The Rock Can’t Overtake the Bandits as History Repeats Itself, Toronto Goes Home & Bandits Move on to Face the FireWolves 5/5/24

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Shawn Palmer, Toronto Rock Correspondent
Lacrosse is Awesome©

Featured Image Photo Credit: K. Richelle

The No. 1 Seed Toronto Rock went down Highway QEW on Sunday May 5, 2024, to visit the No. 4 Seed Buffalo Bandits to try and tie up their semifinal series after their lopsided loss to the Bandits on Friday night.  Matt Vinc stood on his head during Game One allowing only four goals and making 53 saves against the explosive Rock offense.  In tonight’s game, Toronto came out strong and lead by four going into the fourth quarter, but Buffalo would go on a six goal run and once again was able to defeat the Rock in back-to-back games sending them to the NLL finals for the third year in a row and they will have to face the red hot Albany FireWolves.  Final Score:  Bandits 10—Rock 8.

The Bandits opened up the scoring with Tehoka Nanticoke (2G, 2A) passing to Dhane Smith (2G, 4A) at the top and his high to low shot beat Nick Rose (35 saves) to the short side and it was a 1 – 0 lead for Buffalo less than four minutes into the game.  Toronto would get on the board just over halfway through the first quarter and much quicker than the game on Friday night when they didn’t score until the end of the third. Chris Boushy (1G, 2A) went one on one with his defender and his sidearm shot would beat Vinc (52 saves) over the glove shoulder to tie the game at one.  Less than a minute later Dan Craig (1G) jumped from behind the net and dunked the ball over Vinc’s shoulder and into the far side for the first lead of the series for the Rock at 2- 1.  Buffalo would tie it back up two and half minutes later.   Josh Byrne (2G, 5A) would feed to Nanticoke across the floor and he went to the short side with a quick stick shot.  With two left in the frame, while on the two-man advantage, Kyle Buchanan (1G, 1A) received a pass from Smith on the crease and he bounced the shot five hole giving them the lead 3-2.   The shots on goal at the end of the first quarter were Toronto 12—Buffalo 10.

It looked promising for the Rock as they would shut out the Bandits in the frame. Less than two minutes into the second quarter Mark Matthews (2G, 3A) would make a behind the back pass to Corey Small (2G, 1A) and his high to low twister shot would beat Vinc to the short side for the first power play tally in the second and it was tied up at three.  The scoring would halt for the next 10 minutes and with five and change left in the half, Ian MacKay would be hit with a five-minute major for an illegal crosscheck and Toronto made them pay. Matthews got the skip pass from Challen Rogers (1A), and his shot went under the arm to take a 4 – 3 lead.  A minute later while still on the power play Tom Schreiber (1G, 4A) from the top waited until his defender moved, he shot around him to beat Vinc over the shoulder and it was 5 – 3 for the Rock.  Less than 30 seconds later Small would make his way around his defender right to the front of the net and his high to low shot went stick side and the Rock would head into the half with a 6 – 3 lead.  The shots on goal after the second quarter were Toronto 31—Buffalo 17.

Photo Credit: K. Richelle

The teams would tally only two in the third as the fans were able to watch a defensive battle by each of the net minders.  Buffalo would open the scoring in the second half less than four minutes in.  Smith received a flip pass from Nanticoke and his high to low shot beat Rose down low cutting the Rock lead to 6 – 4.  The final tally came with four minutes left in the third. While in transition Toronto would run the floor and while it looked like they had lost the ball it was picked up by Jay Jubenville (1A), he passed to Chris Weier(1G) who beat Vinc to the short side extending their lead to 7 – 4.  The shots on goal after the third quarter were Toronto 41—Buffalo 29.

Toronto would score only one in the fourth and they’d allow Buffalo to go on a six-unanswered scoring streak.  They’d open the scoring in the fourth 1:32 in.  Matthews came down the side and his high to low shot went through the legs and their lead was now four, 8 – 4 for the Rock.  Over the remaining eight minutes, the Bandits would put up six unanswered tallies.  Buffalo would answer back less than a minute later.  Chase Fraser (3G) cut around a pick, shot over his defender and beat Rose with a high to low shot to the far side and it was 8 – 5 for the Rock.  Thirty-five seconds later Nanticoke would come off the bench, Byrne fed him a pass and his low side arm shot went stick side and the Rock le. was down to two at 8 – 6.  Buffalo would continue their run; this time Byrne beat his defender and his high to low twister shot went short side cutting the lead to one at 8 – 7.  Fraser would tie it up with 8:30 left in the game, with Byrne getting another assist.  He’d find Fraser in the middle and his high to low shot went five-hole and it was tied at 8’s.  Buffalo would take the lead with just over five minutes to go and didn’t look back. Fraser beat his defender, cut to the middle and put another one through the legs for the 9-8 lead.  They’d put up one more with 4:45 to go in the Rock season.  After assisting on the previous two tallies, Byrne notched his final on the night.  He beat his defender to the outside, cut to the net, dove across the crease and put another one five-hole on Rose which would turn out to be the game ending goal 10 – 8.    The Rock would get a late power play but could not beat Vinc to stop the six-goal run that the Bandits had been on in the fourth.  With less than 10 seconds left in the game Toronto would be called for a too many men penalty which meant a penalty shot was issued.  The Bandits handed it off to Nanticoke and fortunately he was stopped by Rose. The shots on goal were Toronto 60—Buffalo 45.   Finale Score:  Bandits 10—Rock 8.

For the third straight year the Bandits have defeated the Rock in the Semi-Finals and punched their ticket to the Championship series against the Albany FireWolves.

The Three Stars of the game were:
Matt Vinc – Buffalo Bandits: 53 saves
Josh Byrne – Buffalo Bandits: 2G, 5A
Mark Matthews – Toronto Rock: 2G, 3A


The No. 4 Seed Buffalo Bandits will head to MVP Arena to face the No. 3 Seed Albany FireWolves on Friday May 17, 2024, game time 7:30 p.m. EST.

Then the two teams will head over to KeyBank Center on Saturday May 18, 2024, when Buffalo will host Albany for Game Two.  Game time 7:30 p.m. EST.

If a Game Three is necessary, Buffalo will head back to Albany on Friday, May 24, 2024, for the Championship Finale.  Game time 7:00 p.m. EST.

All games will be telecast on ESPN+ for fans in the USA and TSN+ for fans in Canada.

Shawn Palmer, Toronto Rock Correspondent
Lacrosse is Awesome©