Toronto – After a loss to the Knighthawks on the road the previous week, the Rock were looking to welcome head coach Glenn Clark back with a win over the Buffalo Bandits. Anchored by the stellar play of their defensive stalwart Bob Watson, the Rock lead most of the game and after an exciting fourth quarter pulled away for the win over their cross border rivals 11-8.
The first quarter began with both teams setting a physical tone to the game early on. What would begin as a defensive quarter, the first goal of the contest came midway through from the Bandits Mark Steenhuis. But the lead was short lived as the Rock would even out the score on a beautiful set up play from Blaine Manning to Kasey Beirnes in front of the Buffalo crease. Toronto would flex their offensive muscles very late adding two more with less than sixty seconds left in the quarter on goals by Aaron Wilson and Blaine Manning taking a 3-1 lead.
The second quarter began similar to the first with the Bandits being the first to score cutting the Toronto lead to one. Despite the Rock’s excellent defense, Buffalo would tie the game on a power play advantage midway through the quarter. Toronto forward Jamie Taylor would give the home team the lead again in the latter part of the second followed shortly by an Aaron Wilson goal with 1.1 seconds left to close out the second on their way to a 5-3 lead entering halftime.
The Rock took the momentum they had built through the first half of the game and opened up the scoring in the third quarter during an early power play opportunity making the lead 6-3. Buffalo cut the Rock lead again to two goals on a crushing John Tavares effort, but that deficit would last less than two minutes as Kasey Beirnes would respond with his second goal of the game. The Rock defense took over after that holding the Bandits scoreless from the 4:41 mark of the period helping to end the third at 7-4.
The game seemed in hand for the Rock entering the fourth quarter but Buffalo would rattle off three goals in the first three minutes of the period knotting the game at seven a piece. The Rock would end that scoring drought on a goal by Peter Lough to put them up by one. Buffalo returned the favour midway through the period showing they still had some life. The Rock would deflate any hopes of a Buffalo comeback as Jamie Taylor, Ryan Benesch and Chris Driscoll would add three goals for insurance in the closing minutes. The Rock would finish the game on top of the Bandits with the final score of 11-8.
The story of the night is the Toronto defense lead by ace goaltender Bob “Whipper” Watson. Watson stopped 45 shots on the night making key saves late to fend off the Bandits fourth quarter attack to take the win. Toronto was led in points by both Aaron Wilson and Blaine Manning who both tallied six a piece – Manning on one goal and five assists and Wilson on two goals and four assists respectively. Josh Sanderson and Ryan Benesch follow with four points each, both on a goal and three assists.
The next Toronto game takes place on March 1st at the Air Canada Centre when they host the Calgary Roughnecks. Game time is slated for 7:00 p.m. with great tickets still available at the ACC box office or at www.ticketmaster.ca.