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Bandits hold-on to defeat Rock

The Buffalo Bandits have picked up their second consecutive win by defeating the Toronto Rock 10-8 last night at the Key Bank Center. This win puts the Bandits to second place in the North Division at 3-1, while Toronto drops to 3-2.

“It was an important game, especially because it was a divisional game,” said Bandits Head Coach John Tavares. “Going into this game we were 0-1 in our division, and I want to win our division so these are must wins for us.”

The game began like a lot of matchups between these two bitter rivals do, chippy. A scrum just over a minute into the game resulted in a fight between Brent Noweworthy of Buffalo and Mitch Gustavsen of Toronto. Noseworthy received an instigator penalty and was ejected from the game, leaving the Bandits bench with one less player for the rest of the game.

Toronto jumped out to an early two goal lead thanks to goals from Rob Helleyer (5g,1a) and captain Challen Rogers (2g,0a). A strong backend performance from the Rock helped them maintain that small cushion for much of the first quarter until Chase Fraser (3g,1a) was able to find the back of the net for the Bandits. This was Fraser’s second consecutive three goal night since coming back from injury.

“It’s really a mental thing,” Fraser said on preparing for his return to the floor. “I’d go over plays with the guys while I was out so I wouldn’t be lost when I’m back out there. It just kind of all comes back to you.”

With an offensive shakeup that has seen Buffalo lose Shawn Evans and Thomas Hoggarth to a long-term injury, coach Tavares said this has helped Fraser shine.

“Fraser is very creative and he knows how to put the ball in the net,” Tavares said. “I don’t want to be the guy who stops him, so I’m giving him a lot of free reign out there to be creative and show us what he’s got. And so far in two games he’s been a huge attribute to our offense tonight and in Georgia.”

Going into the second quarter Buffalo was facing a small 3-1 deficit, but knowing how quickly a game can start to slip away, they started the second quarter off with a bang. An unanswered five goal run that lasted for ten minutes no doubt contributed to Buffalo’s victory in the end.

“When a game is this close, every goal matter,” said Coach Tavares. “I think our offense was a lot better in the first half than in the second half. We need to start playing a full 60 minutes offensively.”

The Bandits second half performance was certainly nothing to write home about. They went into halftime with a respectable 7-5 lead after Rob Helleyer continued his night of offensive dominance by scoring two straight for the Rock.

Buffalo’s offense did not start the third quarter off on the right foot. Two key weapons of the offense, Dhane Smith (3a) and Josh Byrne (3g) found themselves in the penalty box at the same time (the latter with a high sticking major), and you could tell that really sucked some wind out of the Bandits offense.

Buffalo in fact during the whole second half only scored one “normal” goal, as Byrne’s goal came off a penalty shot and Gilray’s (1g,1a) final one to end it came on an empty net.

Not to be overshadowed by anything else though was the goaltending performance put in by Matt Vinc. He faced 64 shots on goal compared to Nick Rose’s 56, and shots were especially lopsided in the final quarter as Toronto peppered Vinc with 17 shots compared to Buffalo’s just nine.

Buffalo moves up a position in the standings to second place at 3-1, while Toronto drops to third with a record of 3-2. The Bandits hit the road and are in action next in Colorado to battle the Mammoth on January 25th, face-off is set for 9:30pm ET.