By Alex Beilman - Bandits.com
The Buffalo Bandits used a nine-goal run and over 30 minutes of nearly flawless defense to turn a 6-1 deficit into a 13-8 win over the Toronto Rock at the Air Canada Centre on Friday night. The win snaps a three-game losing streak and moves the Bandits to 6-9 on the season and keeps them alive in the playoff hunt.
Anthony Malcolm (3+1) and Dhane Smith (3+2) both had hat tricks, and Anthony Cosmo had a particularly strong second half, and made 46 saves on 58 shots overall in the win.
The game started in the worst way possible for Buffalo. Billy Hostrawser (1+0) scored at the 4:17 mark of the first quarter to put the home side up 1-0. Almost five minutes passed without another goal, but at the 9:09 mark, Toronto hit the gas.
Reid Reinholdt (2+0) scored to make it 2-0, and then Brett Hickey (2+0) and Kieran McArdle (1+1) added goals in a span of 2:24 to make it a 4-0 game at the end of the 1st quarter.
The 2nd quarter began well for the Bandits, as Anthony Malcolm netted his first of the game 2:07 into the quarter. However, Toronto captain Brodie Merrill (2+0) netted a brace, scoring both goals exactly a minute apart.
Mitch Jones (2+2) added his 24th of the season, and Malcolm netted his second of the evening to get the Bandits within three to end the 2nd quarter of play. They would head to the locker room trailing 6-3 and with their playoff hopes on the line.
The visiting team rose to the challenge. Ryan Benesch (2+1) netted his first goal of the evening just 1:32 in the 3rd quarter, and helped bridge the closing goals of the first half to create a 9-0 scoring run.
The biggest goal of the run came from the stick of the night’s offensive hero, Anthony Malcolm. The Bandits were trailing 6-5, but saw two penalties assessed. Nick Weiss was whistled for holding the stick, and the uproar from the visitors’ bench led the officials to tack an unsportsmanlike conduct call.
With the Bandits down two men for a full two minutes, the penalty kill did a stellar job of taking away the Rock’s time and space. Then, after a turnover, Malcolm went to work.
Malcolm was rather fleet of foot all night, but showed of a series of moves and used a burst of strength to get to the net mouth. With a Rock defender at his back, he was able to place a shot over the shoulder on Nick Rose to tie the game at 6-6.
Smith, Benesch, Blaze Riorden (1+5) and Mark Steenhuis (2+2) all contributed goals on the Bandits best offensive run of the night. Meanwhile, the defense did their job at the back, suffocating any offensive momentum the Rock may have that they had after the first half.
Cosmo was a big part of the defensive turnaround, frequently shutting down odd-man rushes and cross-crease passes to frustrate Toronto’s shooters. By the time the dust had settled, Buffalo found themselves up 10-6.
Finally, Hickey was able to get a shot past the Buffalo keeper for the first time in over 30 minutes of game play to end Buffalo’s run at the 3:57 mark of the first quarter and make it a 10-7 game.
Buffalo, however, would not relent. The Bandits answered right back, as Dhane Smith launched a laser beam from outside and beat Rose over the shoulder. Reinholdt would provide a quick answer to make the game 11-8.
However, those two goals would be all she wrote for Toronto’s second half scoring. Cosmo and the defense remained steady at the back, and Jones and Smith added two empty net goals to seal the Bandits 13-8 victory.
With the win, the Bandits sit one game back of the New England (7-8) for the final playoff spot, pending the result of the Black Wolves’ showdown with the Saskatchewan Rush.