With all Rock fans hoping for a National Lacrosse League final between Toronto and its bitter rivals, the Calgary Roughnecks, the upstart Arizona Sting jumped in and denied plans for the first all-Canadian Champion's Cup.
The Sting (11-7) beat the defending champion Roughnecks 19-15 in the West Division final last night in Calgary, coming back from a 13-10 fourth-quarter deficit by scoring six goals in a row.
That sets up an Arizona-Toronto championship game at 3:30 p.m. on May 14 at the Air Canada Centre.
"If you would have asked me at the start of the year, I wouldn't have picked (the Sting) to go the final, but nobody was picking us either," said Rock general manager/coach Terry Sanderson, whose team secured a berth in the championship game with a 12-10 win over the Rochester Knighthawks on Friday at the ACC.
"How could anything surprise you in this league? (The Sting) deserves to be here. They never quit. They play the same whether they are up by five or down by five ... They remind me a bit of ourselves."
In their only meeting this season, the Rock crushed the Sting 18-10 at the ACC. But that was before the Sting acquired sniper Craig Conn from the Minnesota Swarm. Conn had five goals and three assists in the Sting's 16-13 West semi-final win over the Colorado Mammoth.
"(Conn) seems to be a big-game player," Rock forward Blaine Manning said. "He played a fantastic game against Colorado ... and it looks like he can step up when needed."
Still, the Rock will be a heavy favourite. Arizona was just fifth in the 10-team league in offence and defence, compared to first and fourth for the Rock, respectively. Arizona is 0-3 in franchise history against the Rock.
Also, the East Division is considered much stronger than the West. East teams were 15-7 against West opponents this season.
One of the younger teams in the league, the Sting will have its hands full playing in front of an expected full house in Toronto. The Rock sold 700 tickets for the final yesterday morning and is well over the 10,000 mark.
"I hope (the fans) realize how important they are to us," Sanderson said. "When they get behind us, it does make your blood pump. It's such an enormous feeling. We feel very fortunate and pleased."
Meanwhile, in other league news, it appears the fan-starved Anaheim Storm will move to Portland next season.