Buffalo – Coming off a strong victory on Friday night over the Edmonton Rush, the Toronto Rock headed across the QEW for a critical divisional match-up with one of their biggest rivals, the Buffalo Bandits. In a game that got off to a shaky start for Toronto, the Rock dominated the entire second half on their way to sweeping the season series with the Bandits, winning the game 13-9.
The battle for third place in the East Division began with a flurry of orange and black as the Bandits scored two goals within the first thirty eight seconds of the game. In an effort to change the momentum, Rock coach Glenn Clark replaced goaltender Mike Poulin with Bob Watson. The move paid immediate dividends with a series of great saves by Watson before Aaron Wilson, who was continuing his hot streak from the night before, scored his 19th goal of the season to narrow the Toronto deficit to one goal.
Buffalo took advantage of a series of Toronto penalties to extend their lead to 3-1, but keyed by more great goaltending by Watson and timely markers by Kasey Beirnes and Rob Marshall, the Rock were feeling strong ending the quarter in a 3-3 tie.
The second quarter got off to a much better start for the Rock with Aaron Wilson’s second goal of the game, giving Toronto their first lead. However, Buffalo stole the momentum back and regained the lead, on the strength of two straight goals, including one by lacrosse legend and the league’s leading scorer entering tonight’s play, John Tavares. The Rock pushed hard for an equalizer and came close on more than one occasion before using a delayed penalty call and a wicked rising shot by Josh Sanderson late in the second quarter to knot the game up at 5-5.
In the second half, the Rock dominated the ball and pushed the Bandits with sustained offensive pressure, which led to Josh Sanderson’s second goal of the game and 21st of the season, making the score 6-5. The teams traded goals by defensive players, before Rock sophomore Ryan Benesch stamped his signature on the game with a Bandit momentum killing goal, his 13th of the season. Benesch then pulled out all of his tricks using a series of clever fakes to leave Buffalo defenders and goaltender Ken Montour in his wake, scoring again to extend the lead to 9-6. The third quarter, which was dominated by Toronto on the scoreboard (4-1), in shots, in loose balls and in overall possession, ended with the Rock holding that three goal lead.
The Bandits scored early in the fourth quarter to restore hope for a comeback, but they were demoralized and their home fans were silenced when Josh Sanderson scored a power play goal, his third goal of the game, to restore the Rock’s three goal lead at 10-7. From that point forward, the Rock were barely challenged by the Bandits, as Aaron Wilson added his third and fourth goals of the game to lock up the game and end the night for Buffalo starting goaltender Ken Montour, who let in the last three shots he faced.
Buffalo managed two late tallies, which sandwiched Josh Sanderson’s fourth goal of the game. The 13-9 victory was one of the Rock’s best of the season and the Rock were clearly the better team on the floor. The efficient and disciplined win vaulted Toronto past the Bandits for third place in the competitive East Division.
The Rock were led by another strong performance by their defensive team and balanced scoring from Aaron Wilson (4 goals, 3 assists), Josh Sanderson (4 goals, 2 assists) and Ryan Benesch (2 goals, 4 assists). Goaltender Bob Watson recorded the win for the Rock.
The Rock (7-4) will look to extend their two game winning streak and defeat another division rival in their next game on Saturday April 5th at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, squaring off against the Rochester Knighthawks. Also that evening is the Rocks’ annual Charity Third Jersey silent auction. The team will be wearing a special third jersey and fans are encouraged to place their bids in the silent auction to win their favourite players’ jerseys that night. The highest bidders will be invited on the floor after the game to meet the players and collect their winning jersey right off the players backs! Proceeds from the evening will go to Les’s Fund and Special Olympics
Tickets are available for the game at www.ticketmaster.ca or the Toronto Rock office at 416-596-3075. Fans can also catch the game live on Rogers Sportsnet Ontario at 7:00 p.m. EST.