March 27, 2012

Rose Bides Time, Replaces Roik in Toronto Goal

by Neil Stevens |

Nick Rose, the Toronto Rock's new starting goalie, wears No. 66 in honor of his father, Tony Rose, who died in a car crash when Nick was only two. A recreation facility in Orangeville, an hour's drive northwest of Toronto is named the Tony Rose Memorial Sports Centre.
© Ward Laforme 

Nick Rose has a unique reason for wearing 66 on his back during National Lacrosse League games.

''My father wore 6 playing lacrosse and it's not a number that goalies wear so I went 6 for him and 6 for me,'' says Rose. ''I've been riding it ever since.''

His dad's name was Tony Rose, who passed away 22 years ago when Nick was only two.

Nick rode 66 most impressively in helping the Orangeville Northmen to Canadian junior championships in 2008 and 2009. Through his first three pro seasons as a backup in Boston, it wasn't seen much at all, but Rose was once again riding it with distinction in his first pro start last Saturday night when he allowed only one goal in the first half in helping Toronto break a three-game losing streak with a 13-7 win in Rochester.

''Our defensemen played incredible,'' he said afterwards. ''They put on a show. I'm grateful they played that well.''

A recreation facility that includes two ice pads and a swimming pool in the lacrosse hotbed of Orangeville, population 27,000, an hour's drive northwest of Toronto is named the Tony Rose Memorial Sports Centre after its manager, who died in a car crash before his son picked up a lacrosse stick.

Nick Rose was drafted by the Toronto Rock in the third round, 28th overall, of the 2008 NLL entry draft and attended the training camp held before the 2009 season. Mike Kloepfer was director of lacrosse operations and Glenn Clark was head coach.

''I don't really remember too much about it,'' Rose recalls. ''I was trying to get a feel for the bigger nets. They were 4x4 in junior and wider than that in the pro league. I think I was released after about the fifth practice.''

The Rock kept Mike Atwood as backup to Bob Watson and let Rose go. Boston invited him to try out and he made the team as the backup to Mike Poulin. A team in Chicago then folded and the Blazers got Anthony Cosmo in a dispersal draft, leaving Rose third in line. He didn't dress for a game in 2009, but he learned a lot.

''They kept me on the active roster so it worked out pretty well,'' Rose recalls. ''I wound up taking a lot of shots down there. We'd have two shootarounds a week. It definitely helped me, especially going back for my final year of junior. The junior league was moving to bigger nets so getting used to the NLL nets really helped me for my last junior season.''

A second straight Minto Cup for Orangeville followed.

Boston traded Poulin to Calgary in February 2010 and Rose began dressing for every game behind Cosmo. Not getting any starts didn't bring him down.

''I was young and still learning about the league,'' he says. ''Goalies in this league, it takes a while to get a shot at a full-time job. You've got to plug away and work hard every practice.''

When Boston folded last year, Calgary used the seventh pick to snag Rose. Toronto was interested but he was long gone before it got a chance at the available talent. So, Rose winds up as Poulin's backup for the second time. And when the Roughnecks drafted Frankie Scigliano last autumn and the kid from the West Coast put in a great camp, the 'Necks had two capable backups.

That brings us to the Rock underperforming with vet Matt Roik in the nets and GM Terry Sanderson and his coaches putting their heads together and deciding on making a bold change. They opted to acquire a new goalie. Sanderson lives in Orangeville so was well aware of Rose's background. Matt Sawyer, an assistant to head coach Troy Cordingley, had coached Rose with the junior Northmen and the pro Blazers, had a lot of good words to say about him.

The Rock call was made to Calgary. Assistant Roughnecks coach Curt Malawsky then called Rose on the Sunday before the Tuesday, March 20, trade deadline to inform him of the impending trade, which hinged on whether Rose could move back east from Coquitlam, British Columbia, for the rest of the NLL season. Rose worked it out and flew to Toronto that Monday. Toronto exchanged its 2014 first-round entry draft pick for Rose and Rock released Roik.

''I was pretty surprised,'' says Rose. ''I always kept an eye on how Toronto was doing and I'd noticed they weren't doing too well but I wasn't expecting to be moved. I got things in order pretty quick.

''We had practice Tuesday and a team meeting which was productive. It was a typical NLL week for me -- a practice, some game tape to watch and a scouting session leading up to a game. It wasn't an out of the ordinary week for me other than having to travel Monday night.''

He made the most of his first NLL start and got the win on Saturday.

He makes it all sound rather matter of fact. He's got the size -- he's 6-0 and 285 -- to be a good goalie, and he relentlessly studies shooters.

''I try and find players' tendencies like what part of the net they like to shoot at, what kind of shot they like to take be it overhand, underhand or sidearm, and where they like to shoot from,'' he says. ''These are typical goaltending strategies -- you try to know as much as you can about every player trying to take a shot at you.''

His second start will be against the Bandits in Buffalo on Saturday night.

''Buffalo has a potent offense and they'll come out firing after their tough loss in Calgary last weekend. I know they'll want some revenge. In practice Tuesday night, I'll take a lot of shots, compete on every shot. I'll go with whatever drills we're running. I'll get into some game tapes Wednesday night and focus on what each player on Buffalo will likely be doing.''

He played in Buffalo last season in relief of Cosmo so he's faced John Tavares, but don't remind him.

''Tavares scored the winner that night. He's a guy I'm obviously going to have to worry about.''

Kloepfer is long gone, the coaches are different, and few players remain from the 2009 edition of the Rock that Rose worked out with so he doesn't feel as if he's going through a déjà vu experience in Toronto.

''I never wore a Rock game jersey. It never really felt as if I was with the team at all. I was drafted by the Rock back then but I didn't make it. This doesn't feel like a second stint with the Rock at all.''

It's all new, and his defensemen are doing their best help Rose out.

''It's about time we put in a full 60 minutes,'' Rob Marshall said after the win in Rochester. ''We had a big team meeting last practice and we talked about trust and believing in each other.''

''That was the kind of 60-minute effort we've been talking about giving,'' said Bill Greer. ''We have a room full of winners who know what it takes. We needed to turn the page. We'd lost three in a row but we came out with hunger and desire. It was a lot of fun. This is the type of effort we have to put in if we want to win in this league.''

The D-men all spoke of the same positives.

''We came in with a game plan to believe in each other and to stand up for each other and we put together a full 60,'' said Mike Hobbins. ''We battled hard and fought through everything and played a full 60.''

''We kept them to the outside and made them take low-percentage shots,'' said Sandy Chapman. ''That's a good offense over there, but if we play like this we can stop a lot of offenses.''

Cody Jamieson was held at bay until the late going when the two goals he scored came too late to make a difference.

''We made it a point to get on him early,'' said Damon Edwards, who played junior with Rose in Orangeville. ''We applied a lot of pressure, and that's our defense, putting him into situations he doesn't want to be in. We did well on him.''

The goalie change has shaken things up in Toronto. A young man who has bided his time for this chance tries to make the most of it. Regardless of how it turns out, Nick Rose will wear 66 with pride.

Neil Stevens has covered pro and Canadian lacrosse since 1971. He and the late Tom Borrelli -- a longtime Lacrosse Magazine contributor -- are the only media members recognized by the NLL Hall of Fame.

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