Nick Rose Bouncing Back in Goal for Rock


Nick Rose has felt at home with Toronto after a stint with the Calgary Roughnecks.

It was five years ago this Sunday that Nick Rose went from being the odd man out in Calgary to being an important player for the Toronto Rock.

The Roughnecks had Mike Poulin as their No. 1 goalie in 2012. Rose was the backup, as he had been during his first three pro seasons with the Boston Blazers, and Frankie Scigliano was on deck after being selected in the 2011 entry draft. So, they traded Rose to Toronto for a first-round 2014 pick.

“I was the odd man out,” Rose said. “[Rock General Manager] Terry Sanderson made the call to bring me to Toronto. That’s when I started to get a feel for really playing in the league. It’s been great.”

Today, Rose, 29, sports an NLL-best 9.45 goals-against average. He has played every minute of every game for the Rock, who are second in the NLL East at 6-4 after a 16-10 home win over Calgary last Saturday. They are having a terrific bounce-back season after missing the playoffs last spring, and Rose has been a catalyst in the resurgence.

Some goalies are blockers, others are movers.

“Being a bigger guy, I fall into the blocker category,” he said. “I try to focus on making sure I have the right angles and on being aggressive at the right time. I like to think I’m athletic enough to move to make a save but I try to be in the right position to begin with.”

Bob Clevely, who played goal and who was Rose's youth lacrosse coach in Orangeville, taught him the basics. Rose also picked up pointers from Jim Rankin, Chris Sanderson and Brandon Miller, his current Rock teammate, before and after they made it from Orangeville to the pro league. Rose helped Orangeville win 2008 and 2009 Canadian junior championships. Current Rock coach Matt Sawyer coached those Northmen teams. Rose was drafted by Boston in the third round, 28th overall, in 2008.

“That was an incredible experience,” he said of playing for the Blazers. “Veteran guys like Anthony Cosmo and Dan Dawson showed the younger guys what life in the NLL was like and I had the chance to live in Boston. Great city. I really enjoyed it.”

Calgary was a blast, too. He was playing summer ball on the West Coast at the time so he commuted to Roughnecks games from Vancouver. He attended Rock games as a kid so was elated to get the chance to play in Toronto.

The Rock went 10-4 in Rose’s first full season in Toronto with Zak Boychuk backing him up; he went 6-8 in 2014, which was the year the Rock acquired Miller late in the season; he was 6-2 and Miller was 8-2 as they shared the job in 2015 when the Rock got all the way to the Champion’s Cup final; and Rose was 5-7 while Miller was 0-6 when injuries destroyed the 2016 season. Miller had off-season hip surgery and is currently backing up Rose.

The Rock defense corps is playing well in front of him.

“The entire unit has been incredible,” he said. “Brodie Merrill has really elevated his game. Last year he was banged up and it took a while for him to get going. This year, he has been great. He is doing it all.

“Our other vets have been great, too. Sandy Chapman, Jesse Gamble, Jeff Gilbert, Brad Kri, Billy Hostrawser, Damon Edwards. Damon is one of the most underrated defensemen in the league. He should be considered one of best in the league. The young guys, like Challen Rogers, Jordan Magnuson and Latrell Harris have been impressive. We have a great mix of older and younger guys.”

Defense was the name of the Toronto game during its six championship runs so it’s understandable that the players are proud of allowing the fewest goals against this season.

“We identify the 10-goal mark to keep the score under and for the most part we’ve done a pretty good job of that,” Rose said.

“I think Rosie is the best in the league,” said teammate Tom Schreiber. “He makes it look easy. He makes very few mistakes. He steals three or four goals from other teams every game.”

It was a foregone conclusion Toronto would win after Rose allowed only one Calgary goal in the first half.

“Our goalie and our defense have been fantastic,” said teammate Brett Hickey.

Sawyer has watched for two decades Rose growing into a pro star.

“I was a lucky coach [with the Northmen],” said Sawyer. “I had Mike Poulin, Nick Rose and then Dillon Ward. Nick has always been the best of his age group. He’s been unflappable. There’s nobody else I’d want going into a big game.”

Rose manages the Toronto Rock Athletic Centre in Oakville, where his team practices Tuesday nights, and he shares a Burlington house with Kri, Rogers and Magnusson.

Rose’s colorful head gear depicts wrestler-turned-actor Dwayne Johnson. Rose has followed Johnson’s careers over the years and with the nickname The Rock, it was a given Johnson would land on Rose’s helmet.

Rose and his teammates always include Bruce Spingsteen’s "Born To Run" on their pre-game soundtrack because it was Sanderson’s favorite song.

Rose taps his goal posts before each game.

“I really don’t know other than I started doing it when I was really young and I got comfortable doing it," he said of the routine.

He wears No. 66 because his dad wore No. 6 playing lacrosse in Orangeville. One 6 is for his dad, Tony Rose, who died in a car crash when Nick was two, and one 6 is for Nick.

He’s a thoughtful individual who is popular with all of his teammates and coaches.

“I’ve known him since he was a kid,” said Sawyer. “He’s a great goalie and also a great guy.”

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