Rock closing in on playoff berth

RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:15 PM ET

TORONTO - After a couple of years lost in the wilderness, the Toronto Rock can book a return to the playoffs on Saturday.

The franchise, which revamped itself entirely this off-season — new owner, general manager, coach, vastly different roster — can clinch with a win over the Buffalo Bandits at HSBC Arena.

The Rock (8-6) can also backdoor its way to the post-season, as it did in 2007 when it got in thanks to a Philadelphia Wings losing streak, if Rochester falls to Minnesota and Philly this weekend.

One Rochester loss and a Toronto win over Buffalo would clinch an opening-round home date for the Rock for the first time since 2005.

All the math is a bit confusing, but the bottom line is the Rock controls its own destiny.

That’s because the club, which started the season a blistering 6-0 before dropping six straight, won a pair of games last weekend. The Rock edged the tough Calgary Roughnecks — NLL champions in 2009 — 9-8 at the ACC and then ran over Philadelphia 13-6 on the road.

“This league of ours is about getting breaks at the right times,” said Rock general manager/assistant coach Terry Sanderson in a release.

“We got some breaks and things were just going for us on some of our goals. A lot of them found the net.”

The team has had little trouble scoring. Only the Washington Stealth average more goals a night than the Rock’s 12.29. Captain Colin Doyle trails only former teammate Josh Sanderson in scoring and super-rookies Garrett Billings and Stephan Leblanc sit fourth and fifth, respectively.

Billings carried the Rock during its 6-0 start, but Leblanc has come on lately. The forward scored 17 points last weekend alone, earning him NLL player and rookie of the week honours.

Billings added four in last week’s wins and fellow freshman Geoff McNulty had two.

“Our rookies have stepped up,” head coach Troy Cordingley said. “We’re real happy with those guys.”

Buffalo (6-7) will be as tough as ever to stop. The Bandits stunned Toronto 11-10 in overtime at the ACC last month and fell in extra time to a strong Colorado Mammoth side last weekend.

“Buffalo is a big, big rival,” Sanderson said. “Coming off the loss last weekend, I’m sure they’ll be ready for whatever we bring to them on Saturday.”

ryan.wolstat@sunmedia.ca


Videos

Photos