Saturday night the Toronto Rock (7-3) are back at Scotiabank Arena for the first time since February 15th. Their month away hasn’t been kind to them; even with a bye week thrown in, they went 0-2 in that stretch, losing important games to New England and Calgary. They once held first place in the NLL but now sit second in the East, a game and a half behind the Buffalo Bandits with the Black Wolves and Georgia Swarm breathing down their necks.
Between the East Division’s top four and bottom two, there is a wide divide, and the fifth-place Rochester Knighthawks (2-8) are this week’s competition for the Rock. The long-time rivals, however, will be as unfamiliar to the Rock as an expansion team after their spate of trades over the last week. They could have more than five new faces in the lineup after trading away veterans like Cory Vitarelli, Ian Llord, Paul Dawson and Scott Campbell. The Knighthawks, who are just one year removed from an NLL Cup appearance, are trying to salvage some part of their last season in Rochester before the players and ownership move to Halifax and become the Thunderbirds.
Rochester’s last game was what has become run of the mill for them this season, a 15-11 loss to the Georgia Swarm. Clearly frustrated with their losing streak, things boiled over in the third quarter with Cody Jamieson fighting rookie Brendan Bomberry and Billy Dee Smith taking liberties with Shayne Jackson. Pat Saunders led the Knighthawks in scoring with four goals, and they did benefit from the return of Jake Withers at faceoff, who missed several games on the IR, but not much else went right. This week they’re hoping their new blood will give them a second life.
Last weekend against Calgary, the Rock clearly missed Adam Jones, a late scratch, on their left side. Jones not only scores in bunches but is also one of the best playmakers on the team, and without his targeted passing, the Roughnecks were able to hold Tom Schreiber to four assists. Only five of the Rock’s nine goals were scored on offense, and only three of those were even strength. Bad news for the Rock; Jones was moved to the IR this week with a lower-body injury. But Calgary has been surging while the Knighthawks have struggled, so the Rock should have an easier contest this week. Even against a weaker opponent, getting back in the win column will feel good.
Lacrosse is unpredictable so either of these teams are capable of winning. However, based on their records and the Knighthawks’ recent roster shakeup, it will be hard for the Rock to lose this one.