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Bandits vs. Rock live-blog

Photo by Dave Marino

blog by Ben Tsujimoto  • 

Game balls: Luke Wiles, Scott Self, Mike Thompson, and the team’s new strength and conditioning coach. Seriously, the Bandits were physically prepared for a contest without a preseason tune-up.

——————End of Game, 14-10 Bandits—————

:35—And that’s the icing on the cake! Johnny Tavares is first to a loose ball after the scrum in the corner, and he leaps toward the goal and tucks his shot into the gaping net. 14-10 Bandits, and the happy Buffalo fans are heading to the exits. How many times have you heard that sentence lately!

1:17—Toronto needs three goals in 77 seconds to send this one to OT. Can they do it? Colin Doyle has a miscommunication with a teammate, and then Garrett Billings sends a shot wide. 30-second shot clock violation, and Buffalo has the ball. Under 30 seconds remain.

1:20—With the goalie pulled, Steve Priolo explodes down the floor—he’s checked to the turf by two defenders, and Scott Self gathers the loose ball before ringing a shot off the post of the open net. Toronto calls for a timeout, and I doubt head coach Troy Cordingley is too pleased right now. He’s a little guy with a lot of pent up rage.

2:37—The horn was ruled inadvertent, and playing wasn’t supposed to stop, but play continued and the Rock scored. Bizarre. Matt Roik runs to the bench, and the Rock are playing with an extra attacker.

2:51—In what is incredibly baffling to me, the goal that Bill Greer just scored, long after the horn rang, has now been counted by the referees. Tracey Kelusky and Chris White are both pleading their cases to the zebras. Regardless, it’s now only 13-10 Buffalo.

3:15 —Doyle snaps a shot at Thompson, who kicks the ball away. More clock for Buffalo to kill. Buchanan is checked as he tries to turn past a Rock defender, and he’s plopped to the floor. The Rock immediately pick up the ball and try to run two-on-zero, but the horn blows. The referees are explaining on the floor why play was halted. I think the new rules are giving everyone a bit of an issue.

4:28 —Kasey Beirnes has to be frustrated, and he just peppered two rockets on Thompson, who stopped them both. With 1:05 left on both penalties, Colin Doyle snapped the twine after a vicious fake that forced Mikey to commit. Josh Sanderson had hit the post only seconds before. 13-9 now, Buffalo still holds the lead. Smith’s back on the floor, but White remains in the box.

5:07—Oddly, the Bandits are now two men down after penalties on Chris White and Billy Dee Smith, the team’s two best defensemen. The Rock, who haven’t scored in well over 10 minutes, receive an opportune 5-on-3 chance.

5:26 —Thompson stuffs Kasey Beirnes shot—the Rock player hurt his angle by getting too close to Mikey—and a fight nearly breaks out. The officials step in quickly, however, much to the dismay of the probably inebriated Bandit crowd.

6:28 —The floodgates are starting to open now, as Kevin Buchanan whips home his second of the evening on a set-up from Scott Self. #33 didn’t pump-fake this time—he buried a quick-stick to the far post. 13-8 Buffalo!

6:52—Ian Llord really can’t catch a break tonight. He’s been popped in the face with shots, and each time he’s risen to his feet quickly. He’s a tough, underappreciated defender, who’s been pretty unlucky in the shot-blocking category tonight.

7:35 —Buffalo finally converts on the five minute power play, as Luke Wiles’ shot from the point is stopped initially by Roik, but it trickles past him. 12-8 Buffalo, and the Rock are desperate for answers. That’s a hat trick for the former Stealth star!

9:09—Ian Llord shields the ball away from Colin Doyle as “Teach me how to Dougie” takes over the sound system. Jimmy Purves just smacked Stephen Hoar, then drilled another Toronto player to force a turnover. Steenhuis tracks down a loose ball, and then another after a Luke Wiles misfire.

9:59 —16,356 is the announced attendance tonight, and while the 300 level is pretty sparse, the rest of the arena is pretty packed. 2:50 remains in Ryan Sharp’s five minute major penalty.

