The Buffalo Bandits were hopeful in starting the season out at 2-0 and getting a win in their home opener Friday night. Unfortunately for them however, breakdowns on both sides of the ball led to the team quickly losing the four goal lead they once had, and they lost 17-12 to the Toronto Rock.
“We have a young team, and sometimes it difficult for them to realize it’s a 60 minute game,” said Bandits Co-Head Coach Rich Kilgour. “There’s going to be ups and downs, and when we went down, we just stayed down.”
The first quarter of play was perhaps the best quarter for the Bandits. By the end of it they were up 5-1, and five-year pro Thomas Hoggarth put in a wild performance on the offensive side of the ball. The 6’3’’, 205 pound forward from Peterborough, Ontario put in three straight goals for the orange and black in the first quarter.
Hoggarth has usually been a stranger to the score sheet during his NLL career. He primarily has played a transition role coming out of the defensive door, and in his 35 game-career before this season, Hoggarth had only put up 11 goals.
“He could have had five or six tonight,” said Bandits forward Shawn Evans on Hoggarth. “He’s picking up those loose balls in front of our net, creating space, and getting in those dirty spots. That’s what we need.”
After the first however, it was seemingly all Rock. Their defensive unit, goaltender Nick Rose included, held the Bandits to just two goals in the second quarter. It was also their most offensively productive night, scoring seven (with five unanswered). Tom Schreiber really shined during this run, he contributed on three of the five goals in the run, whether setting it up or putting it in the back of the net himself. The Princeton grad who hails from Long Island is in his third year in the NLL, and seems to be meshing in well with his team north of the border.
If there was time where the Bandits needed the offense to light the lamp in this game, it would have been the third. At the end of the half they were only trailing 9-7, but a strong defensive outing with physical play by both the Rock and Bandits limited scoring. The Rock were only able to put two in the back of the net, and the Bandits offense did not fare much better, with Matt Gilray being the only one to slip one past Rose.
The third quarter also saw a goaltending change for Buffalo.
“At that point we had to do something,” said Coach Kilgour. “A lot of those weren’t his fault, they were quality shots. But at the same time we had to do something. And every once in awhile when you throw the back up in the D guys will try and pick it up a notch, and I think we did for awhile.”
While back-up goalie Zach Higgins did put in a good performance for a bit, the offensive just wasn’t clicking.
“He made a couple big save, it really got us going,” said Kilgour. “But then we just couldn’t score again, and they got one or two, and all the wind came out of our sails.”
If one was just reading the score sheet, parts of fourth may have looked like a close game. In reality however, the fourth quarter Bandits was a team, as Kilgour said, that lost its wind. Toronto really started to come away with it towards the final minutes. And by the end of it, the Rock secured their first win of the season, 17 to 12.
This game was Toronto’s first of the season, and a win in this one really sets the bar for the Rock going forward, as they head back home to Scotiabank Arena to host the Wings next week. The Bandits drop to 1-1, and will continue at home as part of a four-game home stand.