April 13, 2012
Rock up for Mammoth challenge
By RICHARD MAUNTAH, QMI Agency
The Rock took one more step last week to salvaging Toronto's bleak sports winter.
The team qualified for post-season play after last Saturday's win over the Edmonton Rush and represent the city's best chance of winning a championship.
(Yes, we know the Marlies will have a playoff run, too. But seriously, who in their right mind would bet against the Norfolk Admirals?)
The Rock (7-6) travel to Denver to face the Colorado Mammoth on Saturday, the first of three games out west to end the regular season. A win in the Rockies plus a Buffalo Bandits loss to Edmonton and the Rock will host a game at some point in the playoffs.
Both teams agree this game will be a good test. The Mammoth (10-3) have battled the Calgary Roughnecks for the best record in the league. John Grant Jr., a star in the National Lacrosse League for several years, is arguably having his best campaign, leading the league in goals (43) and points (98).
"The guys are really looking forward to playing this club which has really been putting the ball in the back of the net," Rock general manager and assistant coach Terry Sanderson said. "It will be a real challenge for us."
But just five points back in the scoring race is Toronto's Garrett Billings, who leads an offence that has been dominant in the past three games.
"They have a real veteran presence," Mammoth coach Bob Hamley said of his Toronto opponents. "They have a lot of firepower and move the ball very well."
And the return of Blaine Manning adds to that offence. While it was a plus to see him in uniform for last Saturday's game, he will probably be in a better position to contribute come playoff time.
Manning broke his collarbone in Toronto's second game of the season, Jan. 14, in Buffalo
"He's still got some timing issues, some sets we have been playing that he isn't used to after 12 weeks off," Sanderson said. "It's going to take two to three games for him to get up to speed."