9:59 —Buffalo rookie Jeremy Thompson is a ball-hawk—he forced a turnover deep in the Toronto zone, allowing Mark Steenhuis to dart freely one-on-one with Matt Roik—the Toronto goalie guessed correctly, however, leaping to his left to deflect the ball away.

11:01 —Luke Wiles, an All-Star last year, gives Buffalo a three-goal cushion with a pretty shot-fake that put Roik out of position and a quick second shot that bounced between the goalie’s legs. 11-8 Bandits.

12:09—Ryan Sharp earns a five minute major for high-sticking—ah, that’s why Culp was so heated. Luke Wiles is too tentative on his dash through the middle, and he turns it over. Billings is double-teamed by Llord and Harasym in the corner, and the Rock are unable to use the whole offensive shot clock to kill the Bandit penalty.

12:48 —Kyle Sweeney just planted Toronto’s Patrick Merrill firmly into the turf—the hit brought a roar from the Buffalo faithful. Mat Giles can’t score from a bad angle, but there’s a penalty coming up on Toronto! Chad Culp is angry, for some reason, and he’s red-faced with his helmet off, talking vociferously to a trainer.

13:58 —Manning fires away from the left side, and his shot skims off the top of the bar and over. Leblanc squirts free on a cut inside, but he places his shot wide left. Rock keep possession, and this time Carey is freed through the middle on a cut, and Thompson shoulders that one over. Mikey’s been a monster.

15:00 —I admire Swennie, the Bandits’ PA announcer, and his rather over-the-top energy, but he does start to grate on the nerves after awhile. Steve Priolo just smashed a Rock player after Bill Greer missed a sitter in from of the Buffalo net. Greer would love to have that one back.

15:00—Mike Thompson is the first Bandit on the floor for the fourth quarter, checking his posts and preparing himself for what should be a chaotic final period.

——————End of Third Quarter, 10-8 Buffalo————-

:43—Powerful low shot by Leblanc doesn’t trouble Thompson, who stands his ground and doesn’t permit a rebound to squirt loose. Giles fires wide, but Tavares tracks down the loose ball and launches a shot off Roik—Buffalo keeps possession through great hustle by the 43-year-old! I never thought I’d write that.

2:44—Steenhuis is double teamed in the corner, and his pass to Francis can’t be corralled by the big fella. Toronto comes away with the loose ball. Jon Harasym tears the ball loose from Josh Sanderson, but Buffalo can’t take advantage of the ensuing odd man rush. It’s confirmed, Manning is out for the game with a broken collarbone. 10-8 Buffalo still.

3:23—Wiles bounces a shot high over the net, then Wiles and Culp get into it with a Rock player by the Buffalo bench. Dan Carey fires high and wide.

4:01—The Rock are outshooting Buffalo 36-26, but the Bandits have had no issues solving Roik in the second half.

4:37—Wiles was found wide open in front of Roik by an aware Johnny Tavares, allowing Wiles to pumpfake three times before lofting the ball over the top of Roik. On Giles’ goal, Scott Self played distributor, hitting the giant forward only a few feet from the crease. It’s been a raucous minute for Bandits fans.

4:48Cool hand Luke Wiles and Mat Giles score two goals in 11 seconds! Buffalo’s now in front 10-8! Fast and furious action in the FNC.

5:03 —Excellent pass from Stephen Hoar threaded through two defenders leads to a tying goal by Bill Greer, as Mikey Thompson threw himself awkwardly at that point blank attempt. 8-8 tie.

5:46 —Cornwall seeing a lot more action in the second half for Buffalo. Purves’ can’t maneuver through traffic, and the ball is jarred loose. Credit Stephan Leblanc on Toronto’s seventh goal, as he drew a double team toward him and then flipped a pass to an uncovered Colin Doyle, who rifled past Thompson. 8-7 Buffalo.

6:55—Mikey Thompson has Colin Doyle’s number tonight, as he thwarted him again from within 20 feet. Buchanan unleashes another missile after an unselfish drop pass from Kelusky, but this one’s wide again, too.

