A Rock-solid debut

GORDON ANDERSON, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:07 AM ET

TORONTO - It was a neat and tidy way to kick off the 2011 National Lacrosse League season for the Toronto Rock.

In a complete and dominating effort, the Rock defeated the visiting Edmonton Rush 13-7 in front of 11, 564 at the Air Canada Centre on Saturday night.

Last year, the Rock were one quarter away from winning the Champions Cup but that wasn’t good enough. They were also second in the league in goal scoring (197) and second in the NLL in goals against (154) but that wasn’t good enough either.

Rock GM Terry Sanderson and head coach Troy Cordingley added 11 new players to the witches’ brew, in hopes of finding the right combinations that will bring an NLL championship to Toronto for the first time since 2005.

If not winning the championship is considered a failure then last year was a mitigated disaster but getting to the final is not a complete loss.

But Cordingley thinks improvements were upon last year’s team.

So what can people expect to see out of the Rock this year?

“We’re going to be fast. We’re going to be aggressive and we’re not going to back down from anything and we’re here to win,” Cordingley said.

Rock forward Blaine Manning also thinks it was just a case of the team needing to improve. He feels with the new guys coming in and pushing for roster spots, it can only make them better.

But he warned they weren’t the only team in the NLL to improve.

“Everyone in the league got better,” Manning said. He finished the night with one goal and five assists.

“Guys came into camp and won jobs and that’s what we needed to do to get better and put us over the top and win a championship,” Manning said.

One of their off season pickups paid dividends on opening night.

Free agent Aaron Pascas scored two goals and assisted on another. The Port Coquitlam, B.C. native was a thorn in the side of the Rush all night long. He played with max effort, showed a bit of offensive flair but mentioned that’s just the side dish to the main course he delivers: an agitator and hard worker.

“(I) go non-stop, a 110% every shift,” Pascas said. “I’m going to mix it up. I’m going to make defenders pay and I’m going to try bury a few when I get my chances.

“I’m hard-nosed (guy) who doesn’t quit and would do anything for my teammates.”

Colin Doyle opened the scoring for Toronto (1-0) just 1:04 into the opening quarter but goals by Ryan Ward and Scott Stewart gave the Rush (0-1) a 2-1 lead 2:44 into the opening 15 minutes. Pascas closed out the scoring in the first quarter just 1:19 later and from there the goalies stole the spotlight.

Rock keeper Bob Watson and his counter-part, Matt Disher, both made several quality stops to blank the remainder of the quarter.

Watson (1-0) stopped 36 on the night while Disher (0-1) turned aside 43 shots.

Both teams exploded for 10 goals in the second quarter, giving the Rock an 8-6 advantage at the half.

Manning made the score 9-6 at 1:34 of the third quarter and Stephan Leblanc rounded out the scoring in the third at 13:48, giving the Rock a 10-6 lead with 15 minutes to play. Leblanc had three goals and one assist on the night.

Pat Merrill and Kasey Beirnes scored to make it 12-6 before Corey Small pulled the Rush to within five with 4:32 left but that was close as Edmonton got. Drew Petkoff rounded out the scoring with an empty net goal with 2:08 left.


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