Bandits Outlast Late Rock Surge To Advance To The Championship

Gary Groob

Lax Philly – A Division of Edge of Philly Sports Network

The Toronto Rock took on the Buffalo Bandits at FirstOntario Centre in Hamilton, ON in a “Do or Die” playoff game in front of 7,992 fans.

The Bandits led the best of three series 1-0 after last Sunday’s 18-17 win in Buffalo, and were looking to finish the Rock off for the season.

Buffalo heavily relied on Josh Byrne and Dhane Smith in Game one. Byrne was the player of the game with four goals and seven assists. Smith also was a double-digit scorer with a hat trick and seven assists. Toronto got big games from Zach Manns (4g,1a), Tom Schreiber (3g,5a), Challen Rogers (3g,2a), and Rob Hellyer (2g,3a).

Matt Vinc also had a big night for Buffalo, stopping 41 shots and becoming the fourth goaltender in franchise history to have four postseason victories with the team. Vinc leads all NLL goalies with 23 playoff wins and 1,225 saves, currently in sole possession of the second-most postseason games played with 35. 

Vinc faced Nick Rose for the Toronto Rock once again in this game, and the both of them showed why they were two of the top goalies in this league.

In another tight game, the Bandits were able to come away with the 10-9 victory, with it coming down to the wire for the second straight week.  Again Josh Byrne, and Dhane Smith had big nights for Buffalo, while Tom Schreiber, and Rob Hellyer had strong showings for the Toronto Rock.

To The Game…

The Bandits opened the scoring when Kyle Buchanan (1g,1a) scored unassisted at 2:17 on a great individual effort in front of the crease.  The Rock came right back when Brandon Slade (1g,1a) scored off a Brad Kri pass in transition at 8:32.

Josh Byrne (2g,6a) scored yet another highlight reel goal, diving across the crease off a Chris Cloutier pass at 12:23.

After one, Buffalo 2 Toronto 1

Second Quarter:

Buffalo opened the second quarter scoring when Connor Fields (1g,1a) converted a Dhane Smith pass at 2:28, but the Rock came right back when Latrell Harris (1g,1a) fired a laser off a Brad Kri pass in transition at 5:27.

The rest of the quarter was an exciting track meet of back and forth action but yielded no goals.

At the half, Buffalo 3, Toronto 2.

Third Quarter:

Toronto opened the third quarter scoring when Tom Schreiber (3g,2a) fired a shot off a Josh Jubenville pass at 3:06, but the Bandits cam right back when Chris Cloutier (2g,2a) converted a Dhane Smith pass 0:19 seconds later to restore the one goal lead. 

Josh Jubenville (1g,1a) tied the game once again off a Latrell Harris pass in transition at 5:29, but again the Bandits had the answer when Dhane Smith (2g,4a) scored on the power play off a Josh Byrne pass at 6:58. 

The Bandits increased their lead to two goals when Chris Cloutier scored again on the power play off a Josh Byrne pass at 12:40.

After three quarters, Bandits 6 Rock 4.

Fourth Quarter:

The Rock opened the fourth quarter when Tom Schreiber put a Laser behind Matt Vinc off a Rob Hellyer pass at 0:49 seconds, but again the Bandits came back when Dhane Smith dove across the crease off a Connor Fields pass at 3:17. 

Buffalo increased the lead to three goals when Chase Fraser (2g,0a) scored off a Chris Cloutier pass at 4:12.  Josh Byrne increased the lead to four with a top of the crease shot that beat Rose at 8:10. 

Toronto got back on the board when Rob Hellyer (2g,3a) blasted a shot past Matt Vinc off a Tom Schreiber pass at 8:51, followed by Dan Craig’s (1g,1a) crease dive that brought the score within two with 5:41 left.  The Bandits challenged the play but it was deemed a good goal.  Hellyer then brought the game within one goal when he dove across the crease off a Challen Rogers pass at 9:48.

Buffalo increased the lead to two again when Chase Fraser fired a Laser off a Tehoka Nanticoke pass at 11:26.

Toronto narrowed it to a one goal game when Tom Schreiber scored off a Dan Craig pass at 14:14, and thought they tied it with just tenths of a second left.  Upon review, the shot entered the net just after time expired giving the Bandits the win, and a birth in the NLL finals.

.Final Score, Bandits 10 Rock 9.

“A lot of what ifs over the two games, but this was a group that just continued to get up off the mat and claw their way back,” said Rock Head Coach Matt Sawyer. “Sometimes you need to experience these moments and taste how close we were as a team to figure out how to get it done. It’s a tough one for sure.”

Quotes courtesy of the Toronto Rock

“Give credit to Buffalo, they strung together two of the best games they played all year,” said Rock captain Challen Rogers. “You can’t knock our effort. It was a tough series and a tough result. It’s been a special year for this group, and I couldn’t be prouder of them.”

Quotes courtesy of the Toronto Rock

Game Stats:

  • Toronto outshot Buffalo 51-49.
  • The Rock went 17 of 23 in faceoffs
  • The loose ball battle went to Toronto 94-68.
  • Power plays had Buffalo going 2 for 3, and Toronto going 0 for 1.

The Three Stars:

  • First Star………………..Matt Vinc
  • Second Star…………..Tom Schreiber
  • Third Star………………Josh Byrne

Top Scorers:

Buffalo Bandits:

  • Josh Byrne (2g, 6a)
  • Dhane Smith (2g, 4a)
  • Chris Cloutier (2g,2a)

Toronto Rock:

  • Tom Schreiber 3g, 2a
  • Rob Hellyer 2g, 3a
  • Brad Kri 0g, 3a

Buffalo will now wait for the winner of the Colorado Mammoth vs. San Diego Seals Semi-Final, to see who their opposition will be for the NLL Championship.

Gary Groob
Gary Groob

Gary Groob has been involved with Lacrosse for the majority of his life, whether playing, coaching, or covering the sport for the media.

An avid fan, with a real drive about helping to “grow the game”, Gary became part of podcasts about the game in 2010. Through the podcasts, Mr. Groob was given an opportunity to write about lacrosse, and the rest as they say, is history.

Through many miles (flying and driving) Gary has made inroads with the National Lacrosse League, Major Series Lacrosse League, the Ontario Lacrosse Association, as well as the Arena Lacrosse League, covering the leagues, their teams, and players, working for, and in concert with all of them.

In the year 2020, Mr. Groob was made the media person for the Arena Lacrosse League, voted onto the board of directors of the Brampton Excelsiors Lacrosse Club, as well as being made administrator of the Lacrosse page “Global Lacrosse” with a membership of 9000 members in over 90 Countries. Gary was also made an administrator of Lacrosse History Past Present and Future in 2022.

Mr. Groob co-hosts a weekly Lacrosse show on Spanglish Sports World, and ZingoTV channel 250, as well as writes a weekly lacrosse column for La Portada Canada News (both in print, and online).

Gary also hosts a Lacrosse talk show and podcast for The Edge of Philly Sports Network, seen live Sunday nights at 9pm (ET), and archived on the Edge of Philly YouTube page, as well as Spotify.

Mr. Groob’s other sports interests include Hockey, Football, Boxing, Wrestling, and Baseball, competing competitively in Boxing and Wrestling for many years.