8:05—Terrific play by Jeff Cornwall opens up a two-goal Bandit lead. The Bandits’ rookie paused briefly 25 feet from the net before flipping a pass to Scott Self to his left, and Self neatly tucked the ball in over Roik’s shoulder. Self’s second goal of the night has Buffalo up 8-6.

10:29—Harasym clobbers a Rock player to the turf, then Buchanan hums another shot wide. He’s struggling to put the ball on frame tonight. Ian Llord and Chris White do well to congest the area in front of Mike Thompson, and they force a turnover on Garrett Billings. Wiles fires high and wide, and Toronto almost capitalizes on a highlight reel goal. Beautiful no-look pass by Glen Bryan as he’s pushed to the turf isn’t converted by Beirnes, who rang the pipe again.

11:44 —Tremendous point-blank save by Mike Thompson on Colin Doyle, who looked like he had a sure goal. The referee whistles for a crease violation, so it wouldn’t have counted anyhow. Minor penalty on John Tavares, and Buffalo will be short-handed again.

13:25—Buchanan attempts a whistler from 30 feet—it sails over the top. Colin Doyle is checked into the wall by Steenhuis and Jeremy Thompson. The peerless athlete Steenhuis races down the floor, receives a perfect outlet pass from Jimmy Purves and flings a shot over Roik’s shoulder and in. 7-6, Bandits take the lead!

14:09—Bandits on the power play after a holding penalty on Stephen Hoar. Buffalo wastes little time, as Tracey Kelusky rips a shot from the left point that sneaks inside the right post. 6-6 tie.

14:32—Good looks from Steve Bermel from IL Indoor, who passes along a report that Blaine Manning could miss the rest of the season with a broken collarbone. If that’s the case, it’s a crushing loss.

Halftime—Loose ball stats at halftime—Bandits won 36, Toronto 31. No player has multiple goals in the game, as 11 players have one apiece. Tavares hasn’t connected on any of his five shots, but he’s recorded three assists to compensate.

———————Halftime, Toronto 6-5——————-

:23—Over and back violation on Buffalo, and the penalty is three seconds from expiration. Toronto has one last chance on the attack—Ian Llord lays out with his dome to block a Josh Sanderson shot, and the half ends. Llord looks to be okay after getting shaken up initially.

1:01—That’s the Kevin Buchanan we were looking for! On a short-handed, one-on-three, Buchanan employed a swim move through two defenders and scooped a shot past a startled Roik. That’s highlight reel, game-changing material right there. 6-5 Toronto.

1:26 —Outstanding save by Mike Thompson on Josh Sanderson, who uncorked a low shot that Mikey saw late. Kick save, and now Buffalo’s at the opposite end running clock.

2:20—Priolo scoops up a loose ball for Buffalo, and Wiles resets. Bad exchange at the bench for the Bandits, however, and it looks like a penalty is going to be awarded to Kilgour’s club. This is a particularly inopportune for the Bandits to be short-handed, as Brandon Francis dejectedly trots to the box to serve the too many men penalty.

3:51—Another punishing hit by Billy Dee Smith—that’s four crunchers by my count. Crowd is relatively docile now, as it’s been over eight minutes since the Bandits have scored.

4:18 —Love what I’ve seen from Jeremy Thompson, even if he’s not registered on the score-sheet. He’s a daredevil, constantly buzzing around the floor and wreaking havoc at both ends. I don’t think there’s a quicker player on the Buffalo roster.

4:30—Roik stands tall again, denying a back post shot by Tavares after a deft dish from Kelusky. The Bandits are creating chances, but they’ve either missed the target, or Roik’s swallowed them up. Toronto’s opened up a small lead, 6-4.

5:12—Leblanc curls around a screen for Toronto but fires into Thompson’s pads. Brief scrum in front of Buffalo’s net, and a crease violation is called for the millionth time today.

