Rocky road

RYAN WOLSTAT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:59 AM ET

Pardon the pun, but the road to another National Lacrosse League championship will be rocky for this perennial playoff contender.

The Rock, defending NLL champion, begins its quest for a sixth league title tonight at the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, N.Y.

Having to play on the road in the spring is something the Rock is not used to. The club -- winners of five championships in the past seven years -- has played only two playoff games outside of Ontario since its inception, both victories.

The Rock boasts a formidable offensive attack. Colin Doyle has recorded 50 points in 13 playoff games, captain Jim Veltman has 46 in 13 playoff games with the Rock and Blaine Manning has 35 points in just seven career post-season games. League scoring champion Josh Sanderson compiled 11 points in last year's two-game run to the Champions Cup.

Rochester is loaded up front as well. John Grant led the NLL again with 54 goals, while Shawn Williams, Scott Evans and Mike Accursi are all elite offensive players.

"Both teams are almost a carbon copy of each other," Rock coach/general manager Terry Sanderson said.

Both teams also have significant monkeys on their backs. As has been well reported, Toronto is just 1-10 in Rochester in its history and even with a win, likely will be on the road for the entirety of the playoffs. Meanwhile, Rochester is 0-4 versus the Rock in the post-season. That includes Toronto's only win in Rochester, which came at the 2003 championship game. The Rock beat Rochester 12-10 at the Air Canada Centre in the 2005 Eastern final, before going on to defeat the Arizona Sting for the NLL title.

Both coaches said previous failures are out the window now that the second season has begun.

"We don't (care) about what's happened in the past," Sanderson said.

"This is a new team (with) some new people," said Rochester bench boss Ed Comeau. "The logo's the same, but this is our first game against Toronto in the playoffs with this team."

The Rock fell 10-7 to the Knighthawks last weekend in Rochester, but played well enough to achieve a better result.

Tonight's victor takes on the winner of tomorrow afternoon's Buffalo-Minnesota game.


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