Game Report: Buffalo @ Toronto

I’ve been a Toronto Rock fan for about eighteen years. From a personal point of view, I always want them to win. But I’m also realistic, and I recognize that they’re not always going to win. Last week, they faced the Philadelphia Wings, who were sitting at 3-10 and tied for last in the league, and they scratched and clawed and managed to come out with a one-goal win. This week, the Rock faced the 12-4 powerhouse first-place-overall Buffalo Bandits so I was hoping for a win but honestly, I wasn’t expecting one. I was expecting an exciting game, and there I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

The Bandits scored an ugly one only 24 seconds in as Corey Small shot one at Rose who stopped about 9/10ths of it, but that last tenth caused it to sneak through under his arm and bounce over the goal line. We’ve all said it many times before: the ugly ones count too. The game was back and forth from there, with each team grabbing the lead several times and the other team tying it up soon thereafter. The game was tied at 1, 3, 4, 6, 8, 9, and 11 and was tied after the first, third, and fourth quarters. Toronto held a two-goal lead going into halftime, their biggest lead of the game, but four straight Bandit goals to start the second half turned that the other direction, giving Buffalo its biggest lead of the game.

By the fourth quarter, we knew we were in for a close ending. By this time my thoughts of “hoping for a good game but probably a Rock loss” were long gone – the good game part was already there and potential win was definitely still in play. Similar to most of the Rock games we’ve seen this season, at no time did we think the Rock were out of it, but at no time did we think they had it sewn up either. Brandon Slade had played pretty well on the offense the entire game, though had no points to show for it, so it was nice to see him get a goal to tie it with just a few minutes left, and even better to see him win it in OT.

Brandon Slade with the Brock Badgers

Nick Rose played a strong game, with a jaw-dropping almost-empty-net save in the fourth quarter, though there were one or two five-hole goals that he probably should have stopped. The Rock defense has been solid all season, and this game was no exception. Latrell Harris had a good game as did Challen Rogers (I say this after every game but damn, he’s everywhere), and Brad Kri continues to look like someone who will eventually win the Defender of the Year award, maybe even this year.

When facing the Bandits, you can try and stop everyone but you’re unlikely to be successful so perhaps it’s a good idea to just focus on one guy, and it seemed to me that the Rock had chosen Shawn Evans. That, of course, leaves Dhane Smith a little more open than you generally want him to be (as the opposing team, anyway), which explains his five goals while Evans had none. Corey Small added a couple and Chris Cloutier got two as well with a couple of deceptive shots – it looks like he’s firing a bullet high and by the time Rose realizes it’s coming in as a slow bouncer instead, he can’t change his initial reaction.

Rob Hellyer continues to be the Rock’s de factor offensive leader and was the most dominant player not named Smith. Adam Jones looked good in his return, scoring a couple and adding five assists. Johnny Powless looked great last week and continued his solid play in this one – a couple of times it looked like he was going to pass but then remembered “oh right, they told me to shoot more” so he did and was rewarded. Tom Schreiber looked a little frustrated that he couldn’t get inside and his shots from distance were being blocked.

On the Bandits side, Matt Vinc was typical Matt Vinc, and Ian MacKay was the Bandits version of Rogers, in that he was all over the floor. Ethan O’Connor also played well but Josh Byrne, in only his second game since January, was mostly a non-factor and even looked a little lost a couple of times.

Other game notes:

  • Dan Lintner got hurt on a play, though I didn’t see what happened. He was down on the floor for a while before being helped to his feet. He did walk off the floor himself, but went straight to the dressing room. Not long after that, Jordan Magnuson took a shot off the helmet and staggered a bit before finishing his shift, then he headed down the tunnel as well. Lintner returned later but was held off the scoresheet (though he scored a beauty in the first quarter). Magnuson also returned and got an assist on the game-tying goal.
  • For the second straight game, Matt Vinc “scored” an empty-net goal on a shot right at the end of the second quarter. Last week it was a perfect no-bounce top-shelf goal, while this week it bounced once in the crease. Neither goal counted because the clock had run out, but nice shots nonetheless.
  • There were Bandits fans in front of us and behind us. The ones in front were quiet, just cheering for goals, while the ones behind us were doing the whole “B-O-X” chant on Rock penalties, “What’s he got? Nothing!” when Vinc made a save, and so on. They were strangely quiet after the game though…
  • Weird and meaningless fact: the Rock scored the last two goals of each of the four quarters. And the last goal of the extra one too.
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