The Buffalo Bandits (5-3) got four goals from leading scorer Shawn Williams and a hat trick from captain John Tavares in his return from injury to claim a 15-13 victory over the Toronto Rock (6-3).
The game was typical of what has always been a very heated rivalry: back-and-forth action. The Bandits opened the scoring 90 seconds in, as Williams beat Toronto goaltender Nick Rose for his first of the game.
Toronto then answered as Blaine Manning scored minute after Williams, and Tornto leading scorer Garret Billings scored 37 seconds later to give the Rock a 2-1 lead.
The Bandits proceeded to score three answered goals, including two from Aaron Wilson, to close out scoring in the first quarter and take a 4-2 lead.
The Rock would proceed to score the first two goals of the second quarter, tying things at four as Garrett Billings scored his second of the game six and a half minutes into the quarter. The Bandits’ Jimmy Purves then retook the lead with a slick, coast-to-coast transition goal, beating Rose over the shoulder as he got in alone. The teams traded two more goals, and the Bandits headed into half time with 6-5 lead.
Jay Thorimbert opened the scoring in the 3rd quarter with a coast-to-coast goal of his own, giving the Bandits a 7-5 lead. Just as the Bandits looked ready to pull away, however, the Rock took over.
Toronto scored five unanswered goals, including two from Stephen LeBlanc and Billings’ hat trick goal. Dhane Smith scored a goal to temporarily stop the bleeding, but Josh Sanderson quickly answered back for the Rock to send his team into the 4th quarter with an 11-8 lead.
Rather than get down on themselves, the Bandits came out in the fourth with incredible urgency. The Bandits would score five unanswered goals of their own. Jay Thorimbert and Billy Dee Smith both scored goals in transition, and Shawn Williams completed his four-goal night to see the Bandits take a 13-11 lead half-way through the final stanza.
The Rock were never able to recover from the Bandits’ run and Buffalo would go on to their second straight victory.
The transition game was the biggest difference for the Bandits. The Rock have relied on their transition game for scoring all season, but the Bandits were not only able to shut it down, but also score five transition goals of their own. Some timely saves from starting goaltender Anthony Cosmo and a big 5-on-3 penalty kill in the 2nd quarter helped the Bandits capture the win.
For the second time this season, the Bandits will have a quick turnaround and travel back to Buffalo to take on the Philadelphia Wings (4-3) in search of their second three-game winning streak of the season. Game time is set for 7:30 PM at the First Niagara Center. Fans can purchase tickets through tickets.com or at the First Niagara Center Box Office.