12/21/2018 11:47:00 PM / Nick Konotopskyj
The Bandits had the perfect start to the home opener on Friday before Toronto came back in to crash the party. Buffalo lost to the Rock by a score of 17-12 to drop to 1-1 on the young 2018-19 season.
Shawn Evans had seven points (1+6) for the Bandits as he went over 700 career assists. Josh Byrne also had seven points and led the Bandits with four goals on the night. Dhane Smith, who left the Philadelphia game late in the fourth quarter, missed the game due to nagging hamstring and ankle issues.
Toronto was led by Tom Schreiber, who had three goals and four assists, and Rob Hellyer who contributed with two goals and four assists.
Buffalo jumped out to a 2-0 lead thanks to goals by Shawn Evans and Josh Byrne. After Toronto got on the board, Thomas Hoggarth added three straight goals for the Bandits to expand the Bandit lead to 5-1. Toronto added one goal by Damon Edwards with under one minute left to cut the Bandit lead to 5-2 after the first quarter.
The Rock had four minor penalties in the first quarter, but the Bandits only scored on one of those chances. Head coach Rich Kilgour said that the lack of production on the powerplay caused Toronto to get back into the game and eventually take control.
“It was tough there in the first when we were up 4 to 1,” Kilgour said. “We had three or four power plays right in a row and not only do we fail to score, but we gave up one. After that, we were on our heels. We have a young team and sometimes when things go bad, it’s hard for them to realize it’s a 60-minute game and there are going to be ups and downs.”
The second quarter is where the Rock did most of their damage. They outscored the Bandits 7 to 2 during that stretch and led at halftime over the Bandits 9-7.
It started with two quick goals by Rob Hellyer and Challen Rogers to make it a 5-4 game. After Matt Gilray took a major boarding penalty for the Bandits, the Rock capitalized quickly by adding two more goals on the powerplay to take a 6-5 lead.
“We had a great start and that’s all it was,” Shawn Evans said. “We were up five to one in our own building and that’s what we wanted to do, but unfortunately that’s all we did. They went on a run and we just couldn’t get back into it. We had our chances, but we just have to capitalize on those opportunities. We have to get better all around for 60 minutes and not just 10.”
Corey Small opened the scoring in the third quarter for Buffalo to cut the Rock lead to 9-8. With 3:48 left in the quarter, Toronto’s Tom Schreiber added his third goal of the game to put the Bandits down two once again. Zach Higgins Bandits starting goalie Matt Vinc late in the third quarter after the Rock added their 11th goal in the game.
Vinc made 27 saves on 38 shots, while Higgins had 15 saves on 21 shots. Rock goalie Nick