The Buffalo Bandits were unable to complete an encore performance after their overtime win over the Toronto Rock last weekend. In Saturday’s rematch, the visiting Bandits fell to the Rock 8-5 in the second game of a home-and-home series as the teams engaged in a hard-fought contest.
Buffalo struggled at the Air Canada Centre as they trailed Toronto 6-1 through the first three quarters of the game. The Bandits nearly came all the way back with four straight goals in the fourth to pull within one, but it was all they could muster. The loss drops the Bandits to 2-2 on the season while Toronto stays on top of the division with a 4-1 record.
Tracey Kelusky, Mark Steenhuis and Brett Bucktooth each had a goal and an assist while John Tavares tallied two assists in the loss. Bandits Head Coach Darris Kilgour gave goaltender Mike Thompson the night off in favor of Angus Goodleaf. In his first start of the season, Goodleaf turned away 28 of Toronto’s 35 shots.
Colin Doyle was all over the field as Toronto’s captain netted four goals, including an empty-netter. Buffalo had a tough time getting past Rock goaltender Bob Watson, who stopped 50 shots and shutout the Bandits for two whole quarters.
Emotions flared early as a brawl broke out between the division rivals just minutes after the opening whistle. Kelusky uncharacteristically dropped the gloves with Patrick Merrill while Frank Resetarits locked horns with Jeff Gilbert at the start of the first quarter. Another scrum occurred on the next play as Brandon Francis went toe-to-toe with newly acquired Rock transition player Ryan Sharp. Minutes later, Steve Priolo mixed it up with Cam Woods deep in Toronto’s zone in yet another scrap. Resetarits, Francis, Priolo, Gilbert and Woods were all ejected from the game following their fights. By the end of the first quarter, the teams had combined for 132 minutes in penalties.
When the dust settled, Toronto was the first to strike as Blaine Manning found Mat MacLeod wide open in front of the Bandits’ net. Buffalo got on the board late in the first quarter when Brett Bucktooth unloaded a laser shot past Watson on the power play. Toronto regained the lead shortly after when Doyle beat Goodleaf over his shoulder.
The Rock extended its lead when Manning scored late in the second quarter. The Bandits’ power play struggled to get going in the first half, as they only scored on one of their five chances with the man advantage.
In the third quarter, Toronto started to run away with the lead with goals by rookie Aaron Pascas, Stephan Leblanc and Doyle. The Rock had a commanding 6-1 lead at the end of three quarters.
The Bandits came alive in the fourth, cutting Toronto’s lead in half with two quick goals by Roger Vyse and Mark Steenhuis. They continued to gain momentum with two more goals from Chad Culp and Kelusky to cut the deficit to one. However, the Bandits’ comeback would come to an abrupt halt when Doyle netted his third and fourth goals of the game to help Toronto defeat Buffalo 8-5.
Buffalo took the first game of the home-and-home series when Scott Self scored in overtime to give the Bandits a 15-14 win last Saturday at HSBC Arena. Now that Toronto has evened up the series, the Bandits are 2-2 and tied with the Rochester Knighthawks at the bottom of the East division, but are just 1.5 games back of the first place Rock.
The Bandits will hope to rebound when they return home to host the Minnesota Swarm next Friday. Faceoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at HSBC Arena.