Rock spoil Bandits’ home opener with 17-12 victory

The Toronto Rock walked into enemy territory and came out with a victory, beating the rival Buffalo Bandits 17-12 on Friday.

However, the game couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start for the Rock. Out of the gates, they looked like a team that just went through an abbreviated two-week training camp. The Rock would figure it out eventually, though, scoring the final goal of the quarter en route to a six-goal run that would turn a 5-1 deficit into a 7-5 lead.

The teams would trade goals for the rest of the second frame. Toronto’s final marker of the quarter came from Tom Schreiber, who drove down the left flank and dunked the ball past Buffalo goaltender Matt Vinc to give the Rock a 9-6 lead.

However, the Bandits would have an immediate answer, as sophomore Josh Byrne would pot an early candidate for goal of the year. After being forced behind the net, he would dunk a ball on Nick Rose to cut Toronto’s lead to two.

Vinc would be pulled from the game for backup Steve Higgins in the second half after allowing 11 goals on 38 shots. Higgins would go the rest of the way, making 15 saves on 21 shots.

After going through the rough patch to start the contest, Rose was solid the rest of the way. He finished the game with 52 saves and made several key stops to thwart the Bandits’ attempts at a comeback.

“I felt pretty good overall and anytime you can put up over 50 saves and get a win in this league it feels pretty good,” Rose said postgame.

The Bandits, who were without star forward Dhane Smith, were lead by Byrne, who finished with four goals and seven points on the night. Buffalo also got contributions from Shawn Evans (1, 6), Thomas Hoggarth (3, 1), Chase Fraser (2, 2), and Corey Small (1, 2).

Meanwhile, Toronto spread the wealth offensively, with 11 different players finding the back of the net on Friday. Schreiber led the attack with seven points of his own, while Adam Jones, Johnny Powless, Dan Craig, Dan Lintner, and captain Challen Rogers all finished with four points on the night.

It was a milestone night for Rob Hellyer, as the veteran forward notched his 400th career point with a goal to open the second quarter. He would score again in the fourth and chip in another four assists as well.

“Once the game settled down, we played the game we wanted,” Rock head coach Matt Sawyer said. “We’ll feel good about ourselves tonight, enjoy the Christmas break and get back to work and get prepared for Friday. The goal is to get better every week.”

The Rock will return to action in a weeks time when they take on the Georgia Swarm in their home opener.

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