For the first time this season, the Toronto Rock are in a game with more meaning than just the standings. Their rare Friday night matchup pits them against the newly relocated Halifax Thunderbirds is their first match of the NLL’s Canadian championship, known as the Alterna Cup.
Halifax has gotten off to a wicked start to the season, something that has certainly helped as they continue to work their way into the maritime sporting market. Coming in with a record of 6-0, including two of those in Alterna Cup games, the Thunderbirds are certainly the favourites in this one.
Toronto has also been good this season, despite dropping their last game against highway rivals Buffalo last week. Before then, the Rock had won three games, not something to turn ur head away from.
Toronto’s last home game was a thrilling and hard-fought win over the expansion Rochester Knighthawks. Rochester and Toronto have always had a good rivalry, but this weekend’s game makes things a little more complicated. the Halifax club was recently relocated from Rochester, where they were known as the Knighthawks. Will the rivalry still be there tonight on a player to play basis, or is the Toronto vs Rochester disagreement based on geographical location?
Being on the east coast of Canada, both teams include a fair amount of Canadian post-secondary lacrosse talent. Three players on the Thunderbirds have suited up for various teams in the CUFLA, while Toronto has its regular contingent of 5.
For the Atlantic visitors, their CUFLA players are Mike Burke, from the Guelph Gryphons, Chris Boushy from the Queen’s Gaels and Brandon Robinson from the Laurier Golden Hawks.
Burke has by far been the best of the three this season, as the former Gryphon has been one of the key players on the roster. With 26 points through six games, the Wasaga Beach, Ontario native is on pace for a career year, and his total is already his second best. However, the game against Toronto will be his seventh and his career-high is 14, which came last year. The oft-injured forward has been a key piece for Halifax, something that the team cannot afford to lose. Back in school Burke owns the Baggataway Cup in 2014, while also twice being named the All-Canadian team.
The other CUFLA alumni who are likely to hit the floor in orange at Scotiabank Arena is Chris Boushy. In his second season of NLL action, Boushy is one of the younger players in the league, but that has not stopped him from making his mark. He scored 36 points through 16 games last season, which is certainly nothing to be sniffed at. This year, he has been scratched a few times, but when he is on the turf, the Oakville boy has been astounding, scoring 7 points in only three games.
In 2018, his last year at Queen’s he scored 51 points through ten games. While that is field lacrosse, it still shows that he certainly can score when he is called upon.
On the Rock, Brandon Slade is the only one to have made a big impact on the scoresheet, having scored a goal and 3 assists so far. The former Brock Badger has also been the lone CUFLA alumni to be playing regularly for the Toronto side, as Brock teammate Latrell Harris has sat out with an injury after the season’s second game, and Laurier netminder Riley Hutchcraft has yet to be called upon for game action.