NLL Notebook: Toronto Looks to Jones for Offensive Firepower

PHOTO COURTESY OF TORONTO ROCK

Left to Right: Rock coach Matt Sawyer with Damon Edwards, Adam Jones and Nick Rose, who are together again. They were a big part of the Orangeville Northmen team that won the Canadian Jr. A championship in 2009.


Natural selection, which accounts for changes in traits of a population over time, is a key mechanism of evolution.

Adam Jones, a phys-ed and biology teacher at St. Mary’s High School in Owen Sound, Ontario, will be expanding on this topic in class this week while between NLL games with the Toronto Rock.

Shot selection rather than natural selection will be his chief concern when the Rock play at home against the Saskatchewan Rush on Saturday. In the season opener last Friday in Buffalo, Jones scored two goals in his first regular-season game with his new team, a 13-9 loss.

Coming to Toronto reunited Jones with Nick Rose and Damon Edwards. They were teammates on the 2009 Orangeville Northmen team that won the Canadian Jr. A championship. Rock coach Matt Sawyer was the coach of that team.

“It seems like a little bit of a homecoming,” said Jones. “It’s good to know some of the faces.”

It takes Jones a little over two hours to drive south solo in his 2016 Kia Optimum from Owen Sound to Tuesday night practices in Oakville and to weekend games in Toronto or to Pearson International for road trips.

“I can handle it now, but 10 or 15 games into the season, I’ll be looking for someone to keep me company.”

The reduction in travel is to his liking.

“Usually, I would have flown three or four times already. There are a lot less flights during the season. ... It’s as good as it can get.”

Now with his third NLL team, he doesn’t envision a fourth.

“This is where I want to stay.”

The Rock relinquished two first-round draft picks to get Jones.

“We paid a big price for Adam,” said Sawyer. “We feel he’s one of the top offensive players in the league."

"We’re hopeful everybody is going to get to see that this year," Sawyer continued. "He’s a high-end player, one of the best goal scorers in the league. We feel there are some things we can tap into that maybe he hasn’t had the opportunity to do at the NLL level. To this point, he’s established himself as a deadly goal scorer, but I also know he sees the floor as good as anybody out there. He’s as good a playmaker as there is. We expect him to put the ball in the net but also to make his teammates better.”

The Rock have made a lot of changes.

“There’s a different feel in the locker room,” said captain Brodie Merrill. “Some great veterans have moved on. But that’s the nature of the game. Other guys will step up and fill those voids.”

One thing does not change and that is Sawyer’s insistence that defensive diligence is the key to success.

“We expect that to be the backbone of our team,” he saod. “We’ve lost a couple of guys so it’s a little bit of a transition for us on the backend. It’s a work in progress right now, but we’re confident we’re going to be good. We expect it to be stronger than last year.”







BLACK WOLVES IMPRESS

Overcoming a 9-5 third-quarter deficit to defeat the defending champion Georgia Swarm 13-11 got New England off to a great start.

“Last year we started 0-3, so to win our opener was big,” said head coach Glenn Clark. “Any win in this league is coveted and this one was important given all the changes we’ve made. We still need to tighten up defensively, but for the first game together it was a pretty good showcase.”

A SPECIAL PLAYER

Cody Jamieson returned to Rochester’s lineup last weekend after rehab from a season-ending knee injury suffered in the opening game last winter and scored his 200th goal during 17-6 thrashing of Calgary. It was the first NLL goal in 19 months for the former league MVP and scoring champion.

“It feels good to make a statement like that,” No. 88 said of the lopsided victory. “I know there were a lot of question marks from our team missing the playoffs two years in a row but in that locker room we believe and we trust what we’ve got in there.”

“He’s been missed,” said head coach Mike Hasen. “He came back [Saturday] and gave us a bit of a boost. He’s a special player so it was really nice to have him back.”

MAGNAN IS THE MAN

Some players, like Luc Magnan, don’t get the attention they deserve but the Rochester defenseman earned a chunk of the spotlight Saturday night.

Magnan shed three checkers to score with a bounce shot to give the Knighthawks a 3-1 lead while they were short-handed and the inspirational effort sent the ‘Hawks on their way to their big win over Calgary.

Magnan’s only shot in the game and only the fourth of his 25-game career over three years resulted in his first NLL goal.

