NLL: Adjustments necessary for Rock to make post-season

Kyle Jackson goes for a loose ball against Sheldon Burns. (Photo credit: Anna Taylor)

After falling to the Rochester Knighthawks 14-11 last weekend, the Toronto Rock find themselves in an uncomfortable situation as the playoffs inch closer and closer. With the Rock dropping two crucial games back-to-back against Georgia and Rochester, their window of opportunity to climb the standings is fading. The Rock are at the bottom of the east standings at 7-9. They are in a must-win situation this week as they will take on the 8-8 Buffalo Bandits. With that being said, first place in the division is not out of reach, but the red-hot Rochester Knighthawks will have you believe different.

The Knighthawks have been on fire lately as they climbed the standings of the eastern division, ranking up big wins against division rivals while finding their mojo. They don’t miss Dan Dawson at all, and that was evident playing the Toronto as the Rock could not contain Joe Resetarits who left the ACC with seven points including three goals. Josh Currier and Cody Jamieson also picked up hat tricks that night.

The Rock’s defensive holes and weaknesses were identified and exploited by the ‘Hawks. Toronto came in confident, boasting a 2-0 record against the Knighthawks, so it’s not surprising that little things were overlooked in the game that allowed the teal and purple to blow the door open late, come back from an 8-3 deficit and steal the game.

For the Rock to be successful against the Bandits this weekend – in what is a must win game – the ball needs to go through Tom Schreiber, who had four goals against Rochester in his debut back from injury. Schreiber, at least, didn’t miss a beat, at least in the first half. The Rochester D adjusted on the fly and contained him in the second half.

Tom Schreiber goes for a penalty shot against Matt Vinc. (Photo credit: Anna Taylor)

“I’ve been hurt a handful of times in my career, nothing horrible but this is the most games I’ve missed,” Schreiber said. “For anyone, it stings. It’s tough to watch from up top. I tried to learn as best I could – there was actually a lot you could pick up from the skybox. It’s great to be back, it was fun, just wish we could have got a W.”

Schreiber has been a godsend for the Rock since his arrival. His 94 points last season and would have been on pace to eclipse that had he not been sidelined for seven games. He’s one of the Rock’s most efficient, prolific and dynamic scorers. Without Schreiber in the lineup, the Rock scored on average three goals fewer per game. They were 2-5 without him in the lineup.

For a game of runs, the Rock have really struggled against teams who have scored multiple goals back-to-back. Rochester was able to put five goals on the board until the Rock were able to answer back with a short streak of their own. Momentum and pace of play was dominated by the Knighthawks as the Rock desperately tried to steal it back through moments in the game.

With upcoming games against the aforementioned Bandits and the matchup with the Mammoth on the 28th, there is no question the Rock have to win. If the Rock can come away with two wins, they would improve to a 9-9 record (.500) and keep themselves alive in the playoff race. One loss and they’re out.

Toronto Rock captain Brodie Merrill. (Photo credit: Anna Taylor)

Going in to the playoffs coming off two wins can really be the spark this team needs right now as minor mistakes and lapses of judgement have cost the team two losses. Rock coach Matt Sawyer will be making sure that practice and game pace will be ramped up to prep for playoff lacrosse.

“We put ourselves in the position we’re in. It’s frustrating and disappointing,” Sawyer said after the game against Rochester. “We compete hard. Everybody wants to come out on the right side of things but the fact is we’re not getting the job done. We need to find a way to be better in a lot of areas.”

Though there are two weeks remaining, teams like the Rush, Roughnecks and Swarm have looked to be in playoff form for weeks now but for the Rock, this has not been the case. With the Rock losing by only one goal to the Swarm and three to the Knighthawks, the narrative surrounding the Rock currently could be entirely different had the games worked out in their favour.

“We need some help now,” said Schreiber, recognizing that the Rock’s fate is not entirely in their own hands. “We’ll be tuned into those games and rooting for certain teams but all you can do whenever you have an obstacle is control what you can control, like your attitude and your work ethic.”