By Alex Pagliano - Bandits.com
BUFFALO – The Buffalo Bandits pulled away in the fourth quarter on Saturday night, as the team defeated the Toronto Rock, 12-10. Buffalo ended the contest on a 3-1 run to secure their fifth consecutive victory; the longest win streak since 2009. The first-place Bandits are now 5-1, as they prepare to face Rochester next Saturday.
Only 54 seconds into the fourth quarter, Bandits captain John Tavares took a five-minute major penalty for an illegal cross check. Toronto converted once over the stretch, and when Tavares returned to the floor, the Bandits picked up their offensive game.
Just 11 seconds removed from the major, Tavares found himself back on the turf. Tavares sparked a 3-0 run; the veteran found an open Mark Steenhuis, who beat Rose over the shoulder for a hat trick. Tavares also found Ryan Benesch, who beat to beat Rose on the power play to record a hat trick. And, minutes later, Steenhuis returned to 2009-like form, recording his fourth of the game.
“We kind of have a system in place. And, I think you’re starting to see that work,” Steenhuis said. “We’re trying to work that whole floor, and you’re kind of seeing that pay dividends right now.”
The teams combined for 12 goals over the duration of the opening half; but contact from both sides drew an astronomical amount of penalties. Tempers flared, as Buffalo spent 32:00 in the box while Toronto also spent 20:00 in the box. Each team converted on two power-play chances, while Buffalo added a shorthanded goal.
Just 2:53 into the opening quarter, Jamie Rooney opened the scoring. Rooney went far side on Toronto goaltender Nick Rose to give the team an early edge. Toronto scored on a fast break just under two minutes to even the game before the opening media timeout.
During the media timeout, 12,768 members of Banditland sent birthday wishes to a special member of the Bandits family. Tucker Williams, son of forward Shawn Williams, watched fans sing to him from his bed at Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto over video.
“We told Tucker before the game that we wanted to get him a big present,” Bandits head coach Troy Cordingley said. “We wanted to get (him) a win. And we did that.”
Tucker handed Buffalo some oomph. As teams traded penalties, David Brock joined the rush and found Mark Steenhuis in transition to put the Bandits back on top. Toronto matched, as Brock deflected a shot that landed into Toronto’s Josh Sanderson’s stick. Sanderson beat the diving Cosmo, who stopped 11-of-13 shots in the opening quarter.
Priolo started a two-on-one break to put Buffalo back on top at the start of the second quarter. Priolo found Ryan Benesch, who placed a shot over the shoulder of Rose for the shorthanded score. Toronto looked to answer back, as Josh Sanderson came unabated out of the front door. The forward went across the crease, but Cosmo robbed him. Cosmo made saves on 17-of-22 shots at the half.
After Toronto scored to even the contest, John Tavares scored consecutive goals. Tavares beat Rose at 5:01 with a high-to-low shot on the power play. 2:28 later, Tavares placed another high-to-low shot past Rose. Toronto answered back with two consecutive goals on the power play, but Benesch and Steenhuis answered the run with consecutive tallies to end the second quarter. Buffalo led 7-5 at the half.
Toronto raced out to a 3-0 run to start the third quarter. 10:12 later, Buffalo ended the run. Chad Culp raced from end-to-end and beat Rose on the break. Cosmo assisted on the score. Less than two minutes later, Brock found an opportune time to score his first goal of the season. Brock fended off contact from a Toronto defender and then launched a shot past Rose to put the Bandits back on top after three quarters, 9-8.
Less than one minute into the fourth quarter, Bandits captain John Tavares took a five-minute major penalty for an illegal cross check in the offensive zone. Buffalo responded. Rory Smith led an inspired Buffalo kill that held Toronto scoreless for 3:23 of the major. Smith, who was awarded the “212 Player of the Game” by his teammates, took a shot to the throat before returning to his feet moments later to direct traffic in front of Cosmo.
“I have been coaching for a couple years,” Cordingley said. “There’s no one tougher than Rory Smith. He took the shot in the throat and he got right back up...he’s tough. He’s real tough.”
Toronto eventually found the back of the net on the power play, as Sanderson found Beirnes, who converted on a cross-crease pass to beat Cosmo to even the game.
After the Bandits went on a run, Toronto looked to close late. A Buffalo minor penalty under 2:00 gave Toronto a penalty shot. Cosmo, who made saves on 39-of-49 shots, stood tall on the shot.
“He’s been stellar for us all season,” Cordingley said.
Toronto added a late score with Rose pulled, but never presented a real threat to the lead.
Tempers continued to flare after the horn, as Toronto’s Damon Edwards took two slashing penalties, while Steenhuis took one slashing penalty. But, both teams calmed, as Toronto captain Colin Doyle ended the kerfuffle as he embraced Shawn Williams; yet another sign of how even teams that do not like each other can come together for each other’s benefit.
Buffalo travels to Rochester next Saturday for a 7:30 p.m. faceoff.