The Rock playing in Banditland. As a Rock fan, this is almost better than the Bandits playing in Toronto. The two teams are pulling in roughly the same sized crowds this year (13465 average for Buffalo, 11177 for Toronto), but the Buffalo people are way louder. Of course, they all cheer for the wrong team, but nobody’s perfect. Anyway, they love to hate the Rock just as we Rock fans love to hate the Bandits. Saturday night’s game was perfect for fuelling this rivalry, being a very physical game with lots of chirping between the teams. No actual fights, but it got close several times, including in the handshake line. And keeping the Buffalo crowd loud was the fact that the Bandits led for more than half the game and won.
The Rock played the reverse game from Friday night – instead of improving throughout the game, they got worse. We’ve all seen it before, the team that’s losing near the end of the 4th quarter gets frustrated and they start taking dumb penalties. The Bandits have been guilty of that on many occasions, but the Rock have usually been one of those teams that doesn’t succumb to that. On this night they did. Even Colin Doyle got into it, taking what’s called an “Intentional Contact” penalty, described in the rule book as “any player who intentionally makes contact with another player after the whistle has blown and during dead ball situations”. He and John Tavares were jawing at each other a few times in the 4th quarter, and Tavares even held up the handshake line for a minute yelling at some of the Rock players. The ever-classy Shawn Williams actually shoved Tavares out of the way in order to shake hands with the Rock players. This turned into a hug per person as everyone wished Williams well and expressed their hopes and thoughts for his son Tucker.
Both goaltenders were great, particularly Cosmo who is having a great season. Nick Rose must have read my game report from last night where I said he doesn’t make the spectacular saves as much as other goalies, since he had a few more of the big “wow, how did he stop that?” saves than he usually does. Cosmo made lots of those, and on the few occasions where the Rock picked up a big rebound and shot again right away, almost always came up big again. There was one occasion where he didn’t – Cosmo stopped a shot and Kasey Beirnes grabbed the rebound right on the doorstep and scored, but that goal was inexplicably waved off. It may have had something to do with the delayed penalty that was called at the time, but the penalty was being called against Buffalo, which means that the play should continue until Buffalo gains possession, which they didn’t. A shot that Cosmo stops resets the shot clock, but does not count as possession so since the Rock grabbed the rebound, that goal should have counted. (There were more penalties called at the same time, but that was Marshall and Priolo getting into it after play had already stopped.)
This was a very entertaining game, but there were actually some dumb plays on both sides. The Rock allowed a pretty two-on-one with Ryan Benesch and Steve Priolo early in the second, but the Bandits were shorthanded at the time – how do you allow a 2-on-1 for that length of time while on the PP? Later in the second, the Rock got two penalties at the same time but Mark Steenhuis must have said or done something dumb and got himself an Unsportsmanlike Conduct penalty, negating what would have been a two-minute 5-on-3.
I saw a number of comments on Twitter saying that the refs had lost control of the game, but I think the opposite was true – they had complete control of the game. They were calling penalties left and right, slowing down the game and making sure nothing got out of hand. This not to say that I agreed with all of the penalties, but while there was lots of chippiness and it was very physical, there were no actual fights. Things did cool down a little in the second half, with only 3 penalties called in the 3rd quarter and 5 in the 4th (after 9 in the 1st and 15 in the second).
The Rock tied the game in every quarter but only led once, in the third for 10 minutes. In the fourth they were down by 3 with 3½ minutes left, and I don’t want to say they gave up, but that’s when Doyle took his Intentional Contact penalty and some more rough stuff ensued. It certainly looked like one of these “if we’re going to lose, let’s go down swinging” attitudes that the Bandits more than the Rock have been known for. The Bandits took a Too Many Men penalty with <2 minutes left, resulting in an automatic penalty shot. But Kasey Beirnes missed the net entirely. When Josh Sanderson scored less than a minute later, that miss really became costly – “down by one with a minute left” is very different from “down by two with a minute left”. The Bandits were able to run out the clock and that was all she wrote.
Other game notes:
Since Tucker Williams couldn’t make the game, the Bandits set up a facetime session with him in his hospital room, and the entire crowd sang Happy Birthday to him while he watched live. That was awesome. Great to see #BraverThanBrave on the ribbon board and T-shirts as well as on all the players’ helmets.
- People who are homers are partially funny but mostly irritating. There was a guy behind me who stood up and held his arms out on just about every Bandits penalty (which means he was standing a lot) and every time a Bandit player got hit with a legal check that wasn’t penalized. Meanwhile, if a Bandits player had pulled out a knife and stabbed a Rock player in the chest, he’d have been all “Oh come on, you’re calling that?”
- John Tavares was given a five minute major for high-sticking early in the fourth, but it looked to me like a cross check to the chest that slid up and hit the player in the head, not a cross check to the head. I get that they want to cut down the head shots and so they penalize them hard, but if the head contact was unintentional like in this case, two minutes would have been sufficient. A major penalty seemed unnecessary. Kudos to the Bandits for only allowing a single PP goal in that five minutes.
- In the second quarter, Andrew Watt scored a beautiful breakaway goal that was immediately waved off. Just about all the Bandits fans near me were up in arms at the obvious injustice (particularly the guy behind me), yelling about how the ref was obviously blind and incompetent – until the replay was shown. Once it became obvious that Watt was indeed in the crease, the shouting stopped. Turns out the ref does occasionally get it right.
- The Bandits somehow don’t use a computer to display the shots on goal on the video board. At one point, the Bandits shots were 9 in the first quarter, 15 in the second, and none in the third, for a total of 25. Another time, the Rock had 13 in the first and 9 in the second, totaling 23. Ummm… no. Note that the Bandits incorrect total was up for all of half-time, so it’s not a question of my looking just at the wrong second after they’ve updated one but not the other. And if you’re using a computer to do it, they really should be updated at the same time.
- Steve Priolo scares me. Right at the end of the game, there was some pushing and shoving near the Toronto net, and Priolo went after someone. The ref pulled him off but had to hold him back – he wanted to get right back in there. A couple of years ago I saw Priolo in a game where he was trying to start a fight but nobody would fight him. He literally ran around in circles looking for someone to fight. He’s playing very well this year, but he’s a very big, very strong guy and if he can’t control his temper… Like I said, he scares me.