Tough love fuels Rock turnaround

RYAN WOLSTAT, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:57 AM ET

Several weeks ago, with his team mired in mediocrity and sitting outside of a playoff spot, rookie Toronto Rock head coach Glenn Clark made a couple of bold moves.

Clark sat talented but struggling rookie Ryan Benesch for a March 3 game against the New York Titans, then did the same thing with longtime starting goaltender Bob Watson two weeks later against the Colorado Mammoth. And largely as a result of those two decisions, Clark's club finds itself in position to clinch a National Lacrosse League post-season berth this weekend.

With a win tonight at the Air Canada Centre against the third-place Minnesota Swarm and another in Chicago tomorrow against the expansion Shamrox, the Rock can secure a road playoff appearance.

Toronto can also clinch a spot with one win this weekend and a Philadelphia Wings loss tomorrow, or a win against Minnesota, followed by a Swarm loss to Rochester tomorrow.

The Rock, meanwhile, is on a hot streak, having beaten the Wings 15-6 last Friday and the Swarm 13-6 before that.

After last week's victory, Clark said -- tongue firmly in cheek -- that moving veterans Jim Veltman and Chris Driscoll up front into more offensive roles has been "coaching brilliance."

But the reality is that Clark struck coaching gold by lighting a fire Watson and Benesch.

In four games since being benched for a night, Benesch has responded with a team-leading 14 goals and 23 points. Meanwhile, all Watson has done since being given his rare night off, is surrender a measly 12 goals in two games.

Rock director of lacrosse operations Mike Kloepfer is happy with his club's turnaround.

"It's terrific to see things coming together," he said post-game last Friday.

"When your best players are your best players, your young guys are doing their jobs and your core players are playing basically mistake-free lacrosse, you're going to have a lot of success."

GAME DAY

MINNESOTA SWARM (6-6)

TORONT0 ROCK (6-7)

TONIGHT, 7:30 P.M. AIR CANADA CENTRE TV: SPORTSNET


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