By Matt Cullen/NLL.com staff writer
There will be no shortage of emotion on Colin Doyle Night Saturday at the Air Canada Centre as the Toronto Rock (5-4) host the Calgary Roughnecks (4-6).
Doyle, who played 16 of his 19 NLL seasons with the Rock, will have his jersey retired in what will certainly be a touching pre-game ceremony. Doyle also captained the squad for seven years.
“It’s a big night,” Rock head coach Matt Sawyer said. “It’s a big night for Colin and deservedly so. He’s a Rock legend. It’ll be a big night for everyone.”
Doyle grew up in Kitchener, Ontario, an hour-and-a-half drive from Toronto’s Air Canada Centre. He is the all-time franchise leader in games (218), goals (440), assists (664) and points (1,104).
Toronto forward Kasey Beirnes, a long-time teammate and good friend of Doyle, knows just how important he was in Toronto.
“It’s been an emotional year without him,” Beirnes told NLL.com. “It may be easier for the younger players but for guys like me who have played many years with Colin, it’s tough. We had great chemistry. When I heard that [Doyle] wasn’t coming back, it’s been a tough grind for me.”
Following the pre-game ceremony, it will be all business for the Roughnecks and Rock, which are both badly in need of a victory. The game marks the second and final time in the regular season that the two Canadian rivals will meet. The Rock stifled the Roughnecks’ offense on Feb. 12, rolling to an 11-7 win in Calgary.
Toronto comes into Saturday’s game second in the East Division, a game-and-a-half ahead of both the New England Black Wolves and the Buffalo Bandits. The Roughnecks are currently tied for third in the West Division with the Vancouver Stealth after snapping a five-game losing streak with a convincing 18-11 victory over the league-leading Georgia Swarm on March 5.
Calgary stormed out to a 13-3 halftime lead against the Swarm, thanks in large part to offensive leaders Dane Dobbie (7G, 4A), Curtis Dickson (3G, 4A) and Wesley Berg (2G, 4A).
“I know exactly what we’ve got in that room,” Calgary coach Curt Malawsky told NLL.com. “I know the character of the guys in the room. I like the personnel that we have. The guys went to war [against Georgia] and I expected nothing different.”
Dickson, who scored five goals against the Rock earlier this season, will look to lead Calgary’s offense again. He leads all NLL players with 30 goals in 10 games and is fourth in league scoring with 58 points.
Meanwhile, the Rock enter after suffering back-to-back losses for the first time this season and have now dropped three of their last four. Scoring has been a concern for Toronto lately as the team has not managed more than 12 goals offensively in its last four games.
“You don’t want to get into a situation where the losses are piling up,” coach Sawyer said. “We don’t plan on letting this go on much longer. It’s important to get back on track.”
The Rock have also been in no shortage of close games this season, as three of the team’s four defeats have come by one goal.
“We need to learn how to finish these games off,” Sawyer continued. “We need to be a little bit better. We need to be stronger in the game’s [first three quarters] and you hope towards the end that it is not a one-goal game.”
However, Toronto’s strength continues to be its defense. The Rock have allowed just 86 goals through the first nine contests (9.5 per game) while goaltender Nick Rose has been excellent, leading the NLL with a 9.39 goals-against average.
Calgary will get a boost as defender Greg Harnett returns from a six-game suspension. Also, transitional player Mitch Wilde, who has only played one game for the Roughnecks after being acquired from Buffalo, is a game-time decision for Saturday.
The Roughnecks are preparing for a hostile environment as the Rock should have no shortage of motivation after the pre-game ceremony. But coach Malawsky believes his squad will be just as ready.
“I think that our guys realize that Colin was a pioneer in this game,” Malawsky said. “There is no better way to pay our respects to him than to give it everything we’ve got like he did when he played.”
Saturday’s game is a 7 p.m. ET start in Toronto. For tickets and more information, check out www.torontorock.com .