Rock Offense Fizzles as Bandits Dominate Semi-Finals Game One 5/3/24

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Shawn Palmer, Toronto Rock Correspondent
Lacrosse is Awesome©

Featured Image Photo Credit:  Kevin Sousa

The No. 1 Seed Toronto Rock hosted the No 4. Seed Buffalo Bandits in game one of their semi final series hoping to exercise some playoff demons as they have lost the last two semi final series to Buffalo.  Toronto ended the regular season with the best record in the NLL which allowed them to have the home field advantage for the series.  The Rock started the game off strong firing a bunch of shots at Matt Vinc (53 saves) but couldn’t find the back of the net, in fact they didn’t score their first goal of the game until 39 minutes had been played.  Vinc stood on his head the whole game frustrating the Rock offense all night while the Buffalo offense seemed to find their scoring touch putting up twelve in a 12 – 4 pounding to take a one game lead in the best of three series.

Just under halfway through the first quarter the Buffalo Bandits broke the scoreless tie while in transition when Ian Mackay (1G, 2A) came down the floor on his own and his high to low shot beat Nick Rose (37 saves) to the low stick side corner for the 1 – 0 lead.  Two minutes later another transition opportunity happened for the Bandits. Chase Fraser (2G) and Dylan Robinson (1A) went in on a two on one, Fraser received the pass, and his shot went short side for a two goal Bandit lead.  In the last 30 seconds of the first, Josh Byrne(1G, 4A) would get on the board when he beat his defender, jumped across the crease and his shot went through Rose’s legs, who got a piece of it but it went across the line for a 3 – 0 Buffalo lead.  The shots on goal were Buffalo 12—Toronto 10.

Four minutes into the second quarter Toronto thought they had scored their first goal of the game when Tom Schreiber (1G, 1A) fired a shot over Matt Vinc’s shoulder and into the top corner, but Chris Boushy (1A) had a foot in the crease.  With the Rock thinking they had scored, Vinc proceeded to pick the ball out of the net, fired it down to Chris Cloutier (2G, 1A) who beat Rose to the bottom stick side corner and the Buffalo lead was now four.  Two minutes later with time running out on the shot clock, the Bandits would notch another. Byrne passed to Kyle Buchanan (3G, 1A), he spun, and his shot went glove side.  At the end of the first half, it was Buffalo 5—Toronto 0.  Although the Rock hadn’t put up a goal, they led in shots on goal with 26 and Buffalo ended the half with 21.

Photo Credit: Kevin Sousa-NLL

The third quarter continued the same for Toronto as they couldn’t beat Vinc, and the Bandits struck again.  Five minutes in after some nice passing, Dhane Smith (1G, 3A) received a pass in the middle from Byrne and his shot went five hole and it was 6 – 0 for the Bandits.  After 41 minutes of scoreless lacrosse, Toronto would finally get on the board.  They did it while shorthanded as Justin Martin (1G, 1A) went up the floor on a break and beat Vinc high to the stick side cutting the Bandit lead to 6 – 1.  Buffalo would respond less than 30 seconds later while still on the power play. Brandon Robinson (2G) received a pass from Smith and his quick stick went top corner on the short side and the Buffalo lead was back to six at 7 – 1.  The Bandits would strike once more with less than 20 seconds left in the frame. While Tehoka Nanticoke (1A) was laying on the floor, he was able to pick up the loose ball, flip it to Robinson whose shot went low to the short side, and they had a commanding seven goal lead 8 – 1 at the end of the third.  The shots on goal were Buffalo 37—Toronto 36.

With 15 minutes left for the Rock to make a comeback, they’d score the first goal in the fourth quarter.  Schreiber came flying off the bench, received a pass from Martin and his side arm shot beat Vinc over the shoulder to cut the Bandit lead to 8 – 2.  Toronto would pull Rose for an extra attacker and when they lost the ball Troy Holowchuk (1 save) came into the net and Buchanan greeted him with shot from the middle that went over his shoulder and it was 9 – 2.  Toronto Bench Boss Matt Sawyer would pull Holowchuk 45 seconds later for the extra attacker, but Vinc made the save, passed to Buchanan off the bench and he put it into the empty net to make it 10 – 2 Buffalo.  The Bandits just kept pouring it on.  Thirty seconds later Byrne would pass to Fraser, and he beat Holowchuk to the short side increasing their lead to nine at 11 – 2.  The Rock would finally stop the run.   Corey Small (2G) picked up a rebound and his bounce shot would beat Vinc through the legs to make it 11 – 3.  Small would score his second goal in a row 25 seconds later.  He received a pass from Schreiber and his bounce would go far side giving the Rock their last tally on the night.  With just over a minute left in the game, while shorthanded the Bandits struck one final time. Cloutier received a pass from Smith and hist shot beat Holowchuk to the short side to finish the scoring.  Final Score:  Buffalo 12—Toronto 4.   The shots on goal at the end of the game were Toronto 57—Buffalo 50.

The Three Stars of the game were:
Matt Vinc – Buffalo Bandits: 53 saves, 1 Assist
Kyle Buchanan – Buffalo Bandits: 3 Goals, 1 Assist
Josh Byrne – Buffalo Bandits: 1 Goal, 4 Assists

Game Two of the Semi-Final series will take place on Sunday May 5, 2024, at Key Bank Center in Buffalo.  Game time 5:30 p.m. EST.  Fans in the USA can see the game on ESPNU & ESPN+.  Fans in Canada get to catch the action on TSN.

Shawn Palmer, Toronto Rock Correspondent
Lacrosse Is Awesome©