By: Andrew Mullane
BUFFALO NY--- A battle for first place between the Buffalo Bandits and Toronto Rock was played on April 22, 2023 at KeyBank Center In Buffalo, NY. The night was filled with surprises for fans as it was Fan Appreciation night at KeyBank Center. Buffalo came into the matchup at 12-4 and Toronto 13-4. The winner tonight Buffalo, clinched the first seed for the 2023 NLL Playoffs. After an impressive 11-10 win.
The game started out with a special pre game ceremony where the team received awards voted by the fans. The first quarter of play started out with Toronto's Latrell Harris scoring on a pretty shot to make it 1-0 Rock. A strong start for the Rock through the first media timeout, but the Bandits proving to be just as strong early. The Rock would go to the power play late in the first quarter and Challen Rodgers of the Rock made Buffalo pay to go up 2-0. A very strong performance from Toronto's goalie Nick Rose as he stopped all 14 of Buffalo's shots.
In the 2nd quarter of play Ian MacKay took a penalty for holding to start the quarter off. Dhane Smith found the back of the net shorthanded to make it 2-1 Rock early in the second quarter. Tom Schreiber absolutely fired off a cannon of a shot and extended the lead to 3-1 Rock midway through the quarter of play. Bandits Captain Steve Priolo set the aggressive tone as he beat Mitch de Snoo in a fight. The crowd went crazy as they showed Sabres star forward Alex Tuch on the Jumbotron. Josh Bryne scored off a nice pass from Dhane Smith to make it 3-2 Rock. Buffalo would follow that on the power-play and would not capitalize. The Rock returned to the power play late in the second quarter but nothing came from it. Toronto's Stephen Keough ended the half with a goal to extend the Rock lead at halftime to 4-2.
The second half started with Challen Rodgers ripping off a shot extending the Rocks lead to 5-2. The Bandits would head to the power play early in the third quarter and Josh Bryne would score off a pass from Smith. Dhane Smith would come right back and score again for the Bandits to make the score 5-4 Rock. Sending the crowd into a frenzy Chase Fraser of the Bandits would score to tie things up midway through the 3rd quarter at 5. Fraser added another one right away extending the Buffalo lead for the first time in the game making it 6-5. Tom Schreiber of the Rock would add two goals to make it 7-6 Rock. Shortly after Kyle Buchanan of the Bandits tied it up off an assist from Smith to make the score tied at 7. The score would not last long as the Rock's Corey Small would score to make it 8-7 Rock. Buffalo would go to the power play to finish the 3rd quarter.
The fourth quarter started and no goal came from the power play. Chase Fraser scored his third of the night midway through the 4th quarter of play to tie the game at 8 a piece. Challen Rodgers of the Rock scored again to make the score 9-8 Toronto. Josh Bryne would tie the game for the Bandits late in the 4th quarter to make it 9-9. Tehoka Nanticoke of the Bandits scored to take the lead for the Bandits making the score 10-9 Bandits with 6 minutes of play left. Josh Byrne would add a goal to make the score 11-9 Buffalo. Corey Small of the Rock would add in on the scoring to make it 11-10 with about 3:40 to go. The Bandits would get a power play with about 2:50 left in the game and Buffalo would not score. Buffalo would hold on and win game.
With the win tonight Buffalo clinch the #1 seed in the playoffs and home field advantage. Meaning the playoffs run through Buffalo. the Bandits 13-4 will travel next to 3-13 Albany for a battle with the Firewolves next week to close out their season.