The Toronto Rock are eager to get their season started after watching the first week of National Lacrosse League action from the sidelines. They’ll host the New England Black Wolves on Saturday night at 7 p.m. at Scotiabank Arena.
As always, the Rock expect big things from themselves this season. A third-place finish in the East last season was just okay, and they got by Georgia in the first round of the playoffs before falling to Buffalo in the division final.
Things are obviously different this season with the introduction of a third division. The Rock have moved to the North Division along with Halifax, Buffalo and Rochester, meaning they aren’t competing against the Black Wolves for a playoff spot this season.
That said, it’s the home opener, and it is serious business.
“New England is a big athletic team with a lot of firepower on the front end. They are always a tough matchup for us. I’m sure they will be ready for Saturday night as will we,” said Rock head coach Matt Sawyer.
The Rock split last year’s season series with the Black Wolves 1-1 with each team taking their home game.
Toronto finished the 2019-20 preseason 1-1-1, winning their first game against Colorado, tying Rochester and falling to the always strong Saskatchewan.
The preseason was a good test for the young guys who will be counted on to make an impact this year including Brandon Slade, Adam Jay and Alec Tulett, while rookies Scott Dominey, Zach Manns and Josh Jubenville can step in right away and prove their worth. Dominey scored a goal in his only game last season. Manns was the team’s second round pick in the draft and Jubenville has played with the Oakville Rock for two years so is familiar with most of the roster.
Players to Watch
Toronto – Dan Dawson, O
The Rock have been slowly curating their roster since Colin Doyle retired, only making minor tweaks each season. But this season’s minor tweak could have a major impact on the both chemistry and results. That is the addition of righty forward Dan Dawson, a 19-year NLL veteran with 1396 points to his name.
“Dan brings some size and leadership for us on the front end,” Sawyer said. “He’s a veteran presence who is highly skilled with a great lacrosse IQ. Throughout training camp, you could see the chemistry building between Dan and the rest of the offence. It’s not so much how does Dan fit into our offence but how does the seven-man offensive group fit together.”
Whereas the Rock’s left side has been dominant in the past few years, watch for the right side with the addition of Dawson to Tom Schreiber and Rob Hellyer to create some magic.
Toronto – David Brock, D
Brock makes his debut on defense for Toronto after playing the last two years in New England. This will be his 10th year in the league and he’s a steady veteran and tough as nails and will fit right in with the Rock who are missing an injured Brock Sorensen for the season.
New England – Andrew Kew, O
Kew was the BlackWolves’ first pick in the 2019 draft at third overall, so he enters the league to big expectations. He joins an already powerful offense with Callum Crawford, Joe Resetarits and Stephan Leblanc. He was a steal for the ‘Wolves at number three due to his size and dynamic play in both minor box lacrosse and field lacrosse at the University of Tampa.
Kew will be facing a lot of teammates on the Rock with whom he plays in the summer in his hometown of Oakville. He’s played two full seasons with the summer version of the Rock and led the team in scoring both years while finishing fifth in overall MSL scoring. He’ll likely have a lot of family and friends eagerly watching his debut in his own backyard.