Rock, Wings face off for first time since expansion draft

A familiar rivalry will be renewed on Friday night at Scotiabank Arena, however, it’ll have a new feeling to it.

The Toronto Rock (1-1) will welcome the expansion Philadelphia Wings (0-2) to town for the first meeting of the season between the two East Division foes. The Wings, who were tied with the Rock for most NLL championships with six, relocated following the 2014 season and became the New England Black Wolves.

Philadelphia has started their inaugural season off on a rough note, first losing a close game to the Buffalo Bandits on home floor, and then dropping another close game to the Rochester Knighthawks last weekend.

The Rock have found the win column, beating the Bandits in their home opener. However, the Rock dropped a last-second heartbreaker to the rival Georgia Swarm last week.

Each team will be looking to get into the win column on Friday night. With that: Here’s who to keep an eye on when the teams take the floor:

Toronto

Rob Hellyer

I guessed that Hellyer would have a good game with heightened attention on Tom Schreiber last week. Little did I, or anyone, know that he would manage to pot 10 points on 11 Rock goals against the Swarm.

The right-handed side of the floor is firing on all cylinders to open the year, and Hellyer has been great so far for Toronto.

Tom Schreiber

Schreiber managed to nab five points against the Swarm, but he was overshadowed by the mammoth performance from Hellyer. Philadelphia has a relatively young defence that the Rock’s top threats could take advantage of.

Last week, it was Hellyer who had a big game. Look for Schreiber to try and go tit for tat with his running mate.

Kieran McArdle

The left-handed side of the Rock’s attack was relatively quiet against Georgia. McArdle, however, had a career night, potting two goals and six points. The third-year man has looked very confident with the ball in his stick this season.

With the likes of Adam Jones and Johnny Powless on the left-handed side of the floor alongside McArdle, there’s no pressure on him to produce at a high rate. He’s been a pleasant early surprise for the Rock and is nearly a quarter of the way to his 2018 total of 39 points already. He just needs to keep steadily producing and he’ll finish with his best season points-wise in the NLL.

Challen Rogers

A bit of a down game for Rogers on the stat sheet, but watch the game over again and you realize that he played a massive part in the Rock’s narrow loss to Georgia. He’s managed 19 loose balls and caused three turnovers in two contests. He’s shooting just nine percent this season. Once those shots start to find the net, he’ll be back on track.

Philadelphia

Chris Cloutier

The No. 2 overall pick from this past draft has been a catalyst for the Wings, scoring 5 goals and 11 points in his first two pro games. He’s a big body that can cause a lot of problems for the Rock’s defence.

He can shoot, dish, and beat defenders with his stick skill. He’s the complete package and the top threat on the Wings’ attack.

Kiel Matisz

The Wings’ captain has experienced success against Toronto in the past as a member of the Georgia Swarm. With his ability in the pick-and-roll game and Brett Hickey’s shooting ability, the Rock will have a tough time silencing the right-handed side for Philly.

Matisz has yet to pot a goal – posting seven assists on the year. He has to get off the Schneid at some point. Don’t be surprised if it comes against the Rock.

Brett Hickey

A revenge game could be in the cards for Hickey in his return to Toronto. The former 50-goal man will play his first game against the Rock since he was left unprotected in this past summers expansion draft. He was the inaugural pickup by the Wings and has posted four goals and eight points in two outings.

He’s one of the most dangerous catch-and-shoot players in the league. The Rock will know his tendencies, but he has several ways to find the back of the net.

Trevor Baptiste

The rookie has yet to post a point this season, but he was never expected to be an offensive dynamo in the NLL. The best draw man on the planet has lived up to his billing so far, winning 40 of 62 (64 percent) of his draws over two contests.

He’s also managed to chip his front tooth in each of the first two games of the year. It’s an odd thing to see in lacrosse, but he definitely leads the league in that regard.

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