NLL: Bandits take early-season victory over Rock on Teddy Bear night

Toronto Rock Teddy Bear Toss. (Photo courtesy of the National Lacrosse League)

An NLL Championship is the annual goal for the Toronto Rock. Last season, the Buffalo Bandits denied them the opportunity, winning both playoffs matchups by one goal. On Saturday night, it was the reigning Eastern Conference Champions gaining the upper hand in the historic rivalry once again with an 11-8 victory.

Buffalo jumped out to an early 3-0 lead with Dhane Smith and Tehoka Nanticoke scoring before the first media time out. After Corey Small got the Rock on the board, Tom Schreiber and Dan Craig both scored on the power play in the final minute to tie the game 3-3 after one.

With the Rock sporting their alternate yellow-and-black “Steel City” jerseys, Schreiber scored again four minutes into the second quarter to send charity teddy bears flying out of the stands. The goal followed yet another Buffalo quarter-opening, three-goal run. The lead would be stretched to 8-4 at halftime with Chris Cloutier scoring on the power play, and Nanticoke adding his second of an eventual three.

Toronto’s offence finally solved Matt Vinc in the fourth, now trailing 9-4. Small scored his second with a low outside shot 29 seconds into the quarter. Craig’s second, in transition, followed shortly thereafter, but it only got the Rock within three. With both sides trading goals twice more before, the Bandits increase to 1-1 on the season with an 11-8 win.

Toronto fired 60 shots on Matt Vinc, who turned aside 52. Nick Rose stopped 40 of 51 Buffalo offerings.

Only three players scored for Toronto – Corey Small (3 goals, 3 assists), Tom Schreiber (3, 2) and Dan Craig (2, 2). Of the only five others to register points (one being a Nick Rose assist), Zach Manns had three assists.

Tehoka Nanticoke finished with four points (3, 1). Also with four points were Chris Cloutier and Josh Byrne (each 2, 2) and Kyle Buchanan (1, 3). Dhane Smith led the Bandits with six points (1, 5).

This is the first of three scheduled meetings between Buffalo and Toronto this season.