgia Swarm. The game can be seen live on FOX Sports GO at 7:00 p.m. ET.
A dream season for the Rock ended in heartache in the 2015 NLL Champion’s Cup final, losing two games to none to the Edmonton Rush. The Rush are now playing out of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and are the present keeper’s of the cup, something the Rock hope to change, which would mean a league record seventh NLL title for Toronto.
Their opponent in the season opener, much like the Rush, have relocated in the off-season, the Swarm have moved from Minnesota to Georgia to play out of the Infinite Energy Center. It will be the team’s first-ever home game in their new digs and they’ll be coming off a nail-biting 16-15 season opening loss last weekend to the Colorado Mammoth in Denver.
The Rock did get a look at the Swarm in exhibition in late December but were on the wrong end of a 17-12 decision.
“They are what we saw in exhibition,” said Rock Head Coach John Lovell when asked about what his impressions of the Swarm were in week one. “They are fast, pushed the pace and moved the ball really well. We have a good sense of what they can be from our exhibition game. All of their offensive guys were a threat, we have to play good defence against them.”
The Rock forward group is largely the same, but is also very different at the same time. Two new young faces are in the mix in the form of rookies Turner Evans and Dan Lintner. Both were 2015 NLL Draft selections, Evans was picked in the 2nd round, 10th overall by the Rock while Lintner went in the 1st round, 8th overall to New England before being dealt to the Rock in October. The other big change is captain Colin Doyle will start the season healthy and on the active roster and Josh Sanderson will not.
“I like the makeup of our offence. After missing most of training camp, Rob Hellyer is rounding into form, which is a big positive for us. Brett Hickey doesn’t look like he’s missed a beat. Colin Doyle is a veteran who has been through the wars and we hope he handles and manages the ball like Josh (Sanderson) did last year for us. We have two young guys in the mix that we hope will be a big part of things going forward. I’m not sure if they are both playing on Saturday, that will hinge on whether or not we play six or seven forwards. We’ll decide that at shoot around,” commented Lovell.
Coming into the 2015 season, the beefed up Rock defence was the headline story. This year, the defence comes into the season a little banged up with Damon Edwards out for likely half the season due to an off-season torn ACL and Scott Johnston is still nursing the same injury he suffered early in the 2015 NLL season.
“Damon leaves a big hole in our lineup, he’s big loss,” explained Lovell. “He plays a lot of important minutes for us and I hope we see him back in the lineup down the road this season. I really like what Luc Magnan has done in training camp, he’ll be in the lineup on Saturday night. We know we need to inject some youth into the lineup every year.
“We made big improvements last year and we hope to improve again. We made some great strides last year and the players we brought in improved us. However, the key was those players helped us improve the team concept and our team defence got better. We just need to keep getting better.”
In goal, Nick Rose and Brandon Miller give the Rock two number one netminders. It’s a position of incredible depth that no other team can equal in the NLL.
“I do believe we have two very good goalies who are both capable of being a number one guy,” said Lovell. “We had success last year with certain matchups and we made sure they were both ready and sharp and got minutes and they were okay with it. We will continue that trend and play a certain guy against a certain team and hopefully that will work out.”
Lovell circles back to something that he felt led to success last season and that is a good start to games, it’s also something he’s hoping for this Saturday.
“It will be important to have a solid first quarter and stay in the game early and we will build from there. It might sound cliché, but we had a lot of success last year just taking it a shift at a time,” said Lovell.
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