This week the Toronto Rock (8-5) are facing a tougher test than they would have expected earlier in the season as the Philadelphia Wings (3-10) are in town.
The Rock, once at the top of the NLL standings, now sit third in the East and are 1-4 in their last five games, having lost four consecutive road games. Their one win in that stretch came at home against the Rochester Knighthawks and it was a hard fought 15-13 win.
Win this weekend and they secure themselves a playoff spot. They can still do that if they lose, if New England is able to beat Rochester. Whichever way it comes, it’ll be a sigh of relief for a team that was once on a six-game winning streak.
The Rock are still missing Adam Jones on their left side as he works his way back from a lower-body injury. He’s missed their last four games and in that time the Rock have only hit double-digits in goals against the Knighthawks, highlighting his importance to their offensive core. Despite missing four games, Jones is still third on the team in points. The Rock only scored a combined 11 goals last weekend on the road versus East Division rival teams in Georgia and Buffalo.
The Rock actually had a 4-0 lead against Buffalo last Saturday, but watched it evaporate in the second quarter as the Bandits tied the game 4-4. It was a low-scoring affair all around, but the Rock only managed two goals in the second half, both in the fourth quarter, meaning they were shut out for over 30 minutes in the middle of the game.
The Wings are coming off their third win of the season, and it was both a timely victory and a moral one, as they beat the New England Black Wolves 13-8. It was their largest victory of the season and nice that it came against the former Wings’ franchise.
The Wings didn’t make the changes that the Knighthawks did at the trade deadline, but the ‘Hawks still have yet to win a game with their new roster while the Wings just took the season series with the Black Wolves 2-1. They’ve lost seven games by just one or two goals, and even took the Rock to overtime when they visited Scotiabank Arena in January.
The Wings aren’t exactly in control of their own destiny; they’ll be eliminated from playoff contention with a loss, of course, but the Black Wolves and Knighthawks’ scores will also play a part for them. Regardless of that, they want to finish the year strong to put the league on notice that next year they’ll be contenders.
The Wings and Rock have played two incredible games so far this season – both one goal outcomes in favour of Toronto – so expect the third to be the same; full of intensity, great hits and creative plays.
They match up well at every position. Each team’s top three scorers’ points are nearly identical: For Toronto, it’s Tom Schreiber at 68, Rob Hellyer at 59 and Adam Jones at 41. For Philadelphia, it’s Kiel Matisz at 62, Kevin Crowley at 52 and Josh Currier at 44.
On defense, each team has players that like to run in transition. Challen Rogers is the most likely culprit for Toronto with 11 goals while Steph Charbonneau has proven to have the quick feet and golden hands for Philly with seven goals.
In goal, Nick Rose and Doug Buchan have a nearly identical save percentage with Rose coming in at .768 and Buchan at .770. Rose has the better GAA at 11.79 while Buchan’s is 12.26 – neither figuring into the league’s top stats but both equally capable of making highlight reel saves when needed.
The Rock’s last home game was their best attended of the season with 12,873 fans enjoying the team’s St. Patrick’s Day festivities combined with their annual charity game. This week is Tom Schreiber Bobblehead Night, with the first 5000 fans in the building receiving one of the sought-after collectibles.