Toronto Rock: Previewing NLL East Semi-Final vs. New England Black Wolves

Jul 9, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; A general view of the Toronto skyline in preparation for the 2015 Pan Am Games. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 9, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; A general view of the Toronto skyline in preparation for the 2015 Pan Am Games. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports /

It’s winner take all at the Air Canada Centre on Saturday, as the Toronto Rock and Black Wolves square off to decide who goes to the East Division Finals.

Going into the last week of the season, the Toronto Rock were having trouble solidifying their playoff spot. They had lost their previous four games and were outscored 57-43 during that stretch.

However, with a Rochester Knighthawks loss in their final game, the Rock clinched. That’s obviously not the ideal way to get into the postseason, so Toronto had to have their last game against the Buffalo Bandits to build momentum.

With their playoff opponent decided, the only question left was where the East Division Semi-Final would be played. The Rock earned the right to host the game, with a 19-15 comeback win.

The Rock scored seven fourth-quarter goals to take the game over. New England had an opportunity to host, but dropped their final game to the Vancouver Stealth, 17-16 in overtime.

Now, the Black Wolves and Rock face off for the third time in 2017. The regular season matchups were tight, but New England ultimately swept the season series.

Both wins were by one-goal, with the first clash going to overtime. This is how the stats worked out over both games:

CategoryTorontoNew England
Total Goals2325
Loose Balls175143
Face Offs25/56 (44.6%)31/56 (55.3%)
Powerplay5/11 (45%)2/7 (28%)

Who are the players to watch in this game?


Tom Schreiber (33 Games, 61 Assists, 94 Points) – The offence runs through Schreiber, who can pass, and score both inside and from the perimeter.

Brett Hickey (45 G, 32 A, 77 Pts) – Schreiber leads the team in assists, Hickey leads in goals. He came up just short of 50 goals for the second time in his career.

Brodie Merrill (7 G, 12 A, 19 Pts, 171 LB) – The Rock captain is a loose ball machine and pushes transition for the team. He will have to play a big game and help the Rock defence push the pace.

Latrell Harris (7 G, 6 A, 13 Pts, 109 LB) – The rookie has been a physical presence and has faced harder matchups as the season has progressed. He has also been more active in the transition game.

New England

Shawn Evans (38 G, 65 A, 103 Pts) – The former NLL MVP finished fifth in league scoring and is sure to factor in both scoring and chippy play.

Kevin Crowley (45 G, 40 A, 85 Pts) – The hulking forward finished with the second-most points in his career and a career-high in goals. He will be a tough matchup for the Rock defence.

Bill O’Brien (0 G, 4 A, 4 Pts, 40 LB) – A tone setter for the New England defence. Led the team in penalty minutes and doesn’t mind getting rough. Perfect for playoff lacrosse.

Jay Thorimbert (7 G, 8 A, 15 Pts, 192 LB) – One of the best faceoff men in the league. Won 57 percent of draws this season. Will be pivotal in gaining extra possessions for his team.

Here’s some highlights from their back and forth overtime affair:

Key Matchup – Nick Rose vs. Evan Kirk

The deciding factor in this game will come down to who performs better in net. This playoff matchup will feature the league leader in goals-against average and save percentage (Rose) against the leader in saves (Kirk).

Both goalies have featured in every game this season, with each having eight wins to their credit. Both men were also nominated for the goaltender of the year award last season, with Kirk winning the honour.

Both the Rock and Black Wolves have potent offences, so the team which has the upper hand in goal should be able to ride that to victory. So, Toronto are you #Allin?

Next: Toronto Rock: 3 reasons they are back in the Playoffs

What’s your take on Saturday’s playoff clash at the ACC? Who do you predict will win, and why? Share your thoughts in the comments section.