History not on Rock’s side for playoff tilt

RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:34 PM ET

TORONTO - History indicates the Rock will be in tough when it travels to Orlando to meet the Titans Saturday in the National Lacrosse League’s East final.

But past events also show the side has a chance.

The Rock is just 2-5 all-time against the Titans franchise, which moved to Florida this season after a few years in New York.

The Titans might be the most athletic team in the entire NLL and have run the Rock out of the building in the past.

Several of its top players, particularly superstar Casey Powell and forwards Jarrett Park and Ryan Boyle have successfully transitioned from college stars of the outdoor game to indoor lacrosse stalwarts.

Rock general manager/assistant coach Terry Sanderson certainly knows Powell, second in the league with 44 goals, will be difficult to stop.

“The offence, a lot of it runs through Casey,” Sanderson said.

“I don’t think there’s enough words to describe what that man can do. We have to limit what Casey can do. If that’s possible.”

It was possible almost 12 months ago when Sanderson helped lead now Toronto coach Troy Cordingley’s Calgary Roughnecks over Powell and the Titans 12-10 in the 2009 championship match.

Sanderson and Cordingley, 5-1 in the playoffs as a head coach, rode Calgary’s excellence defensively to that win and have brought over similar elements to Toronto.

The Rock, which missed the playoffs the past two seasons largely because of its defensive shortcomings, allowed only 156 goals this season, second-best in the NLL to Orlando’s 154 against.

Though the Rock lost to the Titans 16-12 at the ACC in February and 10-8 in its only visit to Orlando, Sanderson doesn’t feel his side was outclassed.

“We thought we played pretty well both times we played Orlando,” he said.

“If we could get a duplicate of what we played last time down there, we could have come out on the winning side of that. We think we’ve played Orlando real tough. We do believe we match up with them well.”

That’s not to say Sanderson is overconfident.

“They’re in first place for a reason (and) went to the championship last year for a reason.”

That reason includes goalie Matt Vinc. The St. Catharines native has emerged as the NLL’s premier goaltender. Vinc led the league in wins and save percentage, while finishing third in goals-against average. The Rock’s Bob Watson led that category and has carried the Rock into five Champion’s Cup finals.

The Rock is 12-4 in the playoffs, but just 2-2 on the road.

Toronto had to battle back from a 6-0 deficit last week to beat the Buffalo Bandits 13-11. Similarly, the Titans rallied to upend the Boston Blazers 12-11.

In the West final, the Washington Stealth will play host the Edmonton Rush. Washington would host whoever wins the Toronto-Orlando tilt for the title, while Edmonton would be the home side against Toronto, but not the Titans.


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