Buffalo, NY – 01/07/05 – The Toronto Rock traveled to Buffalo on a dreary Friday looking for vengeance. The last time these two teams met, the Bandits put at sour end to the Rock’s fifth run at the Champions Cup. With Captain Jim Veltman out of the lineup with a hamstring pull and veteran defenseman Glenn Clark out with a knee injury, many were sure that the Rock had no chance of beating the Bandits. But the intense determination of the Toronto Rock prevailed as the 11,067 fans in attendance at HSBC Arena played witness to one of the fiercest battles between these long time rivals in many a game.
The first quarter began with a delay of game penalty to Toronto’s John Rosa at 14:33. That penalty opened up the floor to Mark Steenhuis to draw first blood for Buffalo on the power play a minute and a half later. Billy Dee Smith netted one more for the Bandits before the Rock put one up on the board. Toronto tallied three points in the first quarter; 2 from Aaron Wilson and 1 from Rusty Kruger. Buffalo tapped one more in to tie the teams at three at the end of the first. In addition to racking up points, the Rock and the Bandits managed to rack up 28 minutes in penalties, giving fans witness to rare 5 on 3 and 3 on 3 power plays.
The Bandits went on a roll in the second, outscoring the Rock 4 goals to 2. Both teams took advantage of the multiple power play opportunities that were presented to them with the Rock’s Aaron Wilson completing the hat trick on 1 power play goal and the Bandits netting 2 on the man up advantage and another one shorthanded. Both teams continued to take penalties as tempers flared and old rivalries reared their heads. The Bandits led 7-5 going into the half.
The Rock held the Bandits at bay in the third quarter scoring all 5 of the quarter’s goals by staying out of the penalty box. Phil Sanderson netted one unassisted goal followed by Josh Sanderson, Colin Doyle and Brian Beisel. Matt Shearer tallied his first of the night on the second 5 on 3 power play which resulted from a 5 minute high sticking penalty and a 2 minute slashing penalty to Buffalo’s Brian Kazarian and Mark Steenhuis.
The Rock continued the scoring into the fourth quarter and Buffalo continued to find themselves in the box. Matt Shearer netted his second of the night at 12:26. John Rosa followed suit with a shorthanded goal of his own just 2 minutes later. On the third 5 on 3 power play of the night, “The Sniper” Shearer completed the hat trick to make it 8 Rock goals in a row. Buffalo came to life at 6:50 as Captain John Tavares went on a scoring rampage, tallying 4 goals in just 4 minutes. Buffalo’s Billy Dee Smith laid a hard hit on Colin Doyle that saw the Bandits receive a 5 minute game misconduct call that resulted in an eventual game ejection with just 2 minutes left in the game. Bandit new comer Dan Teat added two of his own in the fourth but it wasn’t enough to surmount the lead that the Rock accumulated in the third. The Rock took down the Bandits in their first season opening win in 2 seasons with a final score of 15-13.
High scorers for the Rock included Matt Shearer with 4 points on 4 goals and 4 assists, Josh Sanderson with 6 points on 2 goals and 4 assists and Aaron Wilson who ended the night with 3 goals and 2 assists. Goaltender Bob Watson made 42 saves against the Bandits, keeping them to just 13 goals in 60 minutes of play.
The Rock open thier regular season hom schedule in just one week on Saturday January 15, 2005 at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto will take on the expansion Minnesota Swarm at 7:30pm. Tickets are still available through Ticketmaster outlets by calling (416) 872 5000 or online at www.ticketmaster.ca.