Monday, May 25, 2015

Revamped Oakville Rock looking to take the next step

Stephan Leblanc led Oakville last summer with 21 goals and 34 assists for
55 points. 

Plenty of Optimism after off-season moves

contributed by Garrett Chisholme, AGM of the Oakville Rock
The Oakville Rock approach the 2015 Major Series Lacrosse season with renewed optimism after a number of off-season moves. Newly appointed GM Josh Sanderson was busy after being named as a replacement to his father, the late Terry Sanderson.
“I know how special this team was to my dad,” said Josh. “I know he had a vision and a plan and I want to continue that for him and see it through.”
Fielding a fairly young team in 2014, the Rock finished with  a franchise best 6 wins and 12 losses, narrowly missing the playoffs. Sanderson saw the need to add veteran leadership and toughness.

“We need to take the next step if we want to compete with the Peterboroughs, the Brooklins, the Six Nations,” said Sanderson. “Those teams know how to win and they’ve had guys who have won at all levels.” 
Sanderson went right to work, acquiring players he’s familiar with, players who play for the NLL’s Toronto Rock. His first trade was with the Brampton Excelsiors acquiring forward Kevin Ross and the rights to defender Brodie Merrill for Ethan O’Connor, Patrick Miles and a draft pick. Both Ross and Merrill won Mann Cups with the Excelsiors. He then picked up defender Glen Bryan and forward Brett Hickey from the K-W Kodiaks for Aaron Brown, Jacob Ruest and a draft pick. Bryan was a veteran leader with the Kodiaks and Hickey who just scored 50 goals in the NLL, has been a standout in the WLA for the past few summers for the Coquitlam Adanacs. Defender Mark White and goalie Steve Fryer were also picked up this off season. Nick Rose, Stephan Leblanc, Bill Hostrawser, Damon Edwards and Rob Hellyer round out Sanderson’s Toronto teammates who will be playing in Oakville this summer.
“I want players who play for me in NLL, to be around in the summer using our facility,” said Toronto Rock Owner Jamie Dawick, who will serve as the Oakville Rock’s Director of Lacrosse Operations, adding “It gives us an opportunity to look at guys who may not get a chance to play a lot in the NLL.”
Returning this year will be lefty forward Shayne Adams and righty Jeremy Noble, who will be looking to play more regularly. Face-off man Jordan MacIntosh was traded this off season, but played in only 8 games last summer. Patrick Corbett will be leaned on for the majority of the draws. On the defensive side of the ball, NLL teammates in Minnesota Jason Noble and Alex Crepinsek will be back in Oakville. Youngsters Brad Gillies, Mitch Desnoo and Eric Pitre will also push for time out the back door. Tough guy Tim O’Brien will be looking to make a comeback this summer with the Rock, providing instant credibility in the “toughness” category. Defender Scott Johnston will likely be out for the 2015 season as he continues to rehab a knee injury sustained this winter while playing for the Toronto Rock.
Making the jump from Jr. A. will be forward Dan Lomas who played in a number of MSL games will be a full time left handed shot. Brier Jonathan who won a Minto Cup with the Six Nations Arrows, Zach Bell and Bryan Cole will also compete for playing time this summer.
In net, Nick Rose will likely be the go to guy, but Steve Fryer has proven to be a reliable goalie in Major Series and will be leaned on to carry some of the load along the way.
Back behind the bench are Phillip Sanderson, Blaine Manning and Pat Campbell. Joining the coaching staff will be John Harasym who brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in both NLL and Senior Lacrosse. He will oversee the defensive side of the ball, while Manning will guide the offense and Campbell works with the goalies.
There’s no question the Rock are a better team on paper. The question now will be, is everyone ready to buy in and can they take the next step? Goalie Nick Rose says there is a heightened sense of optimism amongst the Oakville Rock players
“Every move Josh has made has not only improved our team, but he’s brought in the right people. A lot of us have played together in junior or pro and we have a tight bond.”
The Rock will also lean on affiliations with the Oakville Titans Sr. B and Orangeville Northmen Jr. A teams, especially early on with the overlap of the MSL and NLL seasons.
“We are very proud to be affiliated with these two clubs,” said Sanderson. “They have great people involved in their organizations and are very supportive. We are all working together towards one common goal and that is to win."
The Oakville Rock are playing this season in memory of “T”: Terry Sanderson. They open their season May 27th on the road in Whitby against the Brooklin Redmen. They open their season at home against the Brampton Excelsiors June 1st at 8 PM. All Rock home games will be played at the Toronto Rock Athletic Centre in Oakville. Admission is $10 for Adults, $8 For Seniors, All Minor Lacrosse Players are FREE!