All good things must come to an end, and the Buffalo Bandits’ pursuit of a perfect season came to a conclusion Saturday night.
Buffalo entered their game against the Toronto Rock as the only undefeated team remaining in the NLL with a 6-0 record, but the club took its first loss of the season in a 12-10 decision at FirstOntario Centre.
The Bandits never led in the game, although they managed to tie the game in the fourth quarter. However, the Rock regained the lead 1:56 later and held on for the win.
Tom Schreiber scored four of Toronto’s eight first-half goals, including back-to-back power-play goals to completing his hat trick with 3:32 remaining in the second quarter.
Toronto won 22 consecutive faceoffs, allowing the Rock to control pace and possession throughout the game, something that they struggled with in their 12-6 loss to the Bandits in early January.
Buffalo mounted a second-half comeback, not allowing Toronto to score until 4:58 in the final frame as the lead was cut to two.
Kyle Buchanan scored his second goal to tie the game 10-10 on the power play with 7:03 left in the fourth quarter, but former Bandit Mitch de Snoo netted the go-ahead goal less than two minutes later. Toronto went up three before Dhane Smith scored the game’s final goal to make it a two-goal game with 1:29 remaining.
Smith recorded a team-high five points (2+3) while Connor Fields posted his fourth hat-trick performance. Chris Cloutier added three assists.
Josh Byrne, Tehoka Nanticoke, and Matt Spangler also had goals for Buffalo. Matt Vinc stopped 36 shots in the loss.
Rob Hellyer (2+4) tied Schrieber with a game-high six points in the victory, along with fellow linemate Reid Reinholdt recording five points (2+3). Toronto goaltender Nick Rose had 37 saves in his fifth victory of the campaign, placing him one behind Vinc.
Reinholdt opened up the scoring for the Rock, which marked the first time Buffalo didn’t strike first this season. Four minutes later, Byrne scored a highlight-reel dunk goal over Rose’s far shoulder.
✈️ Air Byrne
Watch it on repeat…we know we are. pic.twitter.com/AgL7taBK1K
— NLL (@NLL) February 12, 2022
Toronto’s coach Matt Sawyer threw his first of two challenge flags of the evening, but it was upheld to make it a 1-1 game.
After Challen Rogers converted on a perfectly executed pick-and-roll play, Buffalo picked up two penalties on Brent Noseworthy and a bench minor for an illegal substitution.
Schreiber scored on both power-play opportunities to close out the first quarter with a 4-1 lead.
Buffalo opened the second quarter with a goal from Matt Spanger and two from Fields to tie the game. However, Toronto went on a 4-0 run to close out the half. Buffalo trailed 8-4 after 30 minutes.
Bandits coach John Tavares implemented second-half adjustments and ended up holding an opponent scoreless in a quarter for the fifth time this season. Buffalo outscored Toronto 2-0 in the third to chip away at the deficit.
Early in the fourth quarter, still down by two, Fraser darted to the net. He swam over a defender and faked a pass to Smith before going short side on Rose to score. However, the Rock challenged and were successful. The officials ruled that Fraser’s foot came down in the restricted area before the ball completely passed the goal line.
But that didn’t slow down Buffalo’s rally. Nanticoke and Smith scored to continue to chip away and Buchanan’s game-tying power-play goal caused the Bandits bench to erupt in celebration.
The exuberance didn’t last long. De Snoo came out of the box after receiving a beautiful pass from Rose that went past Vinc to give Toronto the lead back.
The Rock would not relinquish the lead again.
Toronto has now won three in a row. The two teams will meet again in Buffalo during the final week of the season on April 29.
Buffalo next host the Albany FireWolves on Friday, February 18. Faceoff from KeyBank Center is at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are on sale now.