Saturday’s Lacrosse Day in Canada eh with two back-to-back nationally televised NLL Games of the Week on TSN.
Game 1: Riptide at Rock (7pm ET)
First up is last season’s rookie of the year Jeff Teat and his 1-5 New York Riptide on the road against the 5-2 Toronto Rock (7 pm ET; TSN 3/4 and TSN+/ESPN+) at FirstOntario Centre in Hamilton, about 70 kilometres from the rising star’s hometown of Brampton.
Teat will make his national TV debut but he’s more excited about it being a home game of sorts.
“Yeah it’s definitely exciting playing in Toronto,” says Teat, who set an NLL rookie record in 2021-22 with 108 points and 71 assists to finish fourth in league scoring. “But it’s more exciting to play in front of family and close friends. We play pretty far away in New York. That’s the biggest thing for me, to play in front of family.”
Last season Teat played his first career game at Toronto, recording one goal and four assists in a 12-9 Riptide loss.
“It was a fun experience,” Teat says. “When you grow up near such a close team like Toronto, it’s a game you have circled. The first time, obviously it’s special. But after the first 30 seconds it becomes more of a regular game.”
A week earlier Teat scored four goals, including the game-winner with less than two minutes remaining, and netted three assists in his first career game against the Rock, a 14-13 New York home win.
“I think their offence caught us by surprise in Game 1 last year,” says Toronto defender Brad Kri, who along with Rock teammates Latrell Harris and Challen Rogers is tasked with checking lefty Teat.
“I remember it was an up-and-down game, a good, fun lacrosse game, very competitive,” Teat says. “The second game, everyone’s really familiar and they got the better of us.”
This season Toronto and New York played on Jan. 7 at Nassau Coliseum, a 15-7 Rock win. The stifling Toronto defence smothered Teat, who was held to just two assists and five shots on goal.
On the flip side the Rock defence contributed offensively in the 15-7 win with Kri recording one goal and one assist, Harris two assists and 11 loose balls, Rogers one goal and one assist, and last season’s defensive player of the year Mitch de Snoo with two goals.
“They’re a great team, especially defensively,” says Teat, who’s currently tied for third in league scoring with 44 points. “They play a strong system and they’re well coached. For us, we ran into a roadblock and weren’t able to get over hump. Going into this game, we’ll be better prepared.”
The Toronto defence has been stingy this season, giving up only 8.5 goals-against per game and Rock goalie Nick Rose is the NLL’s leader in goals-against average at 8.29 and save percentage at 83%.
“We have a very solid group of defenders on top of the best goalie in the league,” Kri says. “We are a strong team that are capitalizing on our strengths. Each guy is just doing their part to the best of their ability and we are getting rewarded for it.”
Kri currently leads the league in caused turnovers with 14.
“I have the chance to go out and use my strengths [and] be a little more aggressive than usual because I have five guys behind me that I trust, including our goalie,” says Kri.
Teat, however, is undeterred by the Rock’s solid D and top tender.
“When you face a strong, talented D with a good goalie you kind of rely on fundamentals and getting back to basics,” Teat says. “Playing hard and playing smart, playing tough and getting to the dirty areas.
“For him [Rose], he’s an amazing goalie. He’s been doing it for long time and his D plays well in front of him. For us, it’s taking what we can get and getting to the middle of floor.”
Game 2: Rush at Warriors (10pm ET)
Stay tuned into your television for saturday’s second NLL Game of the Week on TSN which sees former Vancouver goalie Alex Buque make his return with the 3-2 Saskatchewan Rush to take on the 1-6 Warriors (10 pm ET; TSN 4/5 and TSN+/ESPN+) at Rogers Arena.
Last season with the Warriors, Buque went 5-8 with an 11.96 goals-against average and 77% save percentage. This season with the Rush, he’s second in the league in goals-against average at 9.43 and tied for third in save percentage at 80%.
Vancouver’s leading scorer Keegan Bal, with 16 goals and 34 points, is looking forward to facing his ex-teammate.
“I think it should be fun for both Alex and our players,” says Bal. “We have shot together so many times over the years, so we both know each other’s tendencies. As a team, I don’t think our prep will be any different because he used to play here. We just have to stay focused on getting quality chances and shooting our shots.”
The NLL’s two other Canadian teams are also in action on Saturday with the 3-3 Calgary Roughnecks travelling across the country to visit the 4-3 Halifax Thunderbirds (6 pm ET; TSN+/ESPN+) at Scotiabank Centre.