Toronto – The Toronto Rock (4-5) and the Buffalo Bandits (2-6) faceoff against one another on Friday night at 7:30pm at Air Canada Centre. The Rock have lost two straight and the Bandits enter the matchup having lost six straight, but don’t let those recent struggles fool you, this is as intense as it gets in the regular season.
The rivalry is something that both teams embrace and it’s also something that both teams really look forward to when these games against each other come up on the schedule.
“I look forward to playing Buffalo, there’s not a lot of love lost as everyone knows,” said Rock GM and Assistant Coach Terry Sanderson. “If you had a 16 game schedule with Buffalo that would be alright too, because there’s a lot of intensity and both clubs go at it pretty good.”
The two teams engaged in a full out bench clearing brawl in pre-season prior to the 2011 season. The bitter rivals followed that up with a fight filled game in late January of 2011 in which the first quarter took almost an hour to play on it’s own.
However, neither team needs to throw any fuel on the fire right now as both sides of the rivalry are clearly not pleased with where their respective clubs sit at the moment and are looking for some answers.
One guy the Bandits are looking at to provide that spark in the second half of the season is the NLL’s all-time leading scorer John Tavares.
“We talked to (John) about being more of an inspirational leader to the young guys by speaking from his heart,” said Buffalo Assistant Coach Derek Graham. “We’re hoping he can do that for us and give us the rise that we need.”
While the Rock’s two-game losing streak doesn’t quite match up to Buffalo’s franchise record six-game skid, Sanderson feels the Rock are also in need of a win Friday.
“I can assure you, we will be as hungry as Buffalo for a win on Friday,” said Sanderson. “If you’ve checked the standings you’ll notice we’re not exactly at the top of the hill anymore either. As desperate and as much in need of a win as Buffalo feels they are, I can assure you the Toronto Rock are feeling much the same thing.”
The two teams have met once this season already on January 14th in Buffalo, a game the Bandits won 14-10 on the strength of a magnificent goaltending performance from Buffalo keeper Mike Thompson. The Bandits and Rock will meet one more time in the regular season, in Buffalo at First Niagara Center, on Saturday, March 31st.
Following Friday’s game, the Rock will hit the road for a couple of weeks with games against Rochester (March 24th) and Buffalo (March 31st). The team will return to Air Canada Centre to play their final regular season home game against the Edmonton Rush on Saturday, April 7th at 6pm. For tickets, please visit www.torontorock.com or call 416-596-3075.