The Toronto Rock are back in the Champion’s Cup Finals for the first time since winning the Cup in 2011. After a three-year Finals drought, the Rock are hoping to etch its name in history again as National Lacrosse League champions in 2015. But after dropping Game 1 at home, Toronto will have its work cut out for them starting with Game 2 on Friday at 9:30 p.m. ET, a must-win matchup to avoid having the West Division champion Rush take the title.
Toronto goaltender Brandon Miller realizes how rare and great the opportunity is to play for an NLL championship.
“Lacrosse has been such a huge part of my life since I was five, and most of my lifelong friends were made while playing alongside them. Some, I’m lucky enough to still be playing with, and the others are sending me daily messages wishing me luck in the big dance,” Miller said. “You get so involved with your teammates, staff and family over the course of a long season that it can become like living in a bit of a bubble, but when you get a shot at something like this, an NLL Championship, the excitement catches everyone around you. Family, friends, neighbors, media and anyone who’s ever played sports and knows how special and difficult it is to win a championship.”
Rock transition star Brodie Merrill has been to the Cup Finals before, but has yet to win a championship. He is excited for the chance to win his first Champion’s Cup.
“This is where we want to be. We’ve worked hard to get here,” said Merrill. “It’s a huge challenge, but we look forward to it.”
The second part of Toronto’s goaltending tandem, Nick Rose, is also extremely excited for the opportunity.
“Any time you have an opportunity to play for the championship, it’s a special honor. It’s not something that happens every year. Raising the trophy is something we all dreamed about his kids,” Rose said. “We’d be extremely proud to bring it back to Toronto. We may never be back here, there is no tomorrow.”
This season has also been special for the Rock as they’ve played in the memory of the late Terry Sanderson. Terry was the Rock’s general manager until he passed away in November of 2014, right before the season started.
The roster that earned a 14-4 record during the regular season and top playoff seed, which had been built under Sanderson’s direction, began playing in his honor.
“We’ve been playing with heavy hearts this year. When the news broke, I personally wasn’t sure how well this team would be able to move forward, especially so close to training camp,” Miller said. “Terry’s influence was huge with every single player and coach in our dressing room and we want to honor him by playing exactly the way he wanted us all to play. He brought everyone to our team because there was something he liked about us and we want to make him proud.”
“Terry meant a lot to me. He had a big impact on my life and my career,” added Merrill. “We’ve got a lot of positive emotion just because of Terry.”
“This is the last team he ever assembled. The pride and belief he had heading into the season never wavered. Every game, every quarter and every shift we have played was to make him proud,” Rose said. “It’s been an emotional ride, it would be extremely satisfying winning it all for Terry.”
By Steve Bermel for NLL.com. Photo by Micheline Velovolu.