6:08—And there’s the first soft one that Thompson has conceded tonight. Glen Bryan sprinted down on a two on one vs. Mat Giles, faked a pass, then tossed a soft one over Thompson’s right shoulder. 6-4 Rock.

6:38—Sickening behind the back pass by Josh Sanderson sprung Dan Carey in alone on Thompson, and Carey calmly picked his corner before being pushed to the carpet. 5-4 Toronto.

7:53 —Chad Culp opts not to shoot after receiving a pass inside, and the shot clock expires. More assertiveness, Chad! Buchanan and Tavares miss consecutive shots into Roik’s right leg, and Toronto comes away with the ball.

8:41—Poor decision for a long pass down the floor by the Bandits, who quickly turn the ball over. Garrett Billings shoots low and but wide, then Scott Self blocks Colin Doyle from a bad angle. Self’s been a difference-maker so far.

10:37—Awesome check by Scott Self at the other end, interrupting a scoring chance. Behind the pack pass from Kelusky to Giles, who doesn’t see the ball and turns it over. A little too much trickery from the veteran. Buchanan fires a shot from almost beyond the restraining line, and that’s wide. Neither Wiles nor Buchanan has made an impact so far.

11:26 Johnny T ties the score! Perfectly led pass by Scott Self sent Tavares in alone on Roik, and the 21 year veteran made no mistake with a howler over Roik’s left shoulder. 4-4 tie.

12:08—Carey whips a shot straight into Mike Thompson’s pads, and then Wiles whistles a shot wide. Colin Doyle rushes the Rock’s next trip down the floor.

13:04—Rob Marshall rings the post for Toronto after a Buffalo turnover. That’s the third post the Rock have hit. Tavares’ shot is deflected wide, but Buffalo maintains possession. Steenhuis flips to Purves cutting across the middle, but the youngster is caught with another crease violation.

13:56—Luke Wiles can’t measure his steps as he drives to the net—his feet are in the crease. Pinpoint shot by the Rock’s Garrett Billings solves Mike Thompson, however, and the Rock strike first in the second quarter. 4-3 Toronto.

14:37—Jeremy Thompson spins to the ground to win the faceoff, but Mark Steenhuis loses the ball as he darts to the net. Thompson picks up the loose ball on the next possession, and Buffalo regroups.

15:00—Toronto out-shoots Buffalo 10-7 in the first quarter in what’s started as an even contest. This isn’t too shocking though, as Darris Kilgour of Buffalo and GM Terry Sanderson of Toronto agreed that this game will more than likely come down to the fourth quarter, or even the final possession.

———————-End of First Quarter, 3-3 tie————————-

:20—Bouncing shot by Culp after a drop pass from Tavares bounced over Roik’s goal, and that draws the first quarter to a close.

1:05 —After a steal by Mark Steenhuis, Kevin Buchanan burst down the right side, impressively hung in mid-air and fired just wide of the right post. Very athletic effort that wasn’t finished. Clock violation on Toronto.

2:28—Bill Greer couldn’t stick with Chad Culp on the next trip, however, as the sturdy forward cut inside of his man, received a pass from Tavares, and fired over the top to Roik’s right. 3-3 tie.

3:27—Suddenly, building off the momentum of Beirnes’ goal, Toronto scores under 10 seconds after with a nifty finish by Sandy Chapman. Solid extra pass on the play by Cam Woods, and it’s 3-2 Rock.

3:36—Toronto knots the score back at 2 on the power play behind Kasey Beirnes’ tally. Garrett Billings had his initial shot block, but the loose ball rolled to Josh Sanderson, who smartly picked out a wide open Beirnes.

4:13—Pretty save by Mikey Thompson, who smothered Dan Carey’s shot with his pads before briefly losing sight of the ball—fortunately, it trickled to the corner, and Buffalo wastes the ensuing 30-second clock to drain the penalty.

4:41—Delayed penalty on Buffalo’s Jeremy Thompson, who was a little overzealous in his attempt to pry the ball loose on the left boards. Toronto wasn’t able to convert off the delay, as Thompson made a chest save. Timeout on the floor, still 2-1 Buffalo.

