The Toronto Rock (5-10) defeated the Buffalo Bandits (10-5) by a score of 12-9 on Friday night at Air Canada Centre to keep their playoff hopes alive. Rock defender Brodie Merrill and goaltender Nick Rose led the way to a much needed Rock win in the first half of the weekend home-and-home with Buffalo.
“We haven’t given up, it was a character win,” said Rock head coach John Lovell following the game. “Especially when we were down at the half, we dug down and we had the belief to win. Our defence has played very well, I’m not sure how sometimes given the injuries. It’s just unfortunate we dug ourselves such a whole in the beginning (of the season).”
The first quarter ended tied at three after Jesse Gamble scored with under three minutes remaining in the frame to even the score. Turner Evans opened the scoring for the Rock and Rob Hellyer also tallied for Toronto in the opening 15 minutes.
After trading goals, the visiting Bandits scored twice to take a 7-5 lead into the half. Buffalo goaltender Anthony Cosmo made several huge saves in the first half to keep his team ahead of the Rock.
The Rock played a near flawless third quarter, outscoring the Bandits 3-0 in the process. Stephan Leblanc, Dan Lintner and Kasey Beirnes scored for Toronto, giving the Rock an 8-7 lead after three quarters. Early in the frame, defender Brock Sorensen went down awkwardly with an apparent knee injury. He left the game and did not return.
Toronto continued their run, scoring three more times to build an 11-7 lead on the strength of the six-goal run. Lintner netted the 10th goal of the game, which would stand up as the game-winning goal.
The Rock defence did something no other team had done this year and that was holding the league’s leading scorer, Buffalo’s Dhane Smith to just one goal and one assist.
“It was a great win, it was a good game, they are a good team and really transition the ball well and we held Dhane in check,” said Rock forward Josh Sanderson. “We had the offence going and I thought we were getting some good chances and then we got going in the second half. Steph (Leblanc) really got us going with that goal in the second half.”
The home and home with the Bandits continues tomorrow night in Buffalo at First Niagara Center at 7:30 p.m. ET.
Three Stars of the Game:
1) Brodie Merrill
2) Nick Rose
3) Dan Lintner
Story via TorontoRock.com. Photo by Graig Abel.