Nobody makes it as a goaltender in the National Lacrosse League without a lot of tutelage along the way.
Toronto Rock goalie Nick Rose has had plenty of that.
Through week seven, Rose is allowing the second-fewest goals per game at 10.72 (minimum 200 minutes) and has saved the fifth-most shots for a Rock team that has the best record in the league at 5-1. Everything is gravy right now for the Rock goalie.
But Rose, now in his fourth year as a full-time starter, may not be in the position he’s in today as one of the top goalies in the league if not for the lessons he learned as a backup early in his career.
Consider this: Before Rose was traded to Toronto during the 2012 season, his first time as a team’s No. 1 goalie, he backed up Mike Poulin twice, Anthony Cosmo, and for a short amount of time, practiced with Bob Watson. And that’s not counting his time with Brandon Miller on the Rock as a teammate and now his goaltending coach.
“They all showed me the pressure of how to handle playing in the league,” said Rose. “Watching them day in and day out makes it easy to learn about he NLL and how to handle yourself on and off the floor.”
— Toronto Rock (@TorontoRockLax) January 27, 2019
Rose’s first opportunity to learn the goaltending ropes came right after he was drafted by Toronto with the 32nd pick in the 2008 NLL Draft. Even if it was for a short amount of time – Rose was cut during 2009 training camp – the Orangeville, Ontario native got the chance to play with one of the best goalies (and Rose’s favorite goalie growing up), Bob Watson.
One week later, Rose was picked up by the now-defunct Boston Blazers as a practice squad player. Again, he sat behind two more legendary goalies in Poulin and Cosmo.
In week six of the 2010 season, after Poulin was traded to Calgary, Rose laced up for his first NLL game of his career. Though Rose played only 22:05 that first year and 59:09 in 2011, he considers the lessons he learned and experiences he gained playing behind not one, but two great goalies to be “invaluable.”
“I absorbed everything, Rose said. “From watching how they prepared and practiced to the type of teammates they were.”
The following year, the Blazers folded and Rose was selected by Calgary in the dispersal draft to back up – yes, – Poulin again. But this time, his backup duties lasted only two-thirds of the season.
On March 19, 2012, with the Rock at 4-6 and with a minimal chance at making the playoffs, Toronto General Manager Terry Sanderson released goalie Matt Roik and traded for Rose.
It was a risky move considering Rose played less than 33 minutes thus far that season.
He led the team to a 5-1 record down the stretch and a 7-6 win over the Buffalo Bandits in the East Division Semifinal before falling to the eventual champion Rochester Knighthawks, 17-13, in the East Division Finals.
“Terry Sanderson called me and said there was an opportunity to trade for me,” said Rose. “He said if this trade happens then I’ll be starting that week and they were gonna roll with me. I’m pretty grateful for Terry for giving me my first opportunity in the NLL. I was just happy that this was finally my chance.”
Rose was again the full-time starter in 2013 and led the Rock to a 10-6 record and and a playoff berth, falling to the Minnesota Swarm in the Division Semifinals. In 2014, the Rock acquired veteran goalie Brandon Miller in a mid-season trade. Miller and Rose shared goaltending duties for the next two seasons before Rose took back the starting job starting in 2016.
This offseason, Miller announced his retirement and was named the Rock’s goaltending coach.
“With this league it can be funny,” said Miller. “Whether you’re ready or not to step into a starting role sometimes you have to wait your turn. Everyone knew he had the ability, it was just about the right fit and the right job opening.”
“It’s a big confidence booster for us knowing that we have one of the best in the game in net,” said Rock head coach Matt Sawyer. “He gives us a chance to win every night. I think very highly of Nick. He’s a great leader and a real big part of our hot start.”
This season, Rose is 3-1 in one-goal games and allowed only nine goals against the defending Eastern champion Georgia Swarm in week 5. Last week, with the Rock trailing 10-6 in the fourth quarter at Philadelphia, Rose proved why he’s one of the best goalies in the league. The netminder allowed only one goal in the fourth quarter, leading the Rock to a 13-12 win.
“I’ve had a lot of good goalies helping me along the way, teaching me how to prepare for a game and try to silence out the noise,” said Rose. “I’m definitely grateful for all of the help I’ve had along the way.”