The Buffalo Bandits (5-3) overcame a three-goal fourth quarter deficit to even the season series with the Toronto Rock (6-3) with a 15-13 road win at Air Canada Centre on Thursday night.
After carrying an 11-8 lead going into the fourth frame, the Rock allowed five unanswered goals to give Buffalo a two-goal lead with 7:49 remaining in the game as Toronto would trail the rest of the way.
“We stopped working, we stopped thinking,” said Rock captain Colin Doyle, who added that he felt a bit sluggish after the bye week. “They were a team that wanted it more tonight.”
The Rock brought the game within one goal when forward Garrett Billings scored with 4:10 remaining, but Bandits captain John Tavares scored an empty netter in the final seconds to seal the victory.
Toronto jumped out to an early 2-1 lead, but that advantage was soon negated by three straight Buffalo goals, two coming from Aaron Wilson, in a span of 4:34 to cap off the first quarter. Toronto answered back with goals from Kasey Beirnes and Billings to start the second frame to tie the game 4-4.
Buffalo’s Jimmy Purves and Rock veteran forward Blaine Manning traded goals 1:43 apart to keep the game tied. Buffalo’s Shawn Williams scored the final goal of the half with 4:12 remaining.
The Bandit’s 6-5 halftime lead would be lost in the third quarter after a five-goal Toronto run. In a span of 7:20, the Rock got tallies from Beirnes, Doyle, Billings and two from Stephan Leblanc. According to Toronto’s head coach Troy Cordingley, that stretch would be their only effective run of the game.
“It was a bad game overall, we had one run,” Cordingley said. “We were good for 12 minutes. The dominos start to fall when you start shooting shots not even close to the net.”
In an otherwise sloppy effort, the Rock fired 72 total shots, but only managed to get 47 on goal. The Toronto loss ties the season series between the two teams with each team earning a win on the road.
Bandits transition player Jay Thorimbert played his best game of the season and probably one of the better games of his career. The Whitby, Ontario native collected 17 loose balls and went an impressive 25-for-31 (81%) on faceoffs. On top of that, Thorimbert scored his first two goals of the season.
“It was pretty good, I was just trying to do my job,” Thorimbert said. “I want to get our team the ball. When they don’t have the ball, they can’t score.”
The win for Buffalo is their second divisional victory in a row and they will have a chance to add to that total when they host the Philadelphia Wings on Friday night at First Niagara Center.
“Any time you get a win in Toronto, you feel good,” said Bandits head coach Darris Kilgour. “I was really happy with the back end tonight. They really stepped up in front of [Cosmo]. But at the same time, we’ve got a game tomorrow against Philadelphia, another tiebreak situation.”
Toronto goalie Nick Rose played decent between the pipes by allowing 14 goals on 52 shots for a save percentage of .731. On the other side, Anthony Cosmo finished with a slightly smaller save percentage of .723 after stopping 34 of 47 Rock shots.
Billings continued his hot play by leading all scorers with eight points (4 + 4) on the night. Billings has collected 10 goals and 19 points in his last two games, which now puts him second in the league in scoring with 59 points on the season. Billings only trails Calgary’s Shawn Evans by one point for the league lead.
Leading the way for the Bandits was Williams, who recorded seven points (4+3) including two goals during Buffalo’s dominant five-goal run in the fourth quarter.
The Rock will try to get back on track when they host the last-place Colorado Mammoth next Friday at the Air Canada Centre.
The Bandits head back to Buffalo to host the Philadelphia Wings at First Niagara Center on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. ET with an opportunity to pull even with the Rock for the East Division lead.