Buffalo – The Toronto Rock held a 6-0 lead in the second quarter and the Buffalo Bandits couldn’t come all the way back, as the Rock held on for a 12-11 win and their second consecutive East Division Championship.
After being stifled on their first two offensive possessions and not getting a single shot, the Rock dominated the rest of the first quarter. Bob Watson was there when needed and the offence connected on their opportunities holding a heavy edge in shots on goal 19-6 after one quarter.
Rob Marshall, Kasey Beirnes, Garrett Billings and Stephen Hoar all scored in the opening quarter to pace Toronto to a 4-0 lead.
Things started off well in the second quarter for Toronto as well with Stephan Leblanc scoring on the powerplay. The Rock increased their lead to 6-0 on a goal by Rob Hellyer just 2:12 into the quarter. That goal by Hellyer marked the end of the night for Bandits starter Mike Thompson as he gave way to Angus Goodleaf in the Buffalo cage.
The Bandits offence caught fire and rifled off three goals in 1:14 to quickly close the gap. Colin Doyle put a stop to the Bandits three-goal run as he scored on a turnover in front of Goodleaf putting the Rock up 7-3. Buffalo would score three more goals and close the gap to 7-6 with just under five minutes remaining in the first half.
Leblanc completed his first half hat-trick with a pair of goals coming just 30 seconds apart in the final minute of the half to give the Rock a 9-6 edge heading into halftime.
In that second quarter, the Bandits sticks were on fire as they were able to score six goals on 12 shots after failing to score a goal on the 6 shots they had in the first quarter.
To open the second half, Phil Sanderson scored just ten seconds into the third quarter. It was Sanderson’s first goal since he scored against Rochester on April 10, 2009 as a member of the Buffalo Bandits. Billings got his second of the game seconds later to stake the Rock out to an 11-6 lead. Buffalo added one more before the end of the quarter and Toronto held an 11-7 lead going into the final 15 minutes.
Buffalo poured on as much as they could in the fourth quarter, but were just never able to tie up the game at any point in the contest. Billings scored the first goal of the fourth quarter short handed less than a minute in. Buffalo chipped away scoring four times to make it a one-goal game. They had several opportunities late, but the Rock defence came up with the stops when they needed them.
Billings recorded his second straight 6-point playoff game (3G, 3A) and scored what stood up as the game-winning goal. Leblanc scored 3 goals, while Hoar, Beirnes, Sanderson, Marshall, Hellyer and Doyle all had singles.
The Rock will now wait for the result of the West Final between Washington and Calgary. If Washington wins, the Rock will host the Champion’s Cup Final, which will be a rematch of last year’s championship game. If Calgary wins, the game will be played in Calgary.