Lacrosse: A multitude of firsts as Toronto end Halifax’s unbeaten season

TORONTO, ON- There were a couple of very important firsts in Friday night’s matchup between the Toronto Rock and Halifax Thunderbirds. It was the first time that the Halifax club had visited Toronto, the Rock’s first match in the new NLL Canadian Championship, the Alterna Cup, Halifax’s first loss, and the debut of McMaster University student Jamie Dilks.

For Dilks, Friday night’s game meant a little bit more to him than the others on the floor. The 43rd overall pick from last summer’s NLL draft is the second of the Rock draft class to make his pro debut, following Zach Maans, who has enjoyed a successful start to his NLL career.

He was one of the three CUFLA players who hit the floor in the game, but none had a night as important as he did. While he may not have made an impact on the scoresheet, tonight was more an experience gainer for the young Marauder.

The CUFLA was best represented by Mike Burke, who fired five shots in the first half and consistently threatened offensively, but there were no Canadian university players who scratched their way onto the scoresheet.

Burke made an impact on Friday night (Benjamin Steiner)

Despite the lack of Canadian impact on the Canadian matchup, the game itself was something special. In the first quarter, the defensive consciousness of both teams was something to be heralded, as the two sides kept it scoreless for nearly six whole minutes, something that was unexpected considering the rivalry between the two sides. However, despite the stingy start, the defensive prowess did not last long.

After the first ball rippled twine, the game never looked the same. By the end of the first quarter, the Toronto Rock led 3-1, including a span of 3 goals in 5 minutes. That rate of scoring slowed down, but not by too much as the rock continued to score in the bunches, having six in their pock by the time halftime hit.

(Benjamin Steiner)

The second half presented a much more diverse genre of lacrosse. The offence was still blistering, but the game’s physicality was much more in focus. By the time that the clock hit the middle of the third, there had been two fights, including one maniac-Esque fisticuff which included one of our CUFLA alumni. Burke, a former Guelph Gryphon had been exceptional offensively in the first half found himself taking punches in the third quarter.

With the score at 11-5, it looked as though Toronto had the game in their back pocket before the ball even dropped for the fourth quarter. Well, they were wrong, as the Thunderbirds stormed back ferociously, causing a real scare to the Rock and their onlooking fans.

“Maybe we gave up a bit early, but the guys came out and got the insurance goal before the end,” said Rock head coach Matt Sawyer following the game. He also spoke about how young the team has been recent, “Dilks made his debut tonight, we have a bunch of youth out there, but they’re doing well.”’

Toronto celebrates a goal (Benjamin Steiner)

Dilks also spoke after his debut. “It’s gonna be a big transition, travelling so much {with the Rock} and still going to school,” said the McMaster University student. However, he’s by far the first one to do this “Brandon {Slade} did this, Latrell {Harris} is, so I know I’ve got guys to help me.”

Even though CUFLA didn’t make a big impact on the scoresheet, it’s presence was once again felt throughout the two teams on display.

Toronto now takes on the Buffalo Bandits on February 9th, before hosting the Vancouver Warriors in their next match of the Alterna Cup.

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