Toronto, ON – Call it a rivalry, a showdown, a divisional battle or an old-fashioned ring-a-ding-dong-dandy. The one thing the lacrosse world can likely agree on is that what happens on the turf when the Toronto Rock (4-1) and Buffalo Bandits (3-1) collide is nothing short of nasty.
There is a history of emotion that has boiled over into bench clearing brawls and it’s the type of intense lacrosse that has made for some of the most memorable games in NLL history. More than anything, there is a legitimate competitive respect that makes every meeting a classic.
As if there needed to be any more fuel poured on the fire, long-time Buffalo captain Chris White left the Bandits in the off-season via unrestricted free agency and signed with Toronto. Saturday night’s game will be White’s first trip back to First Niagara Center as a member of the Rock.
“I’m feeling a little bit of excitement,” said White. “Once you get on the floor you have to put those feelings and thoughts aside and focus on the game and the game plan we’ve got for Buffalo.”
Both Toronto and Buffalo have lost just one game this season and first place in the Eastern Division is on the line in Saturday’s game. Last season, Buffalo took two of the three regular season meetings before Toronto eliminated the Bandits from the post-season. In each of the last three seasons, Toronto has bounced the Bandits from the post-season adding to the hunger for Buffalo to begin a path to redemption, and fueling Toronto’s desire to keep their opponents pinned to the mat.
Rock forward Garrett Billings has enjoyed some of his biggest games against the Bandits and last year’s 15-point game was the best single-game output of his career coming on March 31st, 2012 in Buffalo. Toronto’s leading scorer not only set a franchise single-game points record that night, but also set a league record by being credited with a point on every single one of his teams’ goals in the Rock’s 15-9 win.
In goal, Nick Rose had an outstanding first month of the season posting a 4-1 record and the top goals-against average among all netminders at 9.31. The 24-year old stepped between the pipes once in Buffalo last season making 35-saves and earning his second win in a Rock uniform after being acquired from Calgary.
Toronto and Buffalo will meet two more times this season, both in Toronto at Air Canada Centre. The next meeting will be on Thursday, February 28th.
This game has all the makings of another instant classic. Fans can watch live on TSN and TSN Mobile TV on Saturday night at 7:30pm.
The Rock will continue their three-game road swing with a trip to Minnesota next Friday night to face the Swarm. Following that game, the Rock will return to action at Air Canada Centre on Friday, February 15th at 7:30pm when they face the Calgary Roughnecks. It’s Bachly Construction Colin Doyle bobblehead night and the first 5,000 fans in the building will receive one the limited edition collectibles. For the best ticket in town, please call 416-596-3075 or visit www.torontorock.com.