May 12, 2017 - National Lacrosse League (NLL) - Toronto Rock
Oakville, ON - The Toronto Rock host the Georgia Swarm this Saturday at Air Canada Centre in game one of the two-game East Division final series. Tickets for Saturday's game are available at torontorock.com or fans can watch the opening game of the series live on NLLTV.com at 7 p.m. ET.
Game two of the series will be played on Saturday, May 20 at Infinite Energy Arena in Gwinnet, GA. If the series is tied after two games, a ten-minute tiebreaker game will be played to decide the winner immediately following the second game of the series.
Toronto is coming off an 18-10 dominating win over the New England Black Wolves last weekend in the one-game East Division semi-final. The Rock fell behind early, pulled starting goaltender Nick Rose, and then rode the hot goaltending of Brandon Miller, steady defence and an opportunistic offence to victory.
The Rock can't wait to start round two.
"We're motivated," said Brett Hickey. "We missed the playoffs last year so the guys that have been around the last two years are anxious to show that our 2015 run wasn't a one-and-done and last year was a fluke. The young guys coming in are motivated as well. It's the first season for a lot of them and they want to help prove that this team is here to stay and we'll be getting a crack at the Cup for many years to come."
Thirteen members of the Rock are experiencing their first NLL playoff run. One of those players is rookie Jordan Magnuson. The 21-year-old from Coquitlam, B.C., however, is no stranger to high-pressure playoff situations, despite his young age.
Just last summer Magnuson won the Canadian junior 'A' championship, the Minto Cup, with the Coquitlam Adanacs. The Minto Cup is a difficult tournament to get into, much less win - first you have to win your own provincial title; only then do you get the chance to compete against the best in the whole country.
Magnuson said the experience there helped immensely with the transition to the NLL playoffs.
"Those experiences are intangibles and getting them as a young player is going to help me for the rest of my, hopefully, long career in the NLL. It's definitely been beneficial," he said.
While there are a number of players getting their feet wet in the NLL Playoffs, there are still a handful or two of Rock players with championship rings to their credit. Still in the fold from the Rock's last NLL championship in 2011 are Jeff Gilbert, Sandy Chapman, Kasey Beirnes and Stephan Leblanc as well as injured veterans Patrick Merrill, Rob Marshall and Rob Hellyer. This gives the Rock a great mix of veteran leadership and youthful exuberance.
The Rock and Swarm met twice during the 2017 NLL regular season with each team winning once in the other team's building and both games required extra time to decide a winner.
Georgia comes into the NLL playoffs as the number one overall seed and boasts the league's top offence led by the likes of brothers Lyle and Miles Thompson, Johnny Powless and Randy Staats. On the other side of the coin, the Rock surrendered the second fewest goals in the league, just one more than the Colorado Mammoth. It sets up a very intriguing matchup.
Both Hickey and Magnuson said that the team is feeling positive towards their upcoming series.
"Morale's really high," Magnuson said. "Everyone knows that we have a good group of guys here in the room and we have what it takes moving forward. We've seen what Georgia's got but I don't think we've given them everything we have so we feel good moving into the rest of the playoffs."
Hickey says their success so far, and in the future, depends on full team efforts.
"We're confident that the group we have will be able to match what Georgia put on the floor offensively," he said. "If we can do our job up front and get a few repossessions and keep the ball away from them and limit their possessions, that'll help out but our defence is more than capable of meeting the challenge."
Great seats are still available for Saturday's first game of the East Division final. Fans can also lock in the same great seats for the entire post-season by purchasing the #ALLIN Playoff Pack. Please visit torontorock.com/tickets or call 416-596-3075 to purchase or for more information. Tickets will also be available at the Air Canada Centre Box Office on game day right up until faceoff.