Shawn Palmer, Toronto Rock Correspondent
Lacrosse is Awesome©
Featured Image Photo Credit: Ben Green
The Toronto Rock (2-2) made their way down the QEW highway to take on the Buffalo Bandits (3-0) in a game where both teams donned special jerseys that were to be auctioned off after the game to raise money against cancer. This was the annual Tucker Out Lymphoma game in memory of Tucker Williams the younger brother of former Bandit player Shawn Williams who passed away at the age of eight over seven years ago. Before the game started both teams came together for a picture to commemorate the evening and that would be the last time the teams were so cordial with each other. Toronto came into the game missing Dan Dawson who was out due to COVID protocol and Tom Schreiber who was with his wife who was expecting a baby at any time. The Bandits were able to score early and Matt Vinc (45 saves) kept the Rock offense frustrated which led to a fight filled fourth quarter and win for the Bandits. Final Score: Bandits 12—Rock 6.
The first quarter opened up with Buffalo scoring less than five minutes into the game when Josh Byrne (4G, 3A) with a stutter step shot around his defender and beat Nick Rose (38 saves) with a bounce shot to the short side to give Buffalo a 1- 0 lead. A minute and a half later Byrne scored his second in a row, this time from the top with an over hand shot short side to double the lead to 2 – 0. Buffalo continued their run as Chase Fraser (4G) came off the bench, got a pass from Ian Mackay (1G, 2A) and his over hand shot beat Rose to the short side increasing the lead to three. The shots on goal in the first period favored Buffalo 13 and Toronto 8. The Toronto offense struggled in the first without their two offensive stars and not many great chances. Score at the end of one: Bandits 3—Rock 0.
The Rock would finally get on the board after 21 minutes of game time with Dan Craig (1G, 2A) on the power play getting a rebound off of the glass behind the net and he would deposit it into the net as Vinc didn’t know where the ball had gone after the original shot. This cut the lead to 3 – 1 Bandits. Less than a minute later Fraser would score his second in a row as he went around his defender and with a bounce shot beat Rose through the legs to make it 4 – 1 Buffalo. The Rock would get that one back four minutes later when in transition, Latrell Harris (1A) came up the floor and found Challen Rogers (2G, 3A) coming off of the bench and he beat Vinc to the stick side cutting the Buffalo lead to 4 – 2. Toronto continued the comeback when Rob Hellyer (1G, 2A) went one on one beating his defender low and jumped across the crease and fired one over the shoulder top corner cutting the lead to one 4 – 3. In a nice play 37 seconds later Rogers received a pass from Craig as he cut to the net, dove across the crease and beat Vinc to the opposite side to tie up the game at four apiece. In the last minute of the half, Buffalo had some great ball movement and Kyle Buchanan (2A) passed the ball cross crease to Mackay and his quick stick beat Rose into the empty side of the net to give Buffalo a one goal lead to end the first half. The shots in the first half had turned in favor of Toronto 26 and Buffalo 25. Score at the end of two: Bandits 5—Rock 4.
Buffalo would increased their lead in the third quarter on the four on three power play and Byrne would shoot from the top short side for his hat trick giving the Bandits a 6 – 4 lead. It took only 30 seconds before they added another when Dhane Smith (1G, 5A), on a delayed penalty call came in untouched on Rose and threw four fakes before depositing over top of Rose to make it 7 – 4. While short-handed Byrne beat two defenders and then Rose with a bounce shot for his fourth on the night as Buffalo was now doubling up Toronto 8 – 4. The Rock would finally stop the Buffalo run when Rogers threw a skip pass to Reid Reinholdt (2G) whose quick stick to the short side notched a power play goal getting them within three 8 – 5. Unfortunately for the Rock, they would go man-down and on a late Buffalo power play Fraser took a low to high shot from the outside short side for his hat trick goal increasing the lead back to four. The shots would still favor Toronto 40 and Buffalo 35. Score at the end of three: Bandits 9—Rock 5.
Once again, Buffalo would start the scoring in the fourth when Fraser got a pass in the middle, performed a swim move on his defender to get by him and beat Rose stick side for his fourth on the night 10 – 5 in favor of Buffalo. Toronto would cut the lead to four when Reinholdt was behind the net, faked going one way, went the other and tucked the ball behind Vinc to make it 10 – 6. This would be as close as the Rock would get as Buffalo would score the final two. Tehoka Nanticoke (1G, 1A) ran by the net as Rose made a save, picked up the rebound and deposited the ball behind Rose making it 11 – 5 for the Bandits. With five minutes left in the game tempers started to flare when after a cross check behind the Toronto net all 10 players grabbed a partner and a couple of fights ensued. Even Toronto goalie Rose tried to get involved with one of the Bandits. In the end Toronto ended up with the extra penalty giving the Bandits a power play. During the extra man advantage Chris Cloutier (1G, 6A) received a one handed pass from Nanticoke and beat Rose far side for the final goal in the game. The fisticuffs continued in the last minute of the game with two more fights which showed the overall frustration that the Rock had all night. The game ended the shots on goal favoring Toronto 51 and Buffalo 50. Final Score: Bandits 12—Rock 6.
The Three Stars of the Game were:
Josh Byrne—Buffalo Bandits – 4 goals and 3 assists
Chase Fraser –Buffalo Bandits – 4 goals
Matt Vinc—Buffalo Bandits – 44 saves
The Toronto Rock (2-2) will play host to the Halifax Thunderbirds (2-0) at the First Ontario Centre on Saturday January 15, 2022. Game time 7:00 p.m. EST. This game will be unprecedented as NO fans will be in attendance as announced by the Toronto Rock on January 5, 2022. Fans in the USA can catch the action on ESPN+. This is the Game of the Week in Canada and fans can catch the action on TSN2.
The Buffalo Bandits (3–0) will host the Georgia Swarm (1-2) at Keybank Center on Saturday January 15, 2022. Game time is 7:30 p.m. EST. Fans in the USA can catch the action on ESPN+. Fans in Canada can catch the action on TSN.ca or the TSN app.
Shawn Palmer, Toronto Rock Correspondent
Lacrosse is Awesome©