NLL: Heated battle in Buffalo tonight

Steve Priolo and Johnny Powless get tangled up. (Photo credit: Anna Taylor)

Tonight the Buffalo Bandits and the Toronto Rock will meet for only the sixth time in the playoffs, which is surprising given the teams rivalry and dislike of one another. They last met in 2014 with Buffalo winning 15-13. Toronto holds a 3-2 record (1-1 in Buffalo). During the regular season the Rock won the season series 2-1, splitting the two meetings in Buffalo.

Buffalo holds the number one overall seed in the playoffs after a 14-4 regular season, while the Rock were hot on their heels at 12-6.

“We hate each other,” said Bandits’ forward Josh Byrne in previewing the matchup. “It’s going to be a bloodbath out there, and I’m definitely looking forward to it.”

Last week Toronto held off a late rush by the Swarm for a 16-14 win. Nick Rose stopped 35 of 49 shots on the evening. Tom Schreiber (4G/2A) and Adam Jones (3G/6A) led the attack for the Rock. Rob Hellyer, Kieran McArdle and Dan Craig each scored twice. If they get into a run and gun type of game they will need to duplicate what they did versus the Swarm, and maybe even add a few more goals. Otherwise they will have to put up a strong defense and Nick Rose will need to be flawless. He always plays well when matched up against Matt Vinc.

Buffalo hosted the New England Black Wolves in their playoff meeting, and the Bandits had no problem defeating the them 13-6. Vinc stopped 46 of 52 shots faced. Shawn Evans registered a hat trick in the contest while Dhane Smith, Corey Small, and Steve Priolo each scored twice. Smith also recorded five assists on the night. Chris Cloutier, who has fit in just fine with the offensive unit, had a goal and three assists. If Buffalo uses the same blueprint as they did last week they should come out on top.

 

Key Players

Buffalo                                                          Toronto

Goals:    Corey Small… 36                            Rob Hellyer… 36

Assists:  Dhane Smith… 70                          Tom Schreiber… 65

Points:   Dhane Smith… 102                         Tom Schreiber… 94

Other players to look out for:

Buffalo: Thomas Hoggarth, Chase Fraser (29G), Shawn Evans (28G/66A)

Toronto: Adam Jones (25G), Johnny Powless (23G), Dan Litnner and Dan Craig (20G each). Schreiber also had 29 goals giving Toronto six players with 20 or more goals in the regular season.

 

Outlook

For Buffalo to win, Vinc must play the way he has all season and build that brick wall with each save.  The defense must also keep Schreiber and Hellyer under control and not let them or the other goals scorers heat up. The offense must get to Nick Rose early and force Toronto to play from behind. Dhane Smith, Shawn Evans and company must find the net early and often.

Toronto must play a strong defense, keep Smith and Evans very limited on goals, but also watch out for Chase Fraser and Thomas Hoggarth as they can turn the tide as well. Nick Rose must be strong and hold onto the initial save and limit any second chances for Buffalo. Schreiber, Hellyer and Jones must capitalize on every chance they get. Powless, Craig and Lintner must pick up some loose ball goals on second and third opportunities. The Rock must also stay out of the penalty box as well.

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