Zach Manns will be front and centre for the Toronto Rock on Saturday night when they host the Vancouver Warriors at 7 p.m. at Scotiabank Arena. Manns, a native of Victoria, BC, will be facing his hometown team for the first time.
Hometown may not be the right word here, actually. For those unfamiliar with Canadian geography, Vancouver is about the farthest west you can go in Canada – except for Victoria, which is actually on Vancouver Island – almost two hours away from the lower mainland by ferry.
So, although they’re the closest team to Victoria, Manns rarely got to see the Warriors (or the Stealth before them) play in person.
“Growing up I never really got to watch a lot of NLL because I was always playing other sports during other seasons, so I never had a ton of free time to watch,” he said. “To be honest, this whole NLL thing is super new to me.”
Victoria can certainly feel like an isolated place – a beautiful one, to be sure, and one that has a great minor lacrosse system, but for Manns, the NLL wasn’t on his radar as a younger kid.
“I’m definitely getting my fair share of games in trying to watch every game now, though!” he said.
Although there are no island boys on the Warriors, there are 15 players on the active roster from British Columbia that Manns probably encountered on the field at some point in his development, making him one of the Rock’s best assets when it comes to scouting this opposition.
“We’re really going to have to key on their forwards,” he said of players like Logan Schuss and Mitch Jones. “They’re a talented team. Eric Penney steps up and makes some big saves so we have to get to him early and play the way we did against Buffalo. Getting through the middle, playing unselfish and really limiting transition, those are the three big things.”
Manns may only be a rookie (and he’s now got a nickname to go with that status, with a rockin’ version of “Baby Shark” as his new goal song), but he’s been playing like a veteran for the Rock who have been missing Adam Jones and Tom Schreiber for an extended period of time. He’s fourth in team scoring with seven goals and 10 assists.
The Rock (5-2) enter Saturday’s game as one of the NLL’s hottest teams, coming off back-to-back wins over the Halifax Thunderbirds and Buffalo Bandits. The Warriors have been streaky this season but with a 4-5 record are already miles above where they were last season and sit in second place in the West Division.
The Rock are just half a game back of the Bandits and one game back of the Thunderbirds in the North Division, and their confidence is at an all-time high.
“We’re going to build on that confidence every single game,” stated Manns.
Toronto and Vancouver don’t play each other often – once a year if they’re lucky – but when they do the games are exciting. Going back four seasons, the Rock have won every matchup including a 24-7 win in 2018 in Vancouver. The last time the Warriors visited Scotiabank Arena, it was called the Air Canada Centre and the Warriors were still the Stealth. That was a 13-7 win for the Rock.
There’s even more on the line this time with the Alterna Cup in the mix. This will be each team’s second Alterna Cup game. The Rock are 1-0 and the Warriors 0-1.
The first 5000 fans at Scotiabank Arena on Saturday will receive a Rob Hellyer bobble head, so make sure to get there early! If you can’t make it in person, tune into BR Live for faceoff at 7 p.m.