NLL: Rock looking for seventh straight win on Sunday

Nick Rose. Saskatchewan Rush @ Toronto Rock, February 1, 2019. (Photo credit: Anna Taylor)

The first place Toronto Rock will be tested on the road by a well-rounded New England Black Wolves team this Sunday afternoon. Budding stars Derek Downs, Nick Chaykowsky and Joel Coyle continue to impress as their time in the NLL progresses. Veterans such as Callum Crawford, Stephan Leblanc and Andrew Suitor bring stability on both sides of the floor not only supporting the young players but also contributing where their team needs it most.

Currently the Black Wolves sit in the middle of the standings with five wins and four losses. Considering the new genetic makeup of the team and being fourth in penalty minutes in the league, they aren’t doing poorly. But the Toronto Rock are the best team in the league. Everyone on the Black Wolves’ roster will need to bring their A-game if they hope to take two points away from the first place team.

The keys to success for the Black Wolves are fairly simple: the elimination of small mistakes, staying out of penalty trouble, and asserting their formidable defensive core will certainly bolster their chances. Experience from the veteran core paired with the high-energy of the team’s young stars will be a serious problem for the Rock if the Black Wolves are able to execute in the fashion they are capable of.

Being on the road has been no issue for the first place team so far this season but fans and players alike are hopeful they won’t become complacent and lose winnable games. The Rock’s key to success is to keep playing their full 200ft game. Play strong on defence and shut down the Black Wolves’ offence, utilize a speedy transition core in Latrell Harris, Brandon Slade and Brad Kri to move the ball up the floor and even contribute some goals, and finally get the offence going early and fill the net.

The Rock play a very complete game, which has been instrumental to their success so far this season including their most recent 12-11 win over San Diego Seals, who, at the time, were in first place in the Western Division.

Perhaps the most evenly matched game of the season, the Rock and the Seals could likely meet for the NLL Cup. The Rock scraped by to earn the home win extending their win streak to six games. The Seals played a solid game overall and falling short to the first place Rock will certainly aid in their progress moving forward.

On the first power play of the game, Johnny Powless would open the scoring to draw first blood for the Rock. The Seals would be outscored 4-2 in the first quarter leaving hometown fans ready for a potentially high-scoring game in favour of the Rock. However, as the game progressed the Seals would find ways to score in bunches and truly test the Rock who had been off for two weeks previous to this contest.

The Seals’ Casey Jackson and former Rock forward Garrett Billings were catalysts for their team’s success. Jackson continuously found the back of the net contributing four goals on his 10 shots, added one assist and scooped five loose balls. Billings would tally one goal at the beginning of the second quarter, four assists, and capture seven loose balls. Significant contributions also came from ‘Dangerous’ Dan Dawson with four assists, Austin Staats with four points (1G, 3A), and Kyle Buchanan also contributing four points (1G, 3A) and 11 loose balls. However, this wouldn’t be enough to triumph over the Toronto Rock defence.

Toronto’s defence with Nick Rose between the pipes was the formidable force in this game. This was most evident in the dying minutes of the game when they had to kill a major goalie interference penalty from Adam Jones and did so successfully to hold on to a win.

Throughout the rest of the game, the Rock would kill four of six Seals power plays while goaltender Rose would make 45 saves on 56 shots. This was no easy feat with the Seals’ offensive roster. A true test for the Rock to prove they are ready to make a run at another title.