Toronto – The Toronto Rock (10-5) came up short against the Buffalo Bandits (9-4) by a score of 11-8 at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre on Friday night.
Prior to the game, legendary Rock goalie Bob Watson was honoured with an on-floor ceremony. Watson was joined by his wife Nicole, daughter Sydney and son Dylan.
The Rock opened the scoring and were off and running early. Kasey Beirnes connected on a power play that was followed by Patrick Merrill scoring on a breakaway to lead 2-0.
The Bandits answered with a pair of powerplay goals and then jumped ahead 3-2 on a goal by John Tavares that rounded out the first quarter scoring.
To open the second quarter, Chad Culp scored to give Buffalo a 4-2 lead, their largest of the first half. Toronto rebounded on the powerplay as Beirnes fired home his second on the man up. It was Toronto’s powerplay that cashed in for the third time in the first half when Stephan Leblanc finished off a tic-tac-toe passing play to tie things up 4-4 at the half.
The Rock opened the second half with two more goals to jump out to a 6-4 lead. The Bandits, however, would break up Toronto’s four goal run and begin one of their own, scoring five in a row in the third quarter jumping ahead 9-6 at the end of 45 minutes of play.
The Bandits build an 11-6 lead late in the fourth quarter before the Rock scored a couple of late goals that pulled them closer making the final 11-8.
Watson made 32 saves in a losing effort and now sits 8 saves shy of passing Pat O’Toole for first on the NLL all-time saves list.
Beirnes led Toronto in scoring as he posted second 3-goal game of the month along with dishing out a pair of assists for a 5-point night. John Tavares led the Bandits with six points (2 goals, 4 assists).
The Rock can still clinch a first round home playoff game with a Rochester loss tomorrow night in Buffalo.
Next Saturday the Rock wrap up their regular season schedule as Toronto travels to Edmonton for the second meeting of the year with the Rush. Game time is 9:00pm ET and the game can be seen live on TSN2.