The Toronto Rock (9-4) earned an 18-11 home win over the Buffalo Bandits (5-8) before a crowd of 11,546 at Air Canada Centre on Friday night. (Photo: Graig Abel)
The Toronto Rock (9-4) scored nine straight goals in the second half to hand the Buffalo Bandits (5-8) their fifth-straight loss with an 18-11 home win before a crowd of 11,546 at the Air Canada Centre on Friday night.
With the game still up for grabs at halftime, the Rock turned a 7-6 lead into a commanding 16-6 advantage in a span of 16:22. The run started just 18 seconds into the second half with a goal from Rock captain Colin Doyle and didn’t end until 1:36 into the fourth frame.
“When I looked up and saw we did that, I was pretty shocked,” Doyle said. “To come out like that and stick some [goals] in the second half was pretty great.”
Just eight days removed from last week’s deflating 17-12 loss to the Edmonton Rush, the Rock responded by scoring a season-high 18 goals.
“I though we played with a purpose tonight,” said Rock head coach Troy Cordingley. “We had a little bit of a hunger in our step and a lot of passion on the bench.”
Buffalo’s Glen Bryan opened the scoring 2:43 into the game, but Toronto responded strongly by scoring four straight tallies. The scoring run included goals from Garrett Billings, Doyle, Blaine Manning and Kasey Beirnes over a 7:46 stretch. Bandits rookie forward Dhane Smith scored late to shrink Toronto’s lead to 4-2 after the first quarter.
Buffalo found a little life in the second quarter and looked to carry momentum heading into the half after Bandits forward Shawn Williams scored with just one second left on the clock. Buffalo outscored Toronto 4-3 in the quarter to bring themselves within one goal heading into the second half down 7-6.
Unfortunately for Buffalo, a chance for a comeback was quickly negated by seven Toronto goals in the third quarter.
“We lost focus,” said Bandits head coach Darris Kilgour. “We told the players what was going to happen [if we didn’t play well] and we just got sucked in.”
For Buffalo, the loss is their fifth-straight after they defeated the Rock 15-12 in Toronto on Jan. 28. Despite a good effort in the first half, Buffalo struggled to find any rhythm in the second. On just seven shots on goal, the Bandits were shut out during the entire third frame, a drought proving to be the chief factor in the loss.
“There are a lot of things we need to fix,” said Bandits transition player Mark Steenhuis. “There are really no excuses.”
Buffalo’s defeat leaves little room for error down the stretch. With three games remaining in the regular season, the Bandits are still looking to find a way into the playoffs. In their next two games, the Bandits play Minnesota and Rochester, two teams also fighting to get into the postseason.
“The way I see it, it’s win or go home for us,” Kilgour said.
“We’ve just got to dig down, we’ve got to get more motivated,” Steenhuis added. “We have a lot of good guys in the room, from the rookies right to the veterans. We just need to put it all together.”
A big factor in the game was no doubt Buffalo’s lack of discipline throughout. The Bandits found themselves a man short nine times against one of the league’s top power play units. Toronto would capitalize and go on to score four times with the man advantage.
Doyle (3+4) and Billings (1+6) both recorded a game-high seven points on the night, while Toronto forwards Beirnes (4+1) and Stephan Leblanc (2+3) followed with five points of their own.
For Buffalo, John Tavares (2+2) and Dhane Smith (2+2) registered a team-high four points in the loss with Steenhuis (1+2) close behind with three points.
Toronto goalie Nick Rose was sharp in goal turning away 31 shots on 41 attempts for a solid .756 save percentage. Rock goalie Zack Boychuk also got some time in goal as he replaced Rose with 3:06 remaining in the game. Cordingley called Boychuk’s time in net a combination of giving Rose a little rest heading into tomorrow’s game and lending his backup some added experience heading into the playoffs. In his 3:06 of play, Boychuk allowed one goal on four shots.
At the other end of the floor, goaltender Anthony Cosmo got that start for Buffalo, but was pulled 5:25 into the third quarter after Toronto’s 11th goal. Backup Kurtis Wagner went on the play the final 24:35 of the game. The two goalies allowed a combined 18 goals on 53 shots.
Toronto will see action again tomorrow night in Rochester in their second leg of a back-to-back weekend. Meanwhile, the Bandits return to action next Saturday when they take on the Swarm in Minnesota.