Despite the Loss in Buffalo, Toronto Locks in a Playoff Spot 3/16/24

Logos Courtesy of NLL

Shawn Palmer, Toronto Rock Correspondent
Lacrosse is Awesome©

 Featured Image Photo Credit:  Mike Hetzel

 The Toronto Rock (11-3) travelled down the QEW Highway to take on the Buffalo Bandits (7-6) Saturday night March 16, 2024.  Toronto is at the top of the NLL standings and were on a five-game winning streak while the Bandits have a surprising .500 record and are fighting to stay in a playoff spot.  Buffalo had already beaten the Rock in Toronto this season, so the Rock were looking to even the season series. Toronto came out strong to start the game only to see Buffalo go on a run to take the lead at the end of the first quarter.  The Rock’s defense then stood strong holding Buffalo off of the board for the second quarter and headed into the second half up by three.  Buffalo kept chipping away at the Toronto lead until the fourth quarter when they took the lead with less than three minutes left in the game and an empty net goal allowed the over 18,000 Bandits faithful to go home happy with a 14 – 12 Buffalo win.

The Rock would open the scoring 25 seconds into the first quarter.  Mark Matthews (2G, 4A) passed to Chris Boushy (4G) and his bounce shot on the run beat Matt Vinc (48 saves) to the top corner on the far side for the 1 – 0 lead.  Tom Schreiber (1G, 5A) followed that goal with a side arm shot of his own to the short side as the shot was screened on the way in and it was 2 – 0 for Toronto.  While shorthanded Buffalo picked up a quick start off a possession call and Ian MacKay (2G, 1A) would go in all alone on Nick Rose (40 saves) and beat him to the stick side cutting the Rock lead to 2 – 1.  Toronto would regain their two-goal lead when Brad Kri made a pick on the defender which freed up Josh Dawick (1G, 1A) whose overhand high to low shot went short side and it was 3 – 1.  But Buffalo would answer back right away.  Chase Fraser (2G, 1A) was fed a pass off of the bench by Nick Weiss (1G, 3A) and as he jumped over the crease, he beat Rose over the shoulder and it was 3 – 2.  A minute later Corey Small (4G, 2A) would get a pass from Dawick and his bounce shot from the top went far low side and it was 4 – 2 Rock lead.  Dhane Smith (3G, 4A) was next and beat his defender to the inside, ran directly to the net and went far side to make it 4 – 3 Rock, but as he jumped through the crease he hit Rose which resulted in a Rock power play.  While on the power play, Boushy picked up his own rebound in front of the net and his second shot went through the legs increasing the Rock lead to 5 – 3.  With just under two minutes left in the first, Buffalo would tally three in a row.  Tehoka Nanticoke (2G) came around the top, faked a pass and then fired a high to low shot that beat Rose stick side low, and they were back within one at 5 – 4.  In transition 20 seconds later, Dylan Robinson (1G, 1A) went in all alone on a pass from MacKay and he beat Rose through the legs with a bounce shot tying the game at five.  With the goalie pulled and less than 30 seconds left in the first, Smith on the give and go from Cloutier, beat Rose to the short side giving Buffalo their first lead of the game at 6 – 5 at the end of one.  The shots on goal were Toronto 19—Buffalo 8.

Six minutes into the second quarter Toronto would tie the game and control the full fifteen. Small came around his defender and his low-to-high shot went top corner to tie the game at six.  While on the power play Matthews made a skip pass to Boushy on the crease and his quick stick bounce shot went short side for his hat trick and Toronto regained the lead 7 – 6.  With less than three minutes left in the first half, Small would go around his defender, head right to the net and his bounce shot went far side top corner increasing the Toronto lead to 8 – 6.  They’d close out the half on the power play with Small scoring his second in a row and fourth of the game. He threw three fakes in front of the net and his twister shot beat Vinc to the short side and it was 9 – 6 Toronto.  The shots on goal at the end of the first half were Toronto 34—Buffalo 20 as Toronto shut out the Bandits in the second quarter.

Photo by Mike Hetzel/NLL

Both teams had power play chances early in the third quarter with no goals and then over seven minutes into the frame, the Bandits would strike.  Smith passed to a cutting Josh Byrne (2G, 5A) and his twister shot beat Rose over the shoulder cutting the Toronto lead to 9 – 7.  This was the first goal for the Bandits in over 24 minutes.  Toronto would get that one back while on a power play of their own. Matthews took a high to low show from the top that went five hole, and the Rock were up by three, 10 – 7.  With less than three minutes left in the third, Boushy would get hit with a five-minute major for boarding after hitting MacKay into the boards.  Buffalo would go on the power play.  Byrne’s shot would miss the net, come off of the boards to Nanticoke and he put it into the short side behind Rose with 42 seconds left in the third to cut the Rock lead to 10 – 8.

The Bandits would carry their man up into the fourth and just as the major penalty ended, Fraser would shoot around his defender and he beat Rose over the far shoulder to make it a one goal game with the Rock ahead 10 – 9 and just under 12 minutes left in the final frame.  Buffalo would tie the game up once more less than three minutes later.  Smith came through the middle, broke his defenders’ ankles with a fake and went over the stick side shoulder to tie the game at 10’s with less than 10 minutes left.  The Rock would halt the run less than a minute later when Schreiber sent a behind the back pass to Boushy and his twister shot beat Vinc through the legs for his fourth goal of the game and the Rock would retake the lead at 11 – 10.  A minute later Matthews would come around the top, his shot went off Vinc’s pads and bounced over the line to give the Rock a 12 – 10 lead with 8:21 to go.  Buffalo would respond with an outside shot that was stopped by Rose, but he didn’t know where the rebound went, MacKay picked it up and deposited it into the open side cutting the Rock lead to 12 – 11.  After a big save by Vinc, while in transition Cam Wyers (1A) finds Chris Cloutier (1G, 3A) off of the bench and his low-to-low shot went through the legs tying the game at 12’s with five minutes left.  The last two came from the Bandits and they would take the lead. Byrne would beat Kri, he dove across the crease and beat Rose back to the short side giving the Bandits their second lead of the night 13 – 12 and what would turn out to be the game winning goal.  With the goalie pulled for the extra attacker, Toronto tried to tie the game but a pass was picked off by Steve Priolo (1A), he passed it up to Nick Weiss (1G, 3A) and he deposited the ball into the empty net to make it 14 – 12 for the Bandits win.  The shots on goal were Toronto 60—Buffalo 54.

The Three Stars of the game were:
Dhane Smith – Buffalo Bandits:  3 Goals, 4 Assists
Josh Byrne – Buffalo Bandits: 2 Goals, 5 Assists
Corey Small – Toronto Rock: 4 Goals, 2 Assists


The Toronto Rock (11-3) will host the Halifax Thunderbirds (8-6) at FirstOntario Centre on Saturday March 23, 2024, game time 7:00 p.m. EST.  Fans in the USA can see the game on ESPN+.  Fans in Canada get to see the game on TSN+.

The Buffalo Bandits (7-6) will head to Ft. Worth, TX to face the Panther City Lacrosse Club (6-7) on Friday March 22, 2024, game time 8:00 p.m. EST.  Fans in the USA can see the game on ESPN+.  Fans in Canada get to see the game on TSN+.

Shawn Palmer, Toronto Rock Correspondent
Lacrosse is Awesome©