The Toronto Rock (3-2) traveled to the KeyBank Center in Buffalo to face the Bandits (3-1) in a North Division battle for possession of second place.
Buffalo made news earlier in the week with the signing of former Rock (Warriors/Stealth, Seals) player Garrett Billings, who hadn’t played yet this season. This bolsters an already potent offensive lineup for the Bandits, while Toronto, still battling injury problems, put Tom Schreiber on the Injury Reserve list today, adding Jamie Dilks to the active roster.
The game was played in front of 12,026 boisterous fans in Banditland, who were treated to another classic game between these two storied rivals. The game was right down to the wire, but a late goal from Chris Cloutier and an empty-net goal from Matt Gilray sealed the victory for the Bandits 10-8.
The Rock got an early start when Rob Hellyer (5g,1a) scored just 0:41 seconds into the game off a Reid Reinholdt pass.
Tempers flared early when Brent Noseworthy tangled with Mitch Gustavsen less than a minute later.
Both players got five for fighting, with Brad Kri getting the initial penalty for holding. However, Noseworthy got an instigator penalty which came with an automatic game misconduct.
Challen Rogers (2g,0a) increased the Rock lead scoring off a Dan Dawson pass shorthanded at 5:39, but Chase Fraser (3g,1a) finally got the Bandits on the board converting a Dhane Smith pass (also shorthanded) at 9:51. Rob Hellyer re-established the two-goal lead scoring off a Zach Manns pass at 12:54.
After one quarter, Toronto 3 Buffalo 1.
Buffalo opened the second quarter scoring quickly when Josh Byrne (3g,0a) converted a Corey Small pass at 0:26 seconds on the powerplay, then tied the game when Corey Small (1g,2a) scored off a Nick Weiss pass at 6:10.
The Bandits took their first lead of the game when Chase Fraser scored his second of the night off a Dhane Smith pass at 7:40 and increased it to two when Steve Priolo (1g,1a) scored in transition off a Nick Weiss pass at 9:14. Josh Byrne scored his second of the night off a Steve Priolo pass at 10:28 giving the Bandits a three-goal lead.
Toronto mounted a comeback when Rob Hellyer scored his third of the night off an Alec Tulett pass at 11:46, followed by Rob Hellyer then scoring his fourth of the night, converting a David Brock pass at 12:43. Buffalo got one more before the half when Chase Fraser scored his third of the night off a Dhane Smith pass at 13:12.
At the half, Buffalo 7 Toronto 5.
The third quarter had both teams get solid opportunities, but Matt Vinc (Buffalo goalie) and Nick Rose (Rock goalie) both stood tall in the nets.
Toronto had two powerplays back to back including a five-minute high sticking penalty to Josh Byrne, but the Bandits defense was flawless in the kills, keeping the two-goal lead for Buffalo.
Out of the penalty box, there was interference on Josh Byrne, who was on a breakaway.
Byrne was awarded a penalty shot.
On the penalty shot, Byrne went high to low, stuffing the ball into the short side of Rose for the goal.
Dan Dawson (1g,1a) got one back for the Rock after receiving a laser of a pass from Dan Craig. Dawson went to the top of the crease spun around and beat Matt Vinc up high at 12:42.
After three quarters, Buffalo 8 Toronto 6.
Challen Rogers opened the fourth quarter with a transition goal for Toronto, off a pass from Alec Tulett at 0:43 seconds, then Rob Hellyer tied the game up scoring his fifth goal of the night when he fired a laser off a Reid Reinholdt pass at 7:32.
Chris Cloutier (1g,0a) converted a Garrett Billings pass restoring the one goal Bandit lead at 9:31, and put an exclamation point on the game when Matt Gilray (1g,1a) scored into an empty net in transition at 14:16 to seal the game.
Final score, Buffalo 10 Toronto 8.
Shots on goal were in favor of the Rock 64-56.
Toronto won the loose ball battle 60-37.
The Rock edged the Bandits in faceoffs 13-9.
The Rock was 0 for 4 on the powerplay.
Buffalo was 1 for 4 on the powerplay scoring on a penalty shot.
The Three Stars:
1. Chase Fraser….Buffalo
2. Rob Hellyer…….Toronto
3. Matt Vinc……….Buffalo
Rob Hellyer 5g, 1a
Challen Rogers 2g, 0a
Dan Dawson 1g, 1a
Chase Fraser 3g, 1a
Josh Byrne 3g, 0a
Corey Small 1g, 2a
Toronto’s next game is at home at the Scotiabank Arena on January 31st against the Halifax Thunderbirds. Game time is 7:30 pm (EST).
Buffalo’s next game is at the loud house, in the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado January 25th. Game time is 9:30 pm (EST).