Rock-y reminders

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:37 AM ET

Dan Ladouceur acknowledges the similarities, but stresses the differences.

This season's edition of the Toronto Rock (12-4), the veteran defender insists, is not poised to crash and burn in the National Lacrosse League East Division final tonight against the Rochester Knighthawks (11-6) at the Air Canada Centre for the second year in a row.

Never mind that the sequence of events leading up to this game almost mirror last year's path, which ended with an embarrassing 19-10 loss against the visiting Buffalo Bandits.

"As a team, we're in a different spot," said Ladouceur, whose team will play host to the NLL final May 14 if it wins tonight. "It's a tighter group and when (general manager/coach Terry Sanderson) looks at us, he knows it's a tighter group."

Rock fans might be fearing the worst because of how things have transpired. Like last season, the Rock clinched the East Division title with two games remaining in the season to secure a first-round playoff bye. Last season, the Rock lost its final two games en route to the Buffalo debacle.

This season, the Rock didn't play well in its penultimate game for 51 minutes, but came from behind to beat the Philadelphia Wings 14-13, and then looked bad in a season-ending 20-12 loss against the Calgary Roughnecks. But Sanderson claims he feels much better about his team this season and isn't worried about the 20-day period between meaningful games.

"There have been a lot of changes and the guys realize they're playing under a new set of circumstances," he said. "These (two seasons) are completely different things."

One thing remains the same, though. Sanderson has pretty much done everything in lacrosse except win an NLL playoff game. His first playoff game was last season's stinker.

"(Sanderson) puts the horses on the floor that win or lose," Ladouceur said. "I have confidence in the team he put together and I'll go to battle with anyone in that room. I have total faith in this team and the systems we run."

The Rock certainly has more depth than last season on offence. With NLL scoring leader Colin Doyle, Blaine Manning and Josh Sanderson all topping the 100-point mark, the Rock became the first team in NLL history to have three players reach the century figure.

Defensively, expect Brian Beisel and Chris Driscoll to be all over Hawks star John Grant Jr. In the teams' last meeting, those two held Grant to two goals and four assists in a 15-9 Rock win Feb. 25 at the ACC.

"I think they match up well with (Grant)," Ladouceur said. "Driscoll is so athletic and Beisel is so annoying."


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