No excuses for Rock

RYAN WOLSTAT, Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:31 PM ET

Following a week off, the Rock can no longer use fatigue as an excuse for defeats.

The National Lacrosse League club, losers of three in a row before the welcome respite, must now reload, starting with a date against its QEW rival, the Buffalo Bandits Friday night at the Air Canada Centre.

The Rock has played the most games in the league, including six in February and was noticeably tired in a loss to the Orlando Titans two weeks ago, losing 21 of 31 faceoffs. The club now plays just twice in March.

Despite the setback against Orlando, the Rock remain in first place because the Bandits took care of the Titans last week.

The game should have a playoff feel since Toronto is only a half game ahead of the Titans, Boston Blazers and Rochester Knighthawks and the Bandits sit two games back of those clubs for the East’s final playoff spot.

Though the Bandits have disappointed at 3-6 following back-to-back 10-6 seasons and the 2008 championship, the Rock know their QEW counterparts cannot be taken lightly. Buffalo is 3-2 after an 0-4 start and its dormant offence has started to awaken.

Mark Steenhuis notched 10 points against Orlando and all-time league scoring leader John Tavares — uncle of the New York Islanders rookie — remains a constant threat.

“You can’t allow any of the stars in this league 10 points,” Rock general manager/assistant coach Terry Sanderson said. “We know what Mark can do and we’ll need to control that.”

The Rock’s defence has struggled of late, surrendering over 13 per game over their past three losses, but its offence remains solid. Captain Colin Doyle and rookie sensation Garrett Billings are 1-2 in league scoring and Billings and Blaine Manning are tied for the lead in goals with Washington’s Jeff Zywicki.

“Toronto is a good team,” Bandits assistant Duane Jacobs said earlier in the week. “They’ll come out strong because they want to end their streak.”

The Rock will also be out to slow the inevitable. With a win, Buffalo bench boss Darris Kilgour would supplant his former coach, the late Les Bartley, the legendary ex-Rock and Bandits coach, as the NLL’s all-time leader.

This will be the last game for the Rock before Tuesday’s trade deadline, which should also ratchet up the level of earnestness.

ryan.wolstat@sunmedia.ca


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