Rock is losing its battle against time

MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:41 AM ET

Rome didn't fall in a day either.

The Toronto Rock was beaten 14-13 by the Arizona Sting last night in the National Lacrosse League opener for both teams at the Air Canada Centre.

Nice bookend that, since the Sting played the patsies for the Rock's 19-13 win and Champions Cup victory seven months ago at the Air Canada Centre.

Not much has changed for the Rock, which returns 17 members of a veteran outfit. Maybe that's not so good.

Goalie Bob Watson, by far the best of the bunch last night, is 35. Longstanding franchise player Jim Veltman is a few months shy of 40. Dan Ladouceur is 32 but a seven-year veteran. Forward Chris Driscoll is 34.

My grandmother had an expression. She knew an old lady so tough, if you wanted to kill her you'd have to saw off her head and then hide it from her.

The storyline for the Rock, of course, is pretty well the same thing. It seems like very year, their core players murmur a bit about retirement, come back, stumble a bit and win a title.Veltman, Ladouceur, Doyle and Watson have won five titles each.

But one year, it won't work. You're always on the death watch.

The game was lost in the first half when the Sting outscored the locals 9-3 thanks to an 8-1 advantage in the second quarter.

"We were just horsecrap," coach Terry Sanderson said of the second quarter. "I don't understand it. There were some very poor decisions."

The Rock passed the ball terribly, frittered away the clock and generally looked like a timeworn team playing its first game, a that knows when to turn on the burners and steal a win.

Championship experience gives you that confidence. But the deal has a dark side. You're the bullseye.

"That comes with winning," said Watson who stopped 34 of 48 shots.

"You've got to come prepared, every minute of every game and if you have a breakdown, teams will jump on you. That's the responsibility that comes with winning. And that's what this group has to learn."

The Rock clawed back nicely in the third and fourth quarter but they would never again taste the lead.

On the Sting's second last possession in regulation, Veltman and Ladouceur sealed off a Arizona player and stripped him of the ball. A few ticks later, Doyle was skipping a shot past Mike Miron in the Arizona cage to send the game into overtime.

But a night on the brink caught up two minutes into sudden death overtime when Andrew Guindon fired the winner past Watson.

Score it 1-0 in this young season for Father Time. The season, of course, couldn't be more fledgling. It's just the hints for the season's future that are troubling.

"I don't know if we make it harder because we think it should be hard," Ladouceur said. "We come out with an effort like that and dig a big hole."

"We just have to realize it's a different year," said Sanders. "Last year, coming back after getting beat badly the year before, we came with a vengeance from day one. Tonight, there wasn't that sense of urgency."

Then he sighed and told the absolute truth.

"Every night is going to be like this. "They might as well realize it and do something about it."


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