6:05 —A rip from outside by Billy Dee Smith and a behind the back attempt on the rebound by Harasym are both off target. Now out of the box, Patrick Merrill sneaked to the weakside and fired wide of Thompson’s left pads. 30 second clock violation on the Bandits.

8:33—Outstanding block by Toronto’s Mike Hobbins on Chad Culp’s attempt from just inside the faceoff dots.

8:33—Finally, a break in the action. The rule changes—each team only has eight seconds to advance the ball past mid-carpet and that each team must place the ball on the ground after losing possession—have had a major impact on the game. It’s much, much faster paced than last year, and there’s considerably more space for each team to operate.

10:08—Steenhuis has his shot from the left wing knocked away by Mike Hobbins, and Toronto takes possession. Another unforced TO by the Rock, however. Luke Wiles drives down the left side, but his angle is cut down by a lunging defender and Roik’s step up out of his crease. Nice defensive play on the next series by Cam Woods, however, and it’s Rock ball.

10:58—The action is incredibly fast, as Purves cradled the ball on the doorstep of the Rock goal, but after beating Roik, he was called for a crease violation, negating the goal. Still 2-1.

11:50—Chad Culp and Patrick Merrill are each called for offsetting slashing penalties. The teams will play four on four. Buchanan whistles a shot wide after the faceoff win, but an alert Mat Giles grabs the ricochet off the boards and fires passed a stunned Roik. 2-1 Bandits!

12:07—Buffalo answers back! Oh, how important the transition game is. Steve Priolo, the unexpected offensive source, exploded out of his own zone and bore down on Roik before burying his shot to the keeper’s lower left. 1-1 now! Fine outlet pass by Jon Harasym.

13:21—Crushing check by Billy Dee Smith leads to a turnover, but the outlet pass for Jeremy Thompson is errant. Both Billings and Hoar hit posts on the ensuing possessions.

14:17—Colin Doyle puts Toronto on the board after the Rock snagged the loose ball following Carey’s miss. Doyle beat Chris White to the right edge of Thompson’s crease and fired between the goalie’s legs. 1-0 Rock.

15:00—The sound system here has clearly been upgraded. I cannot hear myself think! Toronto wins the draw. Dan Carey rifles the first shot of the season against Buffalo, and Mike Thompson is up to the task.

15:00—Deafening noise at the First Niagara Center from a solid crowd. Tara Minogue, the returning national anthem singer from last year, is back again this year. We’re ready for the opening draw.

Pre-game—Toronto has plenty of offensive firepower, and the Rock’s main departure from last year was the retirement of Bob Watson, an NLL legend between the pipes. Matt Roik, acquired in a trade from the Washington Stealth, was stellar in net for the Rock in the opener, but the fearsome fivesome of Stephen Leblanc, Garrett Billings, Blaine Manning, Colin Doyle and Josh Sanderson was held relatively quiet.

Pre-game—It’s great to see the excitement from the Bandits’ newcomers as they enter the floor. Definitely a spring in the steps of Jeff Cornwall, Kevin Buchanan, Jeremy Thompson, Kyle Sweeney, Mat Giles and Luke Wiles. They’re simply not used to this many fans!

Pre-game—Quite the pre-game montage on the jumbotron (what a strange word jumbotron is!). Big ovation for the introduction of Billy Dee Smith, who missed the entirety of last year with a knee injury. His ability to shake off rust quickly will be crucial for the Bandits tonight.

Pre-game—Two surprise inactives for Darris Kilgour’s Bandits team tonight: transition player Tom Montour and forward Roger Vyse. Jimmy Purves, a practice squad member for much of last season, is listed as active in Montour’s stead.

Pre-game —Welcome to the First Niagara Center, where the Buffalo Bandits are 15 minutes away from opening their season against the Toronto Rock. Toronto has already played one game this year, falling to Calgary 12-9 at the Air Canada Centre.

TAGGED: buffalo bandits, john tavares, lacrosse wny, mark steenhuis, nll, toronto rock

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