Long wait over for the Rock

RYAN WOLSTAT, TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 9:46 AM ET

Nearly nine months ago, the Toronto Rock, accustomed to ending seasons with champagne, were instead served a bitter pill by the Rochester Knighthawks in a 16-8 playoff thumping.

Tonight, Toronto's players finally get a chance to wipe that sour taste from their mouths as they open a new National Lacrosse League campaign against those same Knighthawks in upstate New York.

In a bizarre bit of scheduling, Rochester has already played two games -- a 20-15 loss to defending champion Colorado Mammoth and a 14-11 victory over the San Jose Stealth -- while the Rock has been stuck in practice mode.

GAME EXPERIENCE

While that may mean the Knighthawks will be the sharper team, Rochester coach Ed Comeau believes the Rock will be ready to play, as well.

"Having game experience is a benefit, (but) Toronto will be excited to go out there and hit someone other than teammates," Comeau said.

Rock assistant coach Greg Van Sickle doesn't disagree.

"It's been a long time coming, but we feel we're ready," he said.

In last spring's encounter, the Rock actually played well through three quarters, taking a 7-6 lead into the final frame before being blitzed by a 10-1 Rochester run.

That letdown, along with others during a franchise-worst 8-8 regular season, prompted team ownership to revamp the Rock's management staff and lineup.

"You look at our fourth quarters (last season) and we were getting transitioned pretty badly," Van Sickle said. "We're trying to pay attention to details and responsibilities. We think we have the people in place to shut down those transition opportunities."

Newcomers Kevin Fines and Chad Thompson, acquired in the Colin Doyle trade, along with captain Jim Veltman and veteran Chris Driscoll, will be counted on to improve the Rock's transition from defence to offence and back.

Though the Rock's lineup may look different, Comeau said he knows they will still be out for revenge tonight.

"Any time you put Rochester and Toronto in the same building, there are going to be fireworks," he said. "It's like any good rivalry in sport. The names change, the faces change but the rivalry remains."


Videos

Photos