Rock heads into critical home stretch

DAN ILKA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:38 PM ET

TORONTO - The Rock will be looking to get back on track this weekend as it heads into the home stretch of the regular season.

Toronto — which is tied for the best record in the NLL — is heading into a crucial four-game stretch with division rival Buffalo only a half game back with only four left to go.

The Rock (9-3) will open the weekend at home against the Washington Stealth (6-6) as Toronto looks to rebound from a loss at the hands of the West Division-leading Calgary Roughnecks last Friday night.

“We might have got ahead of ourselves in some areas that we shouldn’t have,” Toronto general manager Terry Sanderson said of the loss to Calgary. “They basically just schooled us.”

Toronto, which is undefeated at home this year (6-0), will have a tough time against a Washington team that took down the Rock in last year’s championship game.

“I know some people will be trying to make a big deal out of the fact that they beat us in the championship game,” Sanderson said. “We’re far past that (and) it’s another game on the schedule and one that we have to play well in.”

Despite its .500 record, Washington has put together a strong season behind veteran forward Lewis Ratcliff, who has tallied 27 goals and 40 assists in 12 games.

Third-year standout Rhys Duch has teamed up with Ratcliff to form a strong one-two offensive punch for the Stealth, putting up 30 goals and 33 assists of his own.

Toronto’s defence, which gave up 14 goals to the Roughnecks in its last match, will need to earn its keep against a Washington squad that comes into Friday’s game averaging 12 goals per contest.

Following the game against the Stealth, the Rock will board a flight to the City of Brotherly Love for a tilt with the Wings.

The Rock, winner of its previous two games against Philadelphia this season, will head into Philly behind the strong play of Stephan Leblanc, who is having a spectacular second season.

Through 12 games this season, Leblanc has netted 28 goals to go along with 37 helpers to lead the Rock with 65 points.

Toronto will also need a pair of big performances from ’keeper Bob Watson, who dropped just his second game of the season last weekend.

Watson, who officially announced his plans to retire after the season, is enjoying his dip in the fountain of youth this year.

The 40-year old Guelph native tops the league with a .804 save percentage this season and sits third in the NLL in goals against, with a 9.44 average.

Fans can catch Friday’s game live on TSN at 7:30, and Saturday’s game live on the web at NLL.com.


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