TORONTO – Mark Steenhuis and his blazing blue shoes led the way with a five-goal performance for the Buffalo Bandits as they handed the defending NLL champion Toronto Rock their second loss in a row, 13-11, at the Air Canada Centre last night.
Over 15,000 fans watched as the Rock tried to rebound from an opening-night loss to the Arizona Sting, a 14-13 overtime heartbreaking defeat. But a combination of strong goaltending from Bandits goalkeeper Steve Dietrich (56 saves) and a potent Buffalo powerplay (6/9) were too much for the Rock to handle.
Steenhuis led all teams with 9 points (5 G, 4 A), while Colin Doyle led the Rock with 2 goals and five assists. Josh Sanderson had four goals and three assists.
The first half was a very chippy affair with both teams taking a number of undisciplined penalties and a few for late hits after the whistle. Both power plays struggled to find the net in the opening frame.
Early on in the first quarter, the rivalry showed its true scenes of a heated history with Chris White high-sticking Colin Doyle twice early on, including a five-minute offence for a shot that caught the Rock superstar just under the chin.
Tim “The Surgeon” O’Brien came in to Doyle’s defence and both he and White were assessed off-setting major penalties.
Steenhuis opened the scoring in the half for Buffalo just a minute into play.
After trading goals, Josh Sanderson tied the game with is second tally late in the corner at 2-2, and then seconds later Aaron Wilson put a soft one past Dietrich on a beautiful feed from Brad MacDonald to give the Rock the 3-2 edge at the end of the first quarter. Rock goalie Bob “Whipper” Watson made a huge save for Toronto with just a minute left in the first quarter to preserve the lead.
In the second quarter, Buffalo scored three straight goals from A.J. Shannon, John Tavares and a second from Steenhuis before Kruger replied for Toronto.
Tempers continued to boil until the end of the opening half when both teams exchanged pleasantries while walking off the floor to their respective dressing rooms.
The second half was comparatively tamer.
In the third quarter, Toronto rallied off four quick goals but a a series of Buffalo powerplays forced a 9-9 tie at the end of the third.
Two straight goals from Doyle at the end of the fourth quarter brought the Rock within one goal and they had several good chances to tie after a timeout call with 44 seconds left.
Toronto travels to Rochester to play the Knighthawks at 7:35 p.m. at the Blue Cross Arena Saturday Jan. 14. To watch live, visit www.nll.com and click on the B2 Networks logo on the right-hand side. Fans can also listen to the game on the Fan 590 (www.fan590.com).