The Buffalo Bandits’ cross-border rivalry will be renewed on Saturday night as the Toronto Rock come to KeyBank Center for a North Division showdown. Faceoff will be at 7 p.m.
It’s Toronto’s first visit to Buffalo since the two teams met in the Eastern Division Final back in May, which Buffalo won to advance to the NLL Final for the 10th time in their history.
Both the Bandits and Rock are coming off wins last Saturday. Toronto improved to 3-1 and remained a game behind undefeated Halifax in the race for first place in the North Division with a 13-12 home victory over the Rochester Knighthawks. The Rock were led by Zach Manns and Rob Hellyer, who each netted hat tricks. Hellyer also notched his 500th career NLL point in the win, the fifth Toronto Rock player ever to accomplish this feat. Damon Edwards scored the game-winner for the Rock late in the fourth quarter. It was the third straight victory for Toronto after dropping its opener to New England.
- Tickets for Saturday
Meanwhile, the Bandits got back on the winning track with a 16-10 victory over the Georgia Swarm. Buffalo welcomed Chase Fraser back to the lineup and his return paid immediate dividends as he turned in a six-point night with a hat trick and three assists. Chris Cloutier also tallied three goals and three assists and Josh Byrne had a hat trick of his own as well.
The Bandits, who were looking to bounce back after a home loss to Halifax where they were shut out in the second quarter, wasted no time in jumping out to a big lead against the Swarm. The Bandits scored 11 times in the first half and held a 12-3 lead at one point in the third quarter.
Buffalo also rebounded on the defensive end against Georgia after a tough night against Halifax two weeks earlier. The Bandits got defensive stalwart and team captain Steve Priolo back in the lineup and he helped lead a defensive effort that held the Swarm to just three goals in the first half. The Bandits also killed off a five-minute Georgia power play late in the fourth quarter that ended any chance of a Swarm comeback. Bandits’ netminder Matt Vinc made 44 saves in the victory.
Buffalo will have another tough challenge on Saturday from a team they’re well familiar with. The Bandits and Rock met four times last season, including Buffalo’s 12-8 win in the Eastern Division Final back on May 11, which sent the Bandits to the NLL Final against Calgary. Toronto did beat Buffalo in two out of the three regular season meetings.
Hellyer leads the Toronto offense with 19 points (10+9). The Rock have three players with 17 points so far on the season – Dan Craig (8+9), Dan Dawson (7+10), and Tom Schreiber (6+11). The player to watch on the defensive end for Toronto is Brad Kri, who is tied for the league lead with 10 caused turnovers.
In goal, Nick Rose has played every single minute for the Rock this season and has posted a .799 save percentage and 10.00 goals-against average.
As for the Bandits, Dhane Smith continues to lead the team in points with 17, including a team-high 11 assists. He notched five of those assists in the win at Georgia. Cloutier leads the Bandits in goals with eight, while Byrne is nipping at his heels with seven goals. Defensively, Mitch de Snoo is tied for the team lead in both loose balls (23) and caused turnovers (5).
This is the first of three matchups between Toronto and Buffalo this season. The teams will meet again on Feb. 9 at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.
The Bandits will be hosting 90s Night on Saturday when Toronto visits. Tickets are still available. A 90s Night Ticket Pack is available that includes two (2) 100 level end tickets and a Bandits’ fanny pack for $50.
Those who can’t make it to the game can watch online at B/R Live or tune into the radio broadcast on ESPN 1520.