Bandits Crumble the Rock’s Hope for the Run at the Champions Cup 5/13/23

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Shawn Palmer, Toronto Rock Correspondent
Lacrosse is Awesome©

Featured Image Photo Credit:  Christian Bender

The Toronto Rock hosted the Buffalo Bandits in Hamilton on Saturday night in game two of the Eastern Finals.  Buffalo won the first game the night before 14 – 5 and it was a repeat performance on Saturday as the Bandits went on a 7 – 0 run in the second quarter on their way to a 17 – 8 win.

The Bandits opened the scoring just over a minute into the game when Josh Byrne (2G, 8A) cut through the middle, received a pass from Brad McCulley (1A) and beat Nick Rose (34 saves) to the stick side for a 1 – 0 lead for Buffalo.  Just over a minute later Corey Small (2G, 1A) was sent a flip pass from Dan Dawson (3A) and he beat Matt Vinc (33 saves) to the far side to tie it at one.  A few minutes later Dhane Smith (3G, 5A) would fire a high-to-high shot top corner on the short side to re–establish the one goal Bandit lead 2 – 1.  Right off the ensuing faceoff Phil Mazzuca (1G, 1A) grabbed a loose ball and shot high to low off the far post and seven seconds later to tie it at two.  Buffalo would respond while shorthanded when Tehoka Nanticoke (3G, 1A) cut through the middle and his shot went through the legs to regain the lead 3 – 2.  The Rock would finish the scoring in the first when Small grabbed his own rebound and fired a shot low to the glove side tying the game at three.  The shots at the end of the first quarter were Toronto 18 and Buffalo 14.

Just over three minutes into the second quarter while in transition Chris Cloutier (6G, 2A) took a low-to-low shot that went under the arm for a shorthanded tally putting Buffalo up again 4 – 3.  The Rock while still on the power play, and 20 seconds later Dan Craig (3G) on a BTB pass from Challen Rogers (2A) beat Vinc to the short side to tie it again at four.  Unfortunately for Toronto they’d get knabbed for a five-minute major for high sticking and while on the power play Cloutier would grab the rebound and shot high to low to beat Rose to the far side to make it 5 – 4 Buffalo.  And just like last night, Buffalo would go on another run, this time they’d score seven goals and shut out the Rock for the remainder of the frame. Thirty seconds later on the same power play Dhane Smith (3G, 5A) from up top would fire a low-to-low shot that went five-hole, and it was 6 – 4.  A minute later Cloutier cut through the middle, got the dish from Byrne and his shot went low to the stick side for a 7 – 4 lead.  It took only 10 seconds for Nanticoke cut around a pick and go over the shoulder to make it 8 – 4.   Once again, Toronto’s Bench Boss Matt Sawyer would pull Rose with Troy Holowchuk (6 saves).  Just over a minute later Cloutier would fire a shot from way outside and went stick side for his hat trick increasing Buffalo’s lead to 9 – 4.  Thirteen seconds later Nanticoke put in his hat trick goal off a pass from Smith, he cut through in front and went short side to make it 10 – 4.  Less than 20 seconds later Chase Fraser (1G) cut across the top and his sidearm laser picked the top corner, and it was 11 – 4.  In less than seven minutes during the second quarter the Bandits scored seven unanswered goals and the shots at the end of the first half were Buffalo 37 and Toronto 27.

Photo Credit: Christian Bender

Toronto would finally 3 minutes and 32 seconds into the third and having gone more than 15 minutes without a goal score. Jay Jubenville(1G) in transition would fire a high to low shot that beat Vinc through the legs to cut the Bandits lead to six at 11 – 5.  Thirty seconds later Buffalo got that one back as Justin Robinson (1G) picked up a loose ball and in transition went right in on Rose and beat him with a shot to the glove side and it was 12 – 5.  Halfway through the third quarter while on the power play and after a lot of good passing Craig put in a quick stick shot through the legs on a pass from Rogers to get Toronto to within six 12 – 6.  But a minute later Buffalo would respond while on a delayed penalty, send Vinc to the bench for the extra attacker and Smith would cut around his defender and go over the shoulder top corner to make it 13 – 6.  Toronto would go back on the power play and Craig got the dish from Dawson and he went stick side for his hat trick goal 13 – 7.  But once again, the Bandits fired back with 35 seconds left in the frame and Byrne would beat his defender down low, jumped across the crease and went far side increasing the lead seven 14 – 7.  The shots at the end of the third quarter were Buffalo 46 and Toronto 36.

It was do or die for the Rock with 15 minutes left in their season.  They’d open the scoring in the final quarter in transition when Brandon Slade (1G) went in alone on Vinc and beat him with a bounce shot through the legs to get Toronto within six at 14 – 8.  But that was it for the home squad.  Buffalo would control the rest of the frame although the Rock would only allow them to score three more times. Three minutes later Cloutier came through the middle untouched and beat Holowchuk to the stick side and it was 15 – 8.  Toronto would pull the goalie in favor of the extra attacker and 30 seconds later, Steve Priolo (1G, 1A) got the pass from Vinc and put it into the empty net to make it 16 – 8 for Buffalo.  With just over five minutes left in the game Cloutier came off the bench, got the pass from Smith and beat Rose over the shoulder to complete the scoring at 17 – 8.  For the remainder of the game, Buffalo pulled Vinc and put in Devlin Shanahan (6 saves).  Buffalo withstood any push that Toronto tried during the last few minutes and every time the Bandits had possession, they would run down the shot clock until the game ended.

Buffalo Bandits—SOG 57; Saves 39; Sv% .830%; FO 13-29; PP 2-4
Toronto Rock—SOG 47; Saves 40; Sv% .702%; FO 16-29; PP 3-5

The three stars of the game were:
Chris Cloutier – Buffalo Bandits: 6G, 2A
Josh Byrne – Buffalo Bandits: 2G, 8A
Dhane Smith – Buffalo Bandits: 3G, 5A


The Buffalo Bandits will take on the winner of the Calgary Roughnecks and Colorado Mammoth in the NLL Finals which will begin the weekend of May 26, 2023.

Shawn Palmer, Toronto Rock Correspondent
Lacrosse is Awesome©