The stage is now set for the NLL East Division Finals. The Buffalo Bandits will host the Toronto Rock on home turf at the Key Bank Center Saturday night at 7:30pm to decide who continues on to fight for the National Lacrosse League Cup.
Matchups between these two teams have been nothing short of pure excitement ever since the Rock joined the league back in 1998, this one will without a doubt be a part of that storied rivalry. Buffalo went 14-4 during the 2019 regular season en-route to securing the number one seed in the playoffs. The only team across the league to defeat the orange and black more than once? The Toronto Rock.
“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.”
Toronto and Buffalo have faced-off against one another three times this season, with the Rock leaving the game with a W on two occasions. The first coming on the Bandits home opener back in December, where after gaining a four goal lead on Toronto, saw breakdowns on both sides of the ball.
“We have a young team, and sometimes it’s difficult for them to realize it’s a 60 minute game,” said Bandits Co-Head Coach Rich Kilgour following the December 21st loss to the Rock. “There’s going to be ups and downs, and when we went down, we just stayed down.”
The tides have obviously shifted for the Bandits since that game. Matt Vinc has settled in between the pipes for his new team, and the defense in front of him, led by captain Steve Priolo, has been able to limit transition opportunities from opposing teams.
Buffalo was able to squeak out a 8-6 win over the Rock during their mid-season stretch, but then lost in overtime to Toronto just a week later. It’s clear that this NLL East Division Final will be nothing short of unpredictable.
The Rock had been hot on the Bandits tail all season in terms of standings, so it’s only fitting that they’ll meet Buffalo in the Division Final. To get to this point, Toronto had to get past a strong offensive effort from Georgia last week. Tom Schreiber buried four goals for the Rock in the win, making it a six point overall night for “Captain America”. His four goals ties him for first in playoff scoring, so look for a big game out of Schreiber on Saturday.
Nick Rose put in a solid performance in his start last week. Allowing 14 goals on 49 shots isn’t stellar, but with a solid defense in front of him it should improve. When the Bandits played New England in the semi-final game, their defense pressed out and attacked Buffalo’s offense early into the zone, visibly shaking up the unit. One has to think that’s going to be in the Rock’s scouting report for this matchup.
Coverage starts at 7:00pm ET on NLL Playoffs Pre-Game LIVE and game time is set for 7:30pm ET at the KeyBank Center in downtown Buffalo. It can be watched with a subscription on the B/R Live app which is available on the web or through iTunes, Google Play, Roku, Apple TV, and Amazon Fire. Fans outside of North America can view the game via Fanseat.