It took the Buffalo Bandits over 22 minutes to solve Nick Rose and almost three quarters before their their offence started to roll, but once they got going there was no stopping them in a 12-10 win over the Toronto Rock in Buffalo Friday night. Steve Priolo scored a pair of key transition goals and Ryan Benesch had a hat trick and 2 assists to lead the Bandits to the win, evening their record at 1-1 on the season. Colin Doyle and Stephan Leblanc each had 3 goals for the Rock, who led 4-0 after one quarter and 6-2 at the half but still fell to 1-1.
Anthony Cosmo had a brilliant second and third quarter, holding the Rock to just 2 goals as the Bandits climbed back into the game, and he stopped 52 shots overall in earning the win. His play gave the Bandits a chance to stay within reach until they were finally able to beat Rose, Benesch managing the feat at the 7:17 of the second quarter on a dandy 2-on-1 break with Dhane Smith, who earned his first of 4 assists in the game.
The third quarter started continued as a goaltending duel, with neither team able to find the back of the net for the first 11 minutes. It was Priolo who finally broke the ice. He took a breakout pass from Glen Bryan and tucked the ball behind Rose to make it 6-3 and the momentum Buffalo had been developing finally began to come to fruition.
The Bandits then sandwiched offensive set goals from Benesch and Mark Steenhuis around a transition marker from Chad Culp—who returned to the lineup from a minor injury and contributed a stellar game in the defensive zone and pushing the ball up the floor—all in a one-minute span to tie the game at 6-6 heading into the final quarter.
They kept the momentum rolling entering the fourth, connecting for goals from Aaron Wilson—also making his season debut coming off a tweak—and Jamie Rooney in the first 1:17 of the frame. Leblanc and Doyle got those two back for the Rock, though, and the game was tied up 8-8.
Then the Bandits transition game stepped up big time. Smith produced yet another scoring chance with his legs, hightailing out of the Buffalo zone and feathering a pass to Andrew Watt, who had roared up the floor to make it another 2-on-1. Watt threw a hard fake then went up and over Rose to give the Bandits a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Then it was Priolo’s turn once again. The big defender pushed the ball into the offensive zone but curled out and tossed the ball to Bryan, who headed to the bench and flipped it to Benesch as he neared centre floor. Rather than leaving the zone, however, Priolo circled back towards the net and caught the eye of Benesch, who rifled a perfect pass to him alone in front. Priolo buried it like an experienced sniper and the Bandits were up by two.
Rob Hellyer got one back for the Rock on a play set up by aggressive transition pressure from Scott Johnston and Damon Edwards just 19 seconds after Priolo’s goal. Then Garrett Billings took a penalty borne of the frustration of a rough ride in the offensive zone. He was tabbed for cross-checking for retaliation and the Bandits went to the power play.
The man advantage was a potent weapon for both teams all night, with each of them going 3-for-4 with the extra man and Buffalo adding a goal with Cosmo on the bench during a delayed penalty. This time was no exception. Rooney slipped a delicate pass through traffic to John Tavares on the top of the crease and the veteran quick-sticked in his only goal of the night. It was a big one, proving to be the game winner.
Billy Dee Smith unselfishly gave up the ball to his brother-in-law, Steenhuis, for an empty netter on a 2-on-1 with just over a minute to play to seal the deal. Jesse Gamble got one back for Toronto and the Rock continued to apply pressure, but the Bandits closed it out to earn their first win and create a four-way tie for first place, rather than letting the Rock pull into first alone for the time being.
Out west, the Roughnecks and Mammoth played a tight first quarter in which the goalies were the stars, coming out of 15 minutes tied 2-2. Then things blew up in the second: Calgary outscored Colorado 7-5 and Tye Belanger was pulled in favour of Dillon Ward for the third straight game.
Calgary controlled the third quarter, outshooting Colorado 14-4 and getting the only two goals of the frame to extend their lead to 11-7. The Mammoth didn’t give up and closed the gap thanks to 3 power play goals and an extra attacker marker, but it was too little, too late. Calgary moved to 1-1 on the season while Colorado fell to 1-2.
Dane Dobbie and Jeff Shattler each scored 4 goals for the Roughnecks and Geoff Snider had a hat trick. Mike Poulin made 34 saves to earn the win. Sean Pollock had his second straight hat trick for the Mammoth. Ward stopped 14 of the 17 shots he faced.
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