By Matt Cullen / NLL.com Correspondent
Photo Credi: Graig Abel
Toronto Rock rookie Tom Schreiber continues to dazzle in the young NLL season, pouring in 10 points as the Toronto Rock (3-1) thrashed the Buffalo Bandits (1-4) 18-10 in front of 8,314 fans at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Friday.
Schreiber, who transitioned from field to box lacrosse at the beginning of the season, recorded three goals and seven assists for the Rock, who never trailed against the rival Bandits.
“He ended up with 10 points?” Coach Matt Sawyer told NLL.com. “Tommy is a great player. We are sure happy to have him with us. How could you expect anybody who hasn’t played box lacrosse to come in and do what he has done?”
With the ten-point game, Schreiber continues to lead the Rock in scoring with 23 points in four contests.
But Schreiber wasn’t the only one with the big game.
In fact, seven Rock players recorded four points or more, including Stephan Leblanc (two goals, seven assists), Brett Hickey (three goals, four assists), Dan Lintner (three goals, one assist), Kasey Beirnes (two goals, three assists), Turner Evans (one goal, four assists) and Mike MacDonald (two goals, two assists).
“One of our main focuses was to play high tempo,” Leblanc told NLL.com. “It’s nice to rebound. This is the first game of the year that I’ve really felt comfortable in the offense after missing the first two games.”
And how about playing with rookie Tom Schreiber?
“He’s awesome,” Leblanc said. “[The fans] only see half of it. He does some pretty incredible things in practice…you are not talking about an average player here. He is a stud.”
Schreiber, who commutes from Long Island, N.Y. to each practice and game with Toronto, isn’t interested in changing his routine.
“My sky miles are really doing well. I get an upgrade from time to time so that’s nice,” he joked.
Tied at two early in first quarter, the Rock scored eight of the game’s next nine goals, including a hat trick from Schreiber.
Leading 5-2 after the first, Lintner was neatly set up by Leblanc and Schreiber for his second at 2:58 of the second frame. Schreiber then blew a shot past Bandits goaltender Anthony Cosmo before setting up Leblanc, who was left completely undetected on top of the crease to extend Toronto’s lead to 8-2 at 4:38 into the second frame.
The defensive breakdown prompted Buffalo coach Troy Cordingley to make a goaltending change to backup Davide DiRuscio. Cosmo surrendered eight goals on 26 shots.
Cordingley, who questioned his team’s effort after the first three games, was visibly angry with his squad after several defensive breakdowns.
“We are the furthest thing from what we were last year,” Cordingley said to NLL.com. “Effort, second effort, heart, pride…That was a tough game to coach. I don’t know why we are performing like this.”
The Bandits reached the NLL finals last year but now at 1-4, they find themselves in the bottom of the East Division with the worst record in the NLL.
“We’ve got to find a way to fix it and fix it in a hurry. [If not], we might have to make some tough decisions.”
LINTNER SHOWS HE BELONGS
Lintner missed the last two games (suspension, healthy scratch) for Toronto and made the most of his return, scoring all three of his goals in the first half, including a hat-trick marker at 11:43 of the second quarter.
“I was pretty amped up to get in there…you are always trying to be better,” Lintner said to NLL.com. “Obviously, you are a little bit disappointed [to sit out.] It is what it is. Whenever I get my opportunity, I’m just going to take my chances and make the best of it.”
Bandits forward Ryan Benesch (one goal, two assists), who came in as the East-Division scoring leader with 26 points in four games, was quiet. Even with 2016 NLL MVP Dhane Smith (two goals) returning from injury, the Bandits offense looked out of sync for the majority of the game.
‘WE DESERVED THIS ONE’
When Buffalo did get their chances, Toronto goaltender Nick Rose was stellar again, often baffling Bandit forwards with acrobatic, stretch saves.
“[A big save] is just like any time a player makes a big play, gets a goal, gets a big loose ball. I thought are guys were great. [Overall,] we are giving up the shots that I like to see,” Rose told NLL.com. “We made a point with the veterans about defending. It’s paid off so far.”
The 28-year-old leads in the NLL with a 8.75 goals-against-average and is second with a .798 save percentage. He finished with 38 saves on 48 shots.
Leading 10-4 at halftime, the Rock allowed the Bandits to score four straight goals in the fourth quarter to cut the deficit to five with 4:20 remaining. Buffalo didn’t get any closer after Leblanc, Hickey and Damon Edwards scored three quick goals late to preserve the eight-goal Toronto victory.
“It’s a really good response for us coming off a performance we weren’t happen with [against Rochester,]” Sawyer said. “Top to bottom. We deserved this one.”
NOTES: Rock rookie Kieran McArdle was a healthy scratch…Toronto defender Rob Marshall was put on the injured reserve again earlier this week. He has missed three of the first four games this season…The Rock next travel to Calgary to take on the Roughnecks on Sunday, while the Bandits have a bye week before facing the visiting New England Black Wolves for the second time this season on Feb. 17.