April 11, 2012

NLL Notebook: Wings, Rock Love the Road

by Neil Stevens | LaxMagazine.com

Toronto's Nick Rose is 3-0 in his first three pro starts for the Rock, who are battling with Philadelphia for first place in the NLL East Division.
© Ward Laforme

First place in the National Lacrosse League's East Division will be decided on the road.

Toronto's 12-8 home win over Edmonton and Philadelphia's 17-7 loss in Buffalo last Saturday lifted the Rock (7-6) ahead of the Wings (7-7) atop the East.

''We're real happy with the win,'' said veteran forward Josh Sanderson. ''We're still trying to get first in our division so to get this win before we go on the road for our last three games is huge.''

What's on deck for the Rock: at Colorado this Saturday, at Washington on April 20 and at Edmonton on April 28.

What's next for the Wings: at Minnesota on April 21 and at Rochester on April 28.

Finishing up on the road won't be a handicap for either team since Toronto is 4-1 and Philadelphia is 4-2 in away games.

Philadelphia won its season series with Toronto, 2-1, so it will get first place if the teams finish with identical records.

Rose 3-0 With Rock

So, Nick Rose is undefeated in his first three pro goaltending starts and he's helped Toronto regain its championship form since rescuing him from backup boredom with the Calgary Roughnecks at the trading deadline last month.

We asked Nick if he's surprised about how good things have been going.

''Not really because this is a good group,'' he replied before pulling off the pads following his latest win. ''This team won the championship last year and they have a lot of the same guys back, a lot of character guys. It's a good mix of veterans and young guys. It's a good group.

''I'm not surprised that we've been successful so far but in this league it's very easy to go from week to week from being a hero to being a zero. So you just have to stay focused and move on to the next one.''

It is his ability to shrug off disappointment that most impresses Troy Cordingley.

''Nothing seems to bother this kid,'' says Toronto's head coach. ''If he lets in a weak goal, he doesn't let it bother him. He's making the saves when we need him to make them and on top of that he makes saves that are big saves. He's playing well for us right now.''

Manning Joins 800 Club

Blaine Manning became the 10th NLL player with 800 points when he scored a goal for the Rock on Saturday. He was back in the lineup after missing 10 games since breaking a collarbone in Buffalo on Jan. 14.

''Blaine is such a great leader -- on the floor and off the floor,'' said head coach Troy Cordingley. ''He's been itching to go. He looked a little rusty but he does the little things a lot of people don't recognize -- set picks, create room for guys like Garrett Billings, and things like that. It's just really good to have him back in the lineup.''

It was a timely return since Jamie Rooney is out with a groin injury.

The all-time points leaders: 1) John Tavares 1,616, 2) Gary Gait 1,165, 3) Colin Doyle 1,161, 4) John Grant Jr. 1,075, 5) Josh Sanderson 1,068, 6) Shawn Williams 1,024, 7) Gavin Prout 873, 8) Dan Dawson 862, 9) Lewis Ratcliff 801, 10) Blaine Manning 800.

As the numbers show, Doyle has moved within five points of overtaking the retired Gait. Doyle's first chance to do it will be this Saturday in Denver, where Gait won his last NLL title as coach of the Mammoth in 2006.

Red Hot Roughnecks

Six straight wins make the Calgary Roughnecks the hottest team in the NLL and coach Dave Pym's pack should be able to hold onto first place in the West Division.

The 11-3 'Necks have two games left: at Rochester this Saturday and at Edmonton on April 21.

Three games remain for the 10-3 Colorado Mammoth: at home against Toronto this Saturday and against Edmonton on April 21, and a trip to Minnesota to finish up April 28.

The teams split their two-game season series so if they finish with identical records first place will be decided by their records within the division. Calgary is 8-2 and Colorado is 6-2 against West opponents.

Dawson Sets Assists Record

Philadelphia's Dan Dawson has increased his assists total to 76, which breaks the record of 74 he and Josh Sanderson both set in 2009.

Grant Nears Points Record

Colorado's John Grant Jr. leads the NLL in goals with 43 and in points with 98 as he closes in on John Tavares' single-season points record of 115.

Dawson (94) and Toronto's Garrett Billings (93) also have an outside chance of getting to 115.

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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