The Toronto Rock host the Georgia Swarm this Saturday at the Air Canada Centre in game one of the east division final.
Game two is Saturday, May 20 at Infinite Energy Arena in Gwinnet, GA. If the series is split after two games, a 10-minute mini game to decide the winner will be played immediately following the second game.
The Rock can’t wait to get started.
“We’re motivated,” said Brett Hickey. “We missed the playoffs last year so the guys that have been around the last two years are anxious to show that our 2015 run wasn’t a one-and-done and last year was a fluke. The young guys coming in are motivated as well. It’s the first season for a lot of them and they want to help prove that this team is here to stay and we’ll be getting a crack at the Cup for many years to come.”
Thirteen members of the Rock are experiencing their first NLL playoff run. One of those players is rookie Jordan Magnuson. The 21-year-old from Coquitlam. B.C., however, is no stranger to high-pressure playoff situations, despite his young age.
Just last summer Magnuson won the Canadian junior championship, the Minto Cup, with the Coquitlam Adanacs. The Minto Cup is a difficult tournament to get into, much less win – first you have to win your own provincial title; only then do you get the chance to compete against the best in the whole country.
Magnuson said the experience there helped immensely with the transition to NLL playoffs.
“Those experiences are intangibles and getting them as a young player is going to help me for the rest of my, hopefully, long career in the NLL. It’s definitely been beneficial,” he said.
2016 was the first year Magnuson won the tournament, although he and his Adanacs competed for it in 2014 and 2015 as well. The final is a best-of-five series. You want to talk about high-pressure? Coquitlam won game five 6-5 in overtime.
“Junior lacrosse was a roller coaster,” Magnuson said. “Being the younger guy and building my way through the ranks was different. I didn’t play in my first Minto Cup and then moving into the two after that I got more playing time and had the chance to feel myself grow as a player, playing in those high-pressure situations.”
In the NLL, whether you’re a rookie or a 10-year veteran, everyone is counted on to play an important part in the lineup. Magnuson is experiencing these playoffs as trial-by-fire. He has to contribute right away, and he did so versus New England, recording one assist, four loose balls and helping out in the faceoff circle.
One thing that has helped the Rock this season is their comradery. The Rock are a close bunch, but since lacrosse is a small world, a lot of them have prior relationships that help their on-floor chemistry.
One of Magnuson’s former Adanacs teammates? Challen Rogers.
The two have been friends and teammates for years, playing in the 2014 and 2015 Minto Cup tournament together.
“Challen picked me up from the airport when I first came out here and we’ve been living together ever since,” Magnuson explained. “Having that guy that I’ve known since I was a young teenager, having him by my side going through this experience with him has been really helpful.”
Both Hickey and Magnuson said that the team is feeling positive towards their upcoming series.
“Morale’s really high,” Magnuson said. “Everyone knows that we have a good group of guys here in the room and we have what it takes moving forward. We’ve seen what Georgia’s got but I don’t think we’ve given them everything we have so we feel good moving into the rest of the playoffs.”
Hickey says their success so far, and in the future, depends on full team efforts.
“We’re confident that the group we have will be able to match what Georgia put on the floor offensively,” he said. “If we can do our job up front and get a few repossessions and keep the ball away from them and limit their possessions, that’ll help out but our defense is more than capable of meeting the challenge.”