The Buffalo Bandits were one goal away from getting to the NLL Championship game last season. They lost that game to the Toronto Rock who eventually went on to win the championship against the Washington Stealth. While revenge may not have been at the forefront of their minds, their 14-10 victory over the Rock was a good start to the 2012 season.
One of the Bandits goals this season was to get more balanced scoring from their offense. While Mark Steenhuis and John Tavares are world class players, the Bandits offense seemed to sputter last year when those two were the only ones producing. On Saturday night, nine different Bandits players found the back of the net. The offense was led by newly acquired Luke Wiles who had three goals and an assist on the night. The other new acquisitions, Mat Giles and Kevin Buchanan, each found the back of the net as well with each of them scoring twice.
The aforementioned Tavares and Steenhuis had solid games as well with Tavares having one goal and seven assists on the night and Steenhuis had just one goal and one assist. Defender Scott Self seems to find his stride in home openers, with two goals and three assists on the night.
For the Toronto Rock, they were led by Colin Doyle who scored four of the Rock's ten goals on the night and had an assist as well. No other Rock player was able to score more than once and the Rock's offense seemed to be a little disjointed as one of their offensive leaders, Blaine Manning, was injured early in the first quarter and never returned to the game. The Manning injury did have an impact as the Rock only started the game with three right handed offensive players. "We obviously didn't practice or plan for it so it does add a little bit to it, but you have to find a way and we haven't found a way," said coach Cordingly after the game.
In goal, Mike Thompson had one of the best nights of his career, according to coach Kilgour, as he made 41 saves on 51 shots in the winning effort. If there were any concerns about his knee heading into this season, Thompson's performance showed that he is doing much better. "I feel strong and confident out there and just moving forward and feel great right now," said Thompson after the game.
For the Toronto Rock, Matt Roik made 23 saves on 37 shots for his second loss on the season. In both losses, the Rock haven't given their goaltender much support as the team has yet to score double digits in a game. The Rock will have a week off before they face the high scoring Rochester Knighthawks on Friday January 27th while the Buffalo Bandits will face off against those same Knighthawks on January 21st.