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There’s a New Matthews In Town

Sports fans in the Greater Toronto Area have been used to seeing a Matthews hit the back of the net and light the lamp to trigger a goal celebration. For the last seven seasons, it’s been Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews, the first overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft.

But now, there’s a new Matthews in town.

Photo by Ryan McCullough / Toronto Rock

Auston Matthews has been joined by Toronto Rock forward Mark Matthews. There’s no relation other than the fact that they both score at a high frequency bringing the crowd to their feet.

“Yeah, it’s kind of cool to have someone of that caliber playing in the same city as well,” said Mark Matthews, who is the team leader with 11 points (7 goals and 4 assists), helping the Rock achieve a 2-0 start to the season.

“I’ve been at a few (Maple Leafs) games this year, and lucky enough to see Auston score a hat trick a couple of times so it’s cool. I wish there was a little bit of a relation there to mean it when I say he’s my cousin.”

When the Rock acquired Matthews over the summer in a blockbuster trade, it sent shockwaves through the National Lacrosse League.

Drafted by the Edmonton Rush first overall in the 2012 NLL Draft, Matthews enjoyed a brilliant career with the Edmonton/Saskatchewan franchise. Over his first 10 NLL seasons, Matthews had five 100-point seasons and racked up 343 goals and 606 assists for 949 points over 170 career games.

While it came as a shock to find out from Rush General Manager Derek Keenan that he was being traded, the Oshawa, Ontario native was excited that he was getting dealt close to home.

“It was really all I ever knew,” said Matthews of his time with the Rush. “I kind of ran some scenarios through my head of where it might have been. He said Toronto and it kind of put a smile on my face. It was somewhere I always wanted to play and be close to home. The Rock franchise has been around forever. They win a lot, and the tradition there is unbelievable, and since I’ve gotten there it’s been nothing shy of first class. (Toronto Rock owner) Jamie (Dawick) treats us like gold.”

Photo: Christian Bender/NLL

With wins over Philadelphia and Panther City, Matthews and the Rock are off to a quick start, and they’re not even running on all cylinders. Star forward Tom Schreiber started the season on the injured reserve list with a lower-body injury and is considered week-to-week. While Matthews and the Rock await the return of “Captain America,” the team’s stingy defense, and goalie Nick Rose, are setting the tone.

“I think our defense and Rosey… They’re unbelievable,” said Matthews. “Less than ten goals against in the first two games. It’s kind of shown a little bit of the old Rush days when we weren’t giving up many shots and not many good looks. Once we get Tom back on the offense and build some chemistry and work through some systems and everything, and once everyone is comfortable with what we’re doing and feeding off of each other, we can be a very dangerous group.”

Speaking of that defense and netminder, the Rock will need them to be on top of their game on Saturday when Jeff Teat and the New York Riptide pay a visit to First Ontario Centre in Hamilton (4 p.m. ET on TSN and ESPNU). The Riptide may be 0-2, but all eyes will have to be on New York’s number 51.

“I would expect us to play a pretty sound defensive game,” said Matthews. “We have in the first two games. We have some very good defensemen who can cover Teat.”

While Auston Matthews is doing his thing for the Maple Leafs, Mark Matthews also has his sights set on bringing a championship to the Greater Toronto Area. He would also love to meet Auston one day, and hopes his friendship with another Maple Leaf can make that happen.

“I haven’t met Matthews, but I know (Leafs’ right winger) Mitch (Marner) pretty well,” said Matthews. “I said to him we should do a little jersey swap between Mitch and I. I might have to get him on board to get me a Matthews one and maybe I can squeeze two in there for the two of them.”

I think it’s safe to say that the Greater Toronto Area is big enough for both Matthews, especially if they continue to help their teams win.