ECF Starts with a Thriller as Bandits Edge Rock – 5/16/2022

Shawn Palmer, Toronto Rock Correspondent
Lacrosse is Awesome©

Featured Image courtesy of Buffalo Bandits Media Team.

The Toronto Rock drove down Highway 401 to meet the Buffalo Bandits in Game One of the Eastern Conference Final which placed two of the top regular season teams in the NLL against each other.  It was a game of runs that went back and forth throughout and ended with the Buffalo Bandits coming away with an 18 – 17 win.  Prior to the game all of the talk was about how well the defenses have been playing this year and in the end it was both offenses that took over the game.  Final Score:  Toronto-17, Buffalo-18.

The Bandits came out of the gate with the first goal of the game 33 seconds into the quarter when Josh Byrne (4G, 7A) cut through the middle and received a pass from Dhane Smith (3G, 7A) to beat Toronto goaltender Nick Rose (33 saves) through the legs.  The Rock tied it up 25 seconds later when Rob Hellyer (2G, 3A) came down the side and released a sidearm shot around his defender to beat Bandit netminder Matt Vinc (41 saves) to the short side.  Less than a minute later Ian MacKay (1G, 1A) took it coast to coast and dunked the ball over Rose to regain the lead.  30 seconds after that Zach Manns (4G, 1A) scored from the top with a sidearm shot that beat Vinc to the stick side and the teams were tied at two.  Connor Fields (2G, 2A) was up top and released a high to low bounce shot that beat Rose through the five hole and Buffalo regained the lead at 3-2.  30 seconds later Steve Priolo (1G, 1A) stripped the ball behind the Rock net before coming in front and letting loose a backhand shot to the far side to make it 4-2.  Smith increased the lead to three as his high to low bounce shot beat Rose to the short side.  Justin Scott (2G, 3A) fired a low to high laser that picked the top corner for his first playoff goal to cut the deficit back to two.  The shots on goal after the first quarter were Buffalo 16 and Toronto 12.  At the end of the first quarter, Buffalo led Toronto 5-3.

Photo Credit: Michael Hetzel/NLL

Toronto started the scoring in the second quarter as Manns came across the top and launched a sidearm shot under the arm of Vinc to quickly cut the deficit to one.  Tom Schreiber (3G, 5A) then tied the game up with a high to low shot.  Schreiber scored his second in a row when he received a pass from Mitch de Snoo (2A) and released a sidearm bomb around his defender to give Toronto their first lead of the game at 6-5.  Just over a minute later, Manns picked up a loose ball, used his defender as a screen, and beat Vinc to the far side for his hat trick goal and a two-goal lead on the road.  Buffalo stopped the Rock run as Chase Fraser (2G, 2A) came over the top and his high-to-high shot beats Rose over the shoulder to make it 7-6.  Less than a minute later, Buffalo tied it up as Smith dodged to the middle and took a shot back to the short side past Rose.  Fraser gave the Bandits a highlight reel goal as he received a behind the back pass and released a shot through his legs to beat Rose in the bottom corner.   Less than 30 seconds later Chris Cloutier (3G, 2A) scored with a low to high shot beating Rose to the glove side and Buffalo had a two-goal lead again at 9-7.  The Bandits continued their run as Cloutier notched his second in a row.  With Rose pulled for an extra attacker in the waning minutes, Challen Rogers (3G, 2A) fired an overhand shot past Vinc to the short side to bring the deficit back to two.  The shots at the end of the first half were Buffalo 31 and Toronto 28.  At the half, Buffalo led Toronto 10-7.

Buffalo opened the scoring in the second half just over 30 seconds in as Byrne score from the top with a high-to-low shot that stretched the lead to three.  Buffalo extended their lead as Cloutier received a pass on the crease and dove across beating Rose over the near shoulder to make it 12-8 for Buffalo.  The Rock halted the Bandits run when Craig scored a high to low shot that beat Vinc through the legs to make it 12-9 for Buffalo.  28 seconds later, Manns fired a low to high seeing eye shot that found the top corner over Vinc’s shoulder and the lead was cut back down to two.  Rogers continued the Rock scoring when he beat his defender low and pushed the ball past Vinc to the far side.   Toronto continued their run in the third quarter when Craig took an overhand shot that beat Vinc to the low corner with 1:32 left.  The shots after three quarters were Toronto 41 and Buffalo 40. At the end of the third quarter, Toronto and Buffalo were tied 12-12.

Toronto started the scoring in the fourth quarter when Brandon Slade (1G, 1A) scored on a jump shot in transition that beat Rose short side.  The goal gave Toronto the lead at 13-12.   Toronto added to the lead when Rogers unleashed a sidearm shot around his defender that beat Vinc over the shoulder.  Buffalo got that one back less than a minute later when Kyle Buchanan (1G, 1A) picked up a loose ball in front of the net and put it over Rose’s shoulder to stop the Toronto run and make it 14-13.  Byrne then cut to the net around his defender, jumped straight and high and beat Rose to the short side to tie the game up 14-14.  Just over a minute later Smith fired a cross crease pass to Byrne whose quick stick beat Rose to the open side for his sixth goal of the game to give Buffalo back the lead at 15-14. Not done yet, Tehoka Nanticoke (1G, 1A) cut through the middle, threw five fakes, and beat Rose through the legs to increase the Bandits lead to 16-14.  Fields then found himself behind the net, dove forward and tucked the ball into the top corner behind Rose to give Buffalo a three-goal lead.  Hellyer answered and beat his defender releasing a high to high shot that went bar down to break the Bandit run and cut the deficit to two.  Three minutes later Scott spun around his defender and beats Vinc under the stick hand to cut the lead to one.  A minute later Smith fired a sidearm bounce shot that beats Rose over the shoulder into the top corner to extend the Buffalo lead back to two with less than two minutes remaingin.  With the goalie pulled for the extra attacker, Schreiber fired a low to low that beat Vinc through the five hole with nine seconds left in the game to bring the Rock within one goal.  TD Ierlan (27/38 faceoffs) won the ensuing faceoff and passed to Hellyer for the last shot of the game.  Unfortunately for the Rock, the shot hit the post and stayed out and the home crowd erupted with joy.  Final Score:  Toronto-17, Buffalo-18.

The Three stars of the game were:

Josh Byrne – 4G, 7A

Dhane Smith – 3G, 7A

Tom Schreiber – 3G, 5A

Up Next:

The Toronto Rock will host the Buffalo Bandits on Saturday March 21st at 7pm for the second game of the best two out of three series.