After losing the previous five games, the Buffalo Bandits were hoping to finally get that monkey off their back and return to their winning ways in their matchup today against the Toronto Rock.
With the Bandits unable to secure the victory tonight against the Rock, they watch their possibility of hosting the opening round of the playoffs against the Rock slipping away.
The Rock (8-9) were able to score three goals in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter to come away with the 13-9 victory over the Bandits (8-8) in front of 11,276 at the Air Canada Centre on “Fan Appreciation Night.”
Stephan Leblanc’s three power play goals during the game helped the Rock keep the Bandits away from the lead en route to their third win in a row.
Leblanc ended the game with four points (3 G, 1 A) and earned first star honors from the media.
Rock forward Rob Hellyer led all runners this evening with seven points (1 G, 6 A) and earned the game’s second star honors.
Earning third star honors in the win this evening was Rock starting goaltender Nick Rose. Rose made his first start in three games and put in a valiant effort with 48 saves on 57 shots with a save percentage of .842 in the win.
Hellyer would get the Rock on the board first with his only goal of the night just two minutes into the game. The Bandits would counter with a goal of their own from Mitch Jones less than a minute later. The Rock would get a pair of goals from Kasey Beirnes to give them the 3-1 lead midway through the first quarter. Bandits leading scorer Ryan Benesch would score 13 seconds later to chip away at the Rock’s 3-2 lead with less than five minutes to go in the quarter.
The play between the Rock and Bandits began to get pretty chippy the rest of the way through the opening quarter with the Rock taking full advantage of the situation. Leblanc was able to give the Rock a pair power play goals stemming from a slashing penalty assessed to Bandits defenseman Rory Smith and an illegal cross-checking penalty assessed to Bandits forward Mark Steenhuis. The pair of power-play goals from Leblanc gave the Rock the 5-2 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The Bandits came out hungry in the beginning of the second quarter looking to swing the momentum back into their favor.
In a little over five and a half minutes, the Bandits opened the second quarter on a 3-0 run with goals from John Tavares, Aaron Wilson and Shawn Williams to tie the game all up at 5-5. Unfortunately for the Bandits, forward Kevin Ross placed the lead back into the hands of the Rock with the 6-5 lead at halftime.
For the fans in attendance and the others watching by the internet, NLL history was made tonight. At 4:34 of the second quarter, Bandits goaltender Anthony Cosmo made NLL history when he recorded his 663rd save of the season. Rochester Knighthawk goalie Matt Vinc was the previous holder of the saves record when he was awarded the title last year.
Stephan Leblanc helped get the second half scoring started for the Rock with his third power play goal of the evening coming from a holding the stick minor penalty assessed to Rory Smith. Kevin Ross received his second goal of the game at the 7:29 mark of the third quarter to give the Rock an 8-5 lead.
Even though the Rock had the three goal lead midway through the third quarter, the Bandits refused to give up without a fight. The Bandits would start to gain some ground through the rest of the third by going on a 2-1 run with goals coming from Mark Steenhuis and Dhane Smith to cut the Rock lead to 9-6 by the end of the third.
The Rock would be the first to get on the scoreboard again in the fourth and final quarter with a goal coming from Scott Johnston at 3:28. It was déjà vu all over again as the Rock’s three goal lead started to slip through their fingers as the Bandits gave it one last shot to try to turn the game around.
The Bandits would get two more goals from Western New York native Joe Resetarits and John Tavares to bring the Bandits within one of the Rock’s 10-9 lead with five minutes left in the game.
Refusing to let the Bandits sweep the regular season series and receive home field advantage in the opening round of the playoffs, the Rock were able to break away by scoring three goals in the final two minutes to secure the victory.
Buffalo’s next game will be Saturday April 19 on the road at the Blue Cross Arena in their third of four regular season matchups with the Rochester Knighthawks.