He's their Rock

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:05 AM ET

At 34, Toronto Rock goaltender Bob Watson is not an old man by any stretch of the imagination.

That's why Rock general manager/coach Terry Sanderson has no worries about increasing Watson's workload this season.

When Sanderson shipped goalie Anthony Cosmo to the San Jose Stealth in a blockbuster National Lacrosse League deal this summer, he ended the days of 1 and 1A goalies in Toronto. Watson will be the clear starter when the season starts Jan. 7 in Buffalo against the Bandits, with rookie John Preece as the backup and journeyman Phil Wetherup on the practice roster.

"I expect Bobby to play every game (in the 16-game regular season)," Sanderson said. "Last time I checked, 34 wasn't the time to call it a night. I like a No. 1. You talk to most goalies and they want to play every minute of every game."

While Watson usually is at his best in big games, his reputation took a bit of a hit last season when the Rock lost 19-10 against the Bandits in the East Division final. Watson, who was replaced by Cosmo in that game, wasn't good, but his defence didn't really help him.

"I think I'm up to the challenge (of playing every game)," Watson said. "I've played a lot before and it's no problem at all. The last few years have been kind of nice (splitting time with Cosmo). But a goalie always wants the ball."

The revamped Rock -- nine new players are on the 23-man active roster -- will play its final exhibition game next Thursday against the Philadelphia Wings at the Barrie Molson Centre.

But the Rock will not have fleet-footed defender Glenn Clark, who seems doubtful for the first couple of games of the season after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery last week. Clark injured his right knee during training camp.

Meanwhile, ex-Rock defender Pat Coyle, traded to the now-defunct Vancouver Ravens this summer, has signed with the high-powered Colorado Mammoth.

The Rock did not go after any Ravens because Sanderson feels team chemistry will be better without fly-in players.

KIRBY SIGNS WITH STING

Rob Kirkby of Kitchener has signed a one-year National Lacrosse League contract with the Arizona Sting.

Kirkby, 25, won 68 % of the faceoffs he took in the playoffs last spring in helping the Calgary Roughnecks win the championship. The 6-foot-3 defenceman also was on Canada's team that won the Heritage Cup game against the United States on Oct. 16 in Denver.

Arizona acquired Kirkby last Oct. 26 along with a third-round 2006 entry draft pick in exchange for defencemen Kyle Neufeld and Travis Gillespie and a second-round 2004 pick.

Arizona GM-coach Bob Hamley is a native of Guelph.


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