Game Preview: Toronto Rock (9-9) vs. Buffalo Bandits (8-10)
Saturday, May 3rd, 2014
Air Canada Centre, Toronto, ON
The Toronto Rock will open the 2014 NLL playoffs at home against the Buffalo Bandits, in a winner take all, one-and-done game. Last week in Minnesota, the Rock finished off the regular season with an 8-6 road win. The win, combined with Buffalo’s loss to Rochester helped Toronto clinch second place in the East and a home playoff game in the East semi final.
The Rock are riding a 4 game winning streak into the playoffs, which started in Vancouver, the same game that star Garrett Billings went down with an ACL tear. The Billings injury has led to more playing time for players like Rob Hellyer. Hellyer had 8G-21A-31PTS in April and he was recently named player of the month.
Garrett Billings finished the regular season as the team leader in points (101) and Assists (69). Stephan Leblanc led the team with a career high, 45 goals and was second in the league behind Dane Dobbie in Calgary. Rookie defenceman Ethan O’Connor led the team with 133 loose balls.
The Bandits and Rock have met 4 times in the playoffs, with the Rock holding a 3-1 edge.
F Garett Billings (Knee – Out For Season)
D Chris White (Foot)
The Bandits started hot out of the gate this season, winning 8 of their first 10. Buffalo has struggled though as of late and is currently riding an 8 game losing streak into the playoffs.
The teams have met three times already this season with Buffalo securing the season series win, taking the opener on January 10th and the rematch on February 1st, both by a score of 12-10. The Rock won their only home game against Buffalo by a score of 13-9 on April 18th. The Bandits lost their final two regular season games to the Rochester Knighthawks by a score of 8-4 and 16-14.
One of the biggest questions is whether or not this will be John Tavares’ last game in the NLL. Tavares still contributed this season posting 24G-27A-51PTS through 16 games this season, but at 45, you have to think one of the greatest players to ever play lacrosse is close to retiring.
Ryan Benesch finished the regular season as the Bandits leader in assists with 53 and points with 78. Mark Steenhuis led the team in goals with 31.
Jay Thorimbert is amongst the league leaders in loose balls (191) and Steve Priolo is one of the league’s top defenders and transition players.
Between The Pipes:
Anthony Cosmo has a record of 8-6 on the season with a save percentage of .797 and a Goals Against Average of 10.77.
Who To Watch:
Benesch, Steenhuis and Dhane Smith are the big 3 on offence, with veterans John Tavares, Shawn Williams and Aaron Wilson still contributing.
Tickets can be purchased for the East Semi-Final at www.torontorock.com