Toronto Loses Tough Battle in Banditland in Game One of the Eastern Division Finals 5/12/23

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Shawn Palmer, Toronto Rock Correspondent
Lacrosse is Awesome©

Featured Image Photo Credit: M. Hetzel

For the third year in a row the Buffalo Bandits and Toronto Rock met in the Eastern Finals.  On Friday night the Rock visited Buffalo for Game One of the finals.  Unlike last weekend’s game, the Rock would have their top scorer in the lineup as Tom Schreiber was back.  During the regular season the Buffalo Bandits edged the Rock 2 wins to 1 to secure home floor advantage for the playoffs.  Buffalo was able to ride a seven-goal run in the second and third quarters to defeat the Rock 14 – 5 as Vinc makes 52 saves stifling the Toronto offense and holding them to 0-5 on man up opportunities as well.

Thirty seconds into the first quarter the Buffalo Bandits found the back of the net as Josh Byrne (5G, 2A) fired a high to low shot from the top that beat Nick Rose (17 saves) to the stick side for a 1 – 0 lead on the first shot of the game.  Four minutes later Tom Schreiber (2G, 2A) faked around two players at the top and beat Matt Vinc (52 saves) with a high to low shot to the short side to tie it up at one.  Buffalo would that one back when Tehoka Nanticoke (2G, 1A) spun away from his defender and split two others and while falling his sidearm shot went to the glove side to regain the lead for Buffalo 2 – 1.  Chase Fraser (2G) would take a high to low shot 16 seconds later to the short side to make it 3 – 1 Buffalo.  It took 25 seconds for Challen Rogers (3g, 2A) to fire a side arm shot around his defender and he was able to beat Vinc to the near side to cut the Bandit lead to 3 – 2 with just over five minutes left in the first quarter.  Buffalo would notch one in transition as Justin Robinson (1G, 1A) faked like he was going to pass off, beat his defender to the net and as he was falling his bounce shot went through the legs and it was 4 – 2 for Buffalo.  While playing four on four Rogers would step back and his bounce shot went over the shoulder into the top corner cutting the Buffalo lead to 4 – 3 with less than three minutes left in the first frame.  Neither team could fine twine for the last three minutes.  At the end of the first quarter the shots on goal were Toronto 11 and Buffalo 9.

After the Rock were unable to score on two power plays, It took over nine minutes before the first goal would find the back of the net. The Bandits would go on transition, Byrne got a pass from Dhane Smith (8A), and he jumped across the crease to beat Rose to the short side, and it was 5 – 3.  Less than 30 seconds later Byrne would notch his hat trick goal on a high to low shot to the far side and the Bandits had their largest lead at 6 – 3.  Toronto would cut into the Buffalo lead when Rogers beat his defender to the net and his shot beat Vinc far side for his hat trick goal and it was 6 – 4.  Buffalo would respond right back a little over a minute later when Nanticoke got the ball in front of the net threw two fakes and beat Rose over the shoulder for his second goal of the game to restore the three goal Bandit lead 7 – 4.  At the end of the second quarter the shots on goal were Toronto 28 and Buffalo 21.

Photo Credit: M. Hetzel

Buffalo would start the second half on the power play and Fraser took a shot that was blocked, he grabbed his own rebound and beat Rose with a shot to the low stick side to make it 8 – 4.  This started their six-goal run and in turn, they’d shut out the Rock in the frame. In transition Ian Mackay (1A) snatched the ball, went coast to coast and went stick side to increase the Bandit lead 9 – 4.  Buffalo scored again as Kyle Buchanan (1G, 2A) fed to Byrne right in front of the net and his twister shot went far side 10 – 4 for Buffalo.  On a delayed penalty to Toronto Buchanan would get a pass in the middle and went five-hole to make it 11 – 4. At that point, Toronto Bench Boss Matt Sawyer had seen enough and gave Troy Holowchuk (10 saves) the nod and Nick Rose headed to the bench.  Byrne quickly welcomed him to the game and fired a laser from the outside to beat Holowchuk between the legs for his fifth of the game to make it 12 – 4.  Holowchuk did well and kept the Bandits out of the net for seven minutes.  But with 57 seconds left in the frame, Toronto would go man down and it only took 15 seconds before the Bandits would once again capitalize. Chris Cloutier (2G, 1A) would take a sidearm shot to the bottom stick side corner for a power-play tally to make it 13 – 4.  The shots at the end of the third quarter were Toronto 39 and Buffalo 35.  The Rock had gone 18 minutes without a goal.

The fourth quarter was a battle of the net minders with only two goals finding the back of the net. Less than 30 seconds into the fourth Toronto would finally beat Vinc when Schreiber took a sidearm shot that went into the bottom corner to make it 13 – 5 and stops the Bandits seven goal run.  The final tally of the game came on another power play from Cloutier when he fired a sidearm bounce shot that beat Holowchuk through the legs to increase their lead to nine.  Final Score:  Buffalo 14—Toronto 5.

Toronto Rock—SOG 57; Saves 27; Sv% .659; FO 17-23; PP 0-5
Buffalo Bandits—SOG 41; Saves 52; Sv% .912% FO 6-23; PP 2-5

The Three Stars of the game were:
Matt Vinc – Buffalo Bandits: 52 saves
Dhane Smith – Buffalo Bandits: 8A
Josh Byrne – Buffalo Bandits: 5G, 2A


The two teams meet again tonight Saturday May 13, 2023, in Hamilton at First Ontario Centre for Game Two of the Eastern Division Finals.  Fans in the USA can see the action on ESPN+. Fans in Canada can see the game on or the TSN app.

Shawn Palmer, Toronto Rock Correspondent
Lacrosse is Awesome©