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Rock can lock up the East on Sunday

04/02/2013, 3:31pm EDT
By Justin Millerson, Rock beat writer for NLL.com

Toronto can clinch division title with win over Rochester on Sunday

The Toronto Rock (9-5) can clinch the East Division regular season title with a win over the Rochester Knighthawks (6-6) on Sunday. (Photo: Larry Palumbo)

The Toronto Rock (9-5) will look to clinch East Division regular season title as well as capture a little redemption when they host the Rochester Knighthawks (6-6) at Air Canada Centre on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET. Watch the game live on YouTube via The Lacrosse Network.

Toronto has clinched a playoff berth and can clinch the East Division regular season title with a win over Rochester on Sunday. The Rock clinched a home playoff game with a Philadelphia's 14-7 loss to Rochester on Saturday.

The Rock will meet Rochester just eight days after they fell to the Knighthawks by a score of 12-8 on the road last weekend.

Despite the loss – and being shut out in the first quarter for the first time in over a year– the Rock had no shortage of chances last Saturday. Toronto got off 55 shots on goal, five shy of their season high, on Rochester goalie Matt Vinc. Vinc, who won the NLL Defensive Player of the Week award for his Week #13 performance, made 47 saves for a sparkling .855 save percentage.

“I think if we duplicate that effort from last week, I’d hope it turns into a better result,” said Rock general manager and assistant coach Terry Sanderson. “[Vinc] had a lot to do with [the loss] with an outstanding effort.”

After a shaky first quarter that had the Rock down 4-0, Toronto tightened up on defense by only allowing eight goals the rest of the way. Toronto goalie Nick Rose had another solid start in goal, making 31 saves on Rochester’s 41 shots.

“Obviously we are not happy with the result, but the effort was there from both ends of the floor. I think we need to work a little on our execution,” said Rock faceoff specialist Stephen Hoar.

The slow start in the first quarter, proving to be a big factor in Saturday’s loss, is becoming a common theme for the Rock down the stretch. In six of their last seven games, Toronto has trailed heading into the second quarter.  Of those six first-quarter deficits, the Rock eventually lost four times to their opponent. Conversely, to start the year, the Rock did exceptionally well in garnering a first quarter advantage. In five of their first six games of the season, the Rock held a first quarter lead, resulting in four victories.

The Rock head into Sunday’s game with a 3-3 record over their last six contests. In spite of Toronto’s recent lapses, the Rock still sit fairly comfortably in first place in the East Division. As the standings sit today, the Rock hold a 2.5 game advantage over the second place Knighthawks.

“I don’t think there is any relief at all…the record is what it is. We had a couple close wins that could’ve gone the other way. I don’t think anything is safe in this league,” Sanderson said.

Rock forwards Roger Vyse and Rob Hellyer were inserted into the lineup last weekend and both players left a lasting impression with the coaching staff. Vyse, who had yet to play a game all season, suited up against his former team in the Buffalo Bandits last Friday and scored a big goal to start the second quarter, which at that moment, swung momentum Toronto’s way .

“We liked how it worked out,” Sanderson said. “[Vyse] played real well for us; it was nice to give him the opportunity to play and we were all happy with the result.”

Hellyer had a chance to play with some of Toronto’s top scorers in Week #13 and contributed four goals over two games last weekend.

Sanderson said he would not be surprised to see both Vyse and Hellyer in the lineup on Sunday.

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