Saturday, April 30, 2011

Game preview: Rochester at Toronto

By Alex Hinkley

The third seeded Rochester Knighthawks (10-6) will take on the second seeded Toronto Rock (10-6) Sunday afternoon at the Air Canada Centre in the first round of the NLL playoffs and what is sure to be a very tough matchup for Rochester.

The Toronto Rock are among the toughest teams in the NLL to beat in their own barn as they have lost just one game at home all season. To make matters worse, the Rock have beaten Rochester in all three regular season meetings this year despite two of them being at the Blue Cross Arena.

The Rock have the most high-powered offense in the East with 187 goals scored and have outscored the Knighthawks 35-20 this season. What makes Toronto so hard to stop is that there are just too many All-Stars on their offense. Stephan Leblanc, Garrett Billings, Blaine Manning, and Colin Doyle all have over 70 points. Trying to shut down one of them just leaves more room for someone else to work.

If the Knighthawks can blitz the Rock with a flurry of goals in the first quarter like they did the Buffalo Bandits last weekend, then the K-Hawks stand a good chance of coming out on top. Rochester's offense is streaky and they will need to find a way to beat Bob Watson early so he can't get into a groove. If Watson has a chance to get on his game, it's over for Rochester. Watson finished the season out on somewhat of a low note being credited with losses to Philadelphia and Buffalo. Then again, he set the National Lacrosse League all-time saves record (surpassing Pat O'Toole) in the final game of the season against Edmonton.
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Shawn Williams and Jarrett Davis are the only two Knighthawk players who have scored a goal against Toronto in all three games this season. Williams led Rochester with 77 points in the regular season and Davis is currently riding a hot hand after completing his first ever NLL hat-trick against Buffalo last week. These two forwards will likely play a key role in this weekend's playoff matchup.

The game starts at 3:30pm EDT on Sunday, May 1st. You can watch it online on the NLL Network.

(Originally published on Examiner.com)

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