Blame it on jet lag, exhaustion, plain-old bad luck, or just an incredible performance by an opposing netminder, but, for whatever reason, the Buffalo Bandits’ offense was grounded to a halt in the second half of their 13-9 loss to the Toronto Rock on Sunday afternoon at Scotiabank Arena.
The Bandits scored just once in the second half as they were stonewalled by Toronto’s Nick Rose, who made 44 saves to earn the win in goal. Rose stole the show in the third quarter, when he turned away all 17 Bandits shots he faced. He also stopped eight of nine shots in the fourth and final quarter. Buffalo outshot Toronto 52-47 for the game.
Buffalo was playing for the second time in three nights, flying to Toronto after defeating the Vancouver Warriors in British Columbia late on Friday night. Meanwhile, the well-rested Rock hadn’t played since last Saturday. The difference in stamina was apparent in the second half as the Rock outscored the Bandits, 5-1.
Matt Vinc made 35 saves in the loss for Buffalo, his eighth start in goal on the season.
Toronto improved to 5-2 on the season while the Bandits fell to 6-2. It was their first loss since Dec. 28 and their first road loss of the season. The loss means that 6-1 Halifax, on a bye this week, will remain in first place in the NLL North division by half a game.
Dan Dawson was the leading scorer for both teams in the game, notching a hat trick and tallying four assists for the Rock. Rob Hellyer also had a hat trick for Toronto and added two assists for good measure.
Matt Gilray was the leading point getter on the afternoon for Buffalo, scoring twice and adding three assists. Dhane Smith had a hat trick for Buffalo, but the league leader in assists did not have a single helper in this game. Josh Byrne scored twice, while Chris Cloutier and Ian MacKay added goals for the Bandits.
A big reason for the Bandits’ second defeat of the season on Sunday was that several key players were neutralized by Toronto. Corey Small, Chase Fraser, and Garrett Billings had no goals and just two assists between the three of them.
The Bandits had trouble finding their legs early in the game as Toronto opened up a 3-0 lead. The Rock began the scoring with Dawson’s first goal just inside the post on the short side 2:08 in after Rose made a flurry of saves on good Buffalo chances at the other end.
Toronto opened up a 2-0 lead with a transition goal from Josh Jubenville on a 3-on-2 rush 3:39 in.
With 5:54 left in the opening quarter, Hellyer fooled Vinc with a step-back shot that went over his left shoulder and put the Rock up 3-0 before the Bandits had even found their legs in the early going.
The Bandits finally found the scoreboard with 1:31 left in the quarter as Vinc hit MacKay with a perfect lead pass from the Buffalo end all the way down across the Toronto zone. MacKay beat Rose for his fifth goal of the season. Just 20 seconds later, Byrne scored for the 22nd time on the season as he went airborne above the crease and beat Rose with a shot before landing behind the goal line, making it 3-2 Toronto at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter was a wild, back-and-forth period played at a torrid pace. The two teams combined for 11 goals, including six by Buffalo.
Buffalo tied the game 2:56 into the second quarter as Smith beat his man and fired a shot past Rose for his 47th point of the season. But Toronto went back ahead 1:37 later with Dawson’s second goal of the contest, going airborne into the crease and beating Vinc before coming down.
The Bandits tied the game 1:23 later on a beautiful transition play as Mitch de Snoo made a great play to scoop up a loose ball in his own end and used a swim move to get by a defender before feeding Gilray for a long breakaway pass. Gilray walked in all alone and beat Rose for his fourth goal on the season.
But 17 seconds later, Reid Reinholdt scored to put Toronto ahead again, receiving a beautiful pass from Dawson. It was the 900th assist of Dawson’s career.
The goals kept coming fast and furious in the second quarter as Smith tied the game for Buffalo 14 seconds later, blowing by a Toronto defender and walking in on Rose, who had no chance to stop the shot from Smith in close.
Just 1:59 later, Chris Cloutier gave Buffalo the lead for the first time on the afternoon as he scored on a play where he couldn’t corral a pass in transition, but scooped up the loose ball in the corner and walked out in front, diving parallel to the crease and beating Rose with an airborne shot for his 16th goal of the season.
Again, there was an immediate answer as Hellyer was left all alone in front and buried a shot for his second goal of the game 20 seconds after the Cloutier goal. Toronto regained the lead 1:31 later as Zach Manns ripped a shot from far out the beat Vinc. Toronto pushed its lead to two 25 seconds later with its eighth goal of the half on a delayed penalty as Challen Rogers fired a high, hard shot past Vinc.
Fifty-four seconds later, Buffalo cut the lead to one as Smith completed the hat trick with a short side shot past Rose after receiving a pass from Byrne. After the Rock killed off a penalty, Byrne struck for his second of the night and 23rd goal of the season, ripping a shot past Rose on the stick side with 1:46 left in the half. The Bandits wouldn’t score again until 2:39 remained in the game.
With 1:19 to go in the half, Fraser had to leave the game after a diving attempt at a goal was denied by Rose. After Fraser landed, he grabbed the back of his right leg and hobbled to the Buffalo bench. He went to the Bandits’ dressing room but did return early in the third quarter.
The goal-scoring pace slowed to a crawl as the third quarter began. Both teams were scoreless in the first five minutes of the half before David Brock fired a shot past Vinc at 5:06 to put Toronto back ahead. That would be the only goal scored by either team in the third quarter.
Rose put on a show in goal for the Rock in the third quarter, turning away 17 Buffalo shots during the period. The Bandits twice were a man up during the third quarter but couldn’t find the back of the net either time.
As the fourth quarter began, Toronto extended its lead to two as Scott Dominey scored his lone goal of the contest. Things continued to fall apart for the Bandits 3:26 later as Hellyer walked in all alone on Vinc and completed the hat trick, putting the Rock up by three for the first time since they got out to the 3-0 start in the first quarter.
The Rock extended to a four-goal lead, their largest of the night, with 4:45 left to play as Dawson was left alone in front and found the back of the net to complete his hat trick.
The Bandits tried to claw their way back late in the contest as Gilray finally broke the goal-scoring drought with his second of the game with 2:39 to play. It was the Bandits first goal since 1:46 remained in the second quarter. Buffalo then pulled Vinc for an extra attacker, but Brock broke away for an empty net goal with 1:17 left, his second goal of the contest, to salt the game away for the Rock.
The Bandits will return home to KeyBank Center on Saturday as they host the 5-3 Philadelphia Wings on Best Friends Night. Faceoff is at 7 p.m. Tickets are on sale now. https://purchase.tickets.com/buy/TicketPurchase?orgid=1581&agency=BANDITS&pid=8767789&utm_source=bandits&utm_medium=website&utm_content=story&utm_campaign=single-games