Down four goals at half time, the Buffalo Bandits (1-1) rallied back in the second half to pull out the 12-10 win against the Toronto Rock (1-1) Friday night in front of 11,404 fans at the First Niagara Center. The win this evening is the first home victory this season for the Bandits and also their first home win after a span of six straight home losses dating back from last season. Ryan Benesch led the Bandits to their first victory of the season and was the recipient of the game’s first star honor as he recorded five points on three goals and two assists.
Buffalo Bandits head coach Troy Cordingley addressed the media after the game and talked about his first head coaching win with the Bandits. “We needed a win. We needed to build our confidence. We needed to work and that’s what we did tonight.” Cordingley further added, “When teams come in here, they’re going to be in for a battle. Two weeks ago (that was not true), but tonight it was a battle. It was good lacrosse.”
Toronto’s special teams expertise came to the forefront early on into tonight’s game and helped them open their scoring assault against Buffalo. Stephan Leblanc and Kasey Biernes each scored on the man advantage helping to give Toronto the 2-0 lead midway through the first quarter. The Rock capped off their 4-0 first quarter run with a pair of goals from Damon Edwards and Colin Doyle.
Even though Toronto had the slight edge in shots over Buffalo during the first quarter with a 15-10 count, it was the stellar play of Toronto Rock goaltender Nick Rose that kept the Bandits scoreless in the first. “Rosey was unbelievable. We had some great quality shots and he was making some huge saves,” Cordingley said.
It took the Bandits the entire first quarter and about eight minutes into the second quarter before the Bandits finally began solving the puzzle of Nick Rose. Ryan Benesch scored on a breakaway in transition cutting the Toronto lead to three goals, making it 4-1. Toronto responded back just 38 seconds later with Stephan Leblanc’s second goal of the evening making it a 5-1 game. Not to be outdone, Ryan Benesch would score his second goal of the evening at 11:31. But, Colin Doyle would keep the Rock’s lead at four goals going into halftime with his second goal of the game.
Even though the Rock had the 6-2 lead going into half time, the Bandits never gave up. Bandits head coach Cordingley stated, “The key was not to get down on ourselves and to stick with the game plan.” Cordingley further added, “I thought the game was pretty evenly matched throughout the first half. The goals finally started dropping for us in the second half on some transition opportunities.”
It truly was a tale of two halves for the Bandits. While the first half may have been the worst of times, the second half was truly the best of times.
In the middle of the third quarter, the Bandits were finally able to start firing on all offensive cylinders and the goals started coming in a flurry. In the span of only three minutes, the Bandits were able to go on a 4-0 run and tie the game at 6-6 after three quarters with goals from Steve Priolo, Ryan Benesch, Chad Culp and Mark Steenhuis. Just like in the first quarter when the Bandits were held scoreless, it was the Rock’s turn in the third quarter to be held scoreless.
Responsible for keeping the Rock scoreless in that third quarter was Buffalo Bandits starting goaltender Anthony Cosmo. “Cosmo was good,” Cordingley said. “He was our MVP.” Cosmo had a huge game this evening in net with a .806 save percentage.
Cosmo reflected on tonight’s performance against the Rock. “I’ve been working on my confidence. I credit my defense for keeping the ball outside and making the saves easy. When the hard saves come, the defense pushed me to have that confidence.”
While Craig England was still serving his major penalty for high sticking from late in the third quarter, the Bandits were able to utilize their own special teams’ specialists. Aaron Wilson’s power play goal, his first goal of the season, kick started the fourth quarter scoring for the Bandits. Wilson’s goal gave the Bandits their first lead this season at 7-6. Jamie Rooney would follow up with his first goal of the season as well, to pull the Bandits further ahead with a two goal 8-6 lead early on into the fourth quarter.
Although they were down by two goals early into the fourth quarter, the Rock refused to give up. Toronto was able to tie the game up at 8-8 after a pair of goals from Leblanc and Doyle.
But the Bandits battled back as Andrew Watt and Steve Priolo kept the Rock at arm’s length with a two goal 10-8 lead. Even though the Bandits and the Rock would trade two goals apiece for the rest of the game, the two goal lead already established by the Bandits helped earn them the victory tonight.
Cordingley was pleased with how the Bandits came together as a team in the face of adversity and walked away with the victory against his former team. “Everybody’s effort was good tonight. There was nobody riding anybody’s coattails. We were here to play.”
Buffalo travels to Philadelphia for a Sunday 4 pm faceoff against the Wings.