The Toronto Rock is going to the National Lacrosse League playoffs. But based on what happened last night at the ACC and elsewhere in upstate New York, the team's stay will likely be a short one.
The Rock fell 12-11 to the 4-12 New York Titans in front of 16,054 disheartened fans, but snuck into the post-season thanks to the Philadelphia Wings' 17-11 loss to the Chicago Shamrox. Though both squads finished 6-10, the Rock owns the tiebreaker over the Wings. Last season the teams finished 8-8, but the Rock again got in over the Wings thanks to tie-breakers.
With the Chicago-Philadelphia game still in doubt, those in an eerily quiet Rock dressing room took no solace in the thought of slipping into the post-season after losing their final three games.
"To get somebody else to back door us in is not really very gratifying," Rock coach Glenn Clark said. "Right now that's not a real consolation prize."
Goalie Bob Watson agreed: "I don't think we deserve it. We had multiple opportunities to get this thing and it didn't happen for us."
Meanwhile in Rochester, the Knighthawks easily took care of the second place Buffalo Bandits 14-8 and have won 12 straight.
The Rock will now travel to Rochester's Blue Cross Arena next Friday to take on the 14-2 Knighthawks.
Toronto has only one victory in franchise history there and was spanked 16-8 in last year's playoffs.
Still, Rock captain Jim Veltman said not to count the Rock out.
"With one game, anything can happen, even Rochester knows that," Veltman said. "Strange things can happen."
Leading the Titans 10-8 after three quarters, the Rock suffered one of the let-downs that plagued them all season. Toronto was outscored 4-1 in the final frame.
The Rock was lucky to be tied 7-7 after two quarters of play. Looking disorganized and sluggish five-on-five, Toronto relied on a power play to stay in the game.
Rock forward Ryan Benesch continued his exceptional play, notching a first half hat trick and five points overall. With 33 goals, Benesch is a near lock for the NLL's rookie of the year award.
Josh Sanderson, Aaron Wilson and Blaine Manning also played well for Toronto, collecting five points each.
With 40 saves, Watson was sharp in goal, as was New York starter Matt Vinc. The Titans surrendered a league-worst 234 goals this season, but Vinc kept his team in the game, making 40 stops. Matt Zash led New York with six points.
Before the game, Veltman was honoured with the inaugural Les Bartley award, given to the player that best exemplifies the importance of character and committment to the team, something on which the late Rock coach placed great emphasis.