December 20, 2018
SEASON OPENS FRIDAY IN BUFFALO
Nothing Beats A Game With The Bandits To Get The Season Started
Oakville, ON – A slightly longer and slightly more winding road than usual has led us to Friday night’s Toronto Rock (0-0) season opener against the Buffalo Bandits (1-0) at KeyBank Center in Buffalo, NY. Fans can watch the game at 7:30 p.m. ET with a paid subscription on Bleacher Report Live.
“If we aren’t opening the season at home in front of our fans, it doesn’t get any better than this,” said Rock Owner, President and GM Jamie Dawick of the trip to Buffalo to begin the season. “It’s exciting to play a big game like this right off the bat. Buffalo is one of, if not our biggest rival. Every game counts for one win in the standings and I believe we’re ready to go.”
After Collective Bargaining Agreement talks stalled the original start of the season slated for Dec. 1, the Professional Lacrosse Players’ Association and the National Lacrosse League came to an agreement on Nov. 24 and the season was on. Teams went through an abbreviated training camp, which for the Rock ran from Dec. 1 to Dec. 9, establishing a 21-man Active Roster when the dust settled.
Up front, the Rock will be led by some familiar faces in Tom Schreiber, Rob Hellyer and Adam Jones. Brett Hickey (Philadelphia) and Turner Evans (San Diego) were snagged in the expansion draft, leading Dawick to augment the offensive group with the addition of forward Johnny Powless via trade. The move gave the Rock a top-four that is as formidable as any in the league and time will tell if they are the cream of the crop.
The back end suffered some personnel losses with veteran departures, most notably the retirement of defender Sandy Chapman. However, ready to answer the call is Challen Rogers who has emerged as one of the most dynamic defencemen in the league, showing that he has the ability to be a game breaker. He jumped from three goals as a rookie to 15 tallies in his second year. And in year three, the Rock coaches and management see him improving on those numbers and also thriving in the role as the team’s captain. At 24-years old, the Coquitlam, BC native is the youngest to wear the ‘C’ in team history.
The defence boasts veterans Brad Kri, Bill Hostrawser, Sheldon Burns and Damon Edwards along with third-year pro Latrell Harris who continues to show Rock fans that the best is yet to come from the 20-year old, despite some of the early success he’s achieved.
Between the pipes, Nick Rose is expected to handle the lion’s share of the workload. Over the last two seasons, Rock Head Coach Matt Sawyer has started Rose in all 36 regular season games he’s been at the helm for. Second-year goaltender Riley Hutchcraft will serve as Rose’s backup.
“I think we’re in pretty good shape,” said Dawick. “We’re returning seven starters up front and adding Johnny (Powless) over the off-season only made us stronger. We had a few decisions to make on the back end but overall I am very confident in this group. I am sure everyone would have liked a little more time for conditioning and to give everyone a better chance to gel a bit more but we’re in good shape.”
The group assembled by Dawick will come up against a Bandits squad that made the biggest free agent splash in the off-season with the addition of future Hall of Fame goaltender Matt Vinc. However, the time might be right to come up against Buffalo as the usually stingy Vinc surrendered 15 goals with a new defence in front of him in last weekend’s 17-15 Buffalo win.
The Bandits have a dangerous group of snipers up front including Dhane Smith, Shawn Evans and Corey Small who scored five goals in his Bandits debut last week. Smith was injured at the tail end of that win over Philadelphia and we might have to wait until game time to find out if he’s a go despite reports that he practiced with the team earlier this week.
When the teams hit the turf, the Rock will have their sights set on winning their third straight regular season game against the Bandits. After dropping last year’s season opener to Buffalo at KeyBank Center, Toronto won the next two meetings including a key late season road victory in April.
The Rock will return home next Friday night for their home opener against the Georgia Swarm at 7:30 p.m. ET at Scotiabank Arena.
2018-19 Toronto Rock Single Game, Season Tickets and Season Passes along with the new 4 Game Pack and 6 Ticket Flex Pack are on sale now. To purchase or for more information, please visit torontorock.com or call 416-596-3075.