Magnan, 25, who played NCAA lacrosse at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh, signed a two-year contract renewal last August.

“He is defensively sound, physical and very smart,” head coach Mike Hasen said at the time. “He has a great lacrosse IQ.”

And now he has his first pro goal.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Josh Byrne, Chase Fraser, Ryan Lee and Zach Currier scored in their first NLL games.

Byrne, the first overall draft pick from New Westminster, British Columbia, via Hofstra and the MLL’s Chesapeake Bayhawks, pulled in a carom off the back boards, spun around, and fired a sidearm shot past Toronto goalie Nick Rose to give Buffalo a 6-5 lead early in the third quarter last Friday in a game the Bandits went on to win 13-9. 

Fraser, the 13th overall draft pick from Vancouver via District of Columbia, displayed a quick release on a shot off a cross-floor pass in beating Rose to give Buffalo a 7-6 lead. 

Lee, the 25th pick from Sharon, Ontario, via Rochester Institute of Technology, had his back to the net when he shoveled a ball up and under the cross bar to give Colorado a 9-5 lead in the second quarter in Vancouver. He added a second goal with a long overhand shot to give Colorado a 12-6 lead in the third quarter. The Mammoth went on to win 15-8. 

Currier, the third pick from Peterborough, Ont., via Princeton, whipped in a low sidearm shot from the middle of Rochester’s zone late in the second quarter for Calgary’s third goal. In the most lopsided game of Week 1, the Knighthawks drubbed the Roughnecks 17-6. Currier had two breakaways in the first half, but could not put a ball behind Matt Vinc until just before halftime.

WARDLE WOWS

Never underestimate Chris Wardle.

As a sixth-round draft pick, 54th overall, in 2013 by the Stealth, nobody was predicting a headline-grabbing NLL career for the lefty forward from British Columbia’s capital of Victoria. Rosy was not an adjective used to describe his future in the NLL when he was released in 2015.

Since signing with Colorado as an unrestricted free agent in October 2015, however, Wardle, 25, has continued to improve, and he has become an important player for the team that gave him a second chance. And there he was last weekend firing in four goals to help the Mammoth beat the team that let him walk 15-8.

BEERS AND ENGLAND INJURED

Vancouver defenseman Matt Beers missed the rest of the game after going down in a collision with Colorado’s Tim Edwards early in the second quarter of the Mammoth’s 15-8 last Friday, but the Stealth indicated afterwards the captain was held out by doctors as a precaution and that he’ll probably suit up in Calgary on Friday.

Buffalo lost forward Craig England early in the second quarter when he was boarded by Toronto’s Brandon Slade. England watched the second half from the press box.

ATTENDANCE CHECK

Buffalo’s home opener crowd of 11,516 was down from its league-best 15,148 average last season, New England’s home opener crowd was up slightly to 5,489 from its 5,402 average last season, Vancouver drew 3,201 in suburban Langley where it averaged 3,206 last winter, and Rochester’s attendance of 4,596 was well below its 2017 average of 6,755.

WEEK 2 GAMES

(All times EST)

FRIDAY

VANCOUVER (0-1) at CALGARY (0-1) 9 p.m.

Vancouver suffered a 15-8 home loss to Colorado and Calgary was blown out 17-6 in Rochester last weekend. Starting Stealth and Roughnecks goalies wound up watching from the end of their benches. The winner of this one regains some confidence, while the loser will be in a worrisome 0-2 hole.

Vancouver won three of four meetings last season including the last two.

SATURDAY

SASKATCHEWAN (0-0) at TORONTO (0-1) 7 p.m.

This game will be streamed live on Twitter.

Saskatchewan had a Week 1 bye, while Toronto lacked transition breakouts in a 13-9 setback in Buffalo.

The teams met twice last season and each team won its home game.

TIME TRAVEL

Dec. 11, 2004: A league preseason attendance record of 14,084 was set at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul at the first home exhibition game of the Minnesota Swarm. It was the first professional lacrosse game played in the state. Colorado won 16-6.

Dec. 21, 2000: A new season opened with the 1999 and 2000 champions the Toronto Rock posting a 17-7 victory over the Ottawa Rebel in front of 13,333 spectators at Air Canada Centre.

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