NLL: Rock unbeaten no more as Fraser scores 4, Bandits explode for 16

Everyone loves a good rivalry game, right? The Saturday Night Showcase came to you from FirstOntario Center in Hamilton, as the Toronto Rock hosted the Buffalo Bandits. This was the tale of two sides, as Toronto came in as the league’s only unbeaten team left, and Buffalo was sputtering a bit. Earlier on in the day, Tom Schreiber was activated off IR for the Rock, so that was going to be a much-needed boost, or so they thought.

If I told you that 30 combined goals were scored in a game, but only one total goal was scored in the first quarter, would you believe me? It took a bit, but the scoring between these two rival clubs really picked up. Buffalo saw themselves ahead at halftime, lost the lead, and then rallied back with a seven-goal run in the fourth quarter. Toronto is unbeaten no more, as Buffalo took this one, 16-14. Add it to the all-time classics between these two storied franchises.

As we said, it was a feeling out process in the first. Ian MacKay registered the quarter’s only goal with a beauty in transition at the 12:44 mark, much to the happiness of the boatload of Bandits fans in attendance. It should be said, the rest of the quarter was fast and furious, with both defenses and goaltenders up to any task. 1-0 Buffalo after one.

Buffalo boosted their lead with the first two goals of the second quarter, both power play markers. The first was by Chase Fraser, who ended up having himself quite the evening (stay tuned), and the other from Josh Byrne. Dan Craig finally got Toronto on the board with his first, but was quickly answered by Brandon Robinson’s first. Justin Martin, (for the Rock, as Buffalo has a J-Mart of their own) netted his first, but was answered by Steve Priolo. Some flowers are deserved for the Buffalo captain as he grinded in front of the net for a loose ball before burying his shot. Dan Lintner got his first, but once again, was answered by Priolo, another hard-working goal. Are you seeing the pattern here? Every other. Buffalo was doing everything in their power to keep that edge. Fraser and Craig each got their second to close out the second. 8-4 Bandits at the break.

With how crazy the second quarter was, we should show some love to the goaltenders, which was a juicy matchup all in itself. Matt Vinc was as stellar as could be for Buffalo, showing age is just a number. The veteran made 22 saves on 26 shots. Nick Rose definitely kept the Rock in it with some stout play, making 19 saves on 27 shots.

Let’s not forget, Toronto came in undefeated for a reason. They may not have trailed much during their winning streak, but they definitely are a resilient club. They proved themselves mightily in the third quarter. Phil Mazzuca got the comeback started as he scooped a loose ball right off the opening faceoff. Mark Matthews and Chris Boushy on the power play cut the Buffalo lead to just one, in only a matter of 3:15. Dhane Smith put a halt to that, but only for a moment, with a beauty of his own. Dhaner shattered a Rock defender’s ankles before beating Rose. Here came the Rock once again. Lintner and Boushy each got their second and Corey Small scored his first, and just like that, we sat at 10-9 Rock at the end of three. Stunned faces on the Bandits bench.

While what we said about Toronto is absolutely true, if there is a team that defines resiliency, it’s the Bandits. The Buffalo boys went on an absolute tear for a big portion of the third quarter. How about the first seven-in-a-row spanning the first 12:22 of the final frame? Kyle Buchanan tied the game up with his first, on the power play, and the onslaught continued. *Writer timeout as he wants to call SportsCenter to make sure they saw the next goal.* Fraser found himself with the ball in front of the crease, did a filthy swim move between two Rock defenders, and fired a filthier behind-the-back shot that beat Rose short side. Whew, what a way to get your hat trick. The next three for Buffalo were scored by Robinson, his second, Nanticoke, his second, and Fraser, his fourth. Two more for the Bandits followed, both empty-netters, one from MacKay and the other from Smith, each being their second. 16-10 Buffalo with 2:38 to play. Game over, right? Oh no. Cue a four-goal run for the Rock to make things VERY interesting. Boushy got his third and fourth just 40 seconds apart, and Captain America, Tom Schreiber, finally got himself in the goal column with two consecutive. Unfortunately for the Rock, time ran out before the comeback could continue. Your final from Hamilton, 16-14 Bandits.

Players of the game for Buffalo were Fraser (4+1), Smith (2+4), and Byrne (1+6). Vinc had his ups and downs in the second half, but stood tall when it mattered most, stopping 38 of 52. For Toronto, Boushy (4+1), Schreiber (2+4), and Craig (2+2) led the way. The fourth quarter was rough for Rosey, as he made 39 saves on 53 shots for the game.

Buffalo (4-3) looks to use the momentum of this massive win to put a winning streak together. They travel back home for another rivalry game this Saturday against Rochester (3-3). Faceoff in that game is 7:30pm. Toronto (5-1) still sits atop the NLL Standings and will look to start a new streak. They go on the road to take on Calgary (2-3) this Saturday at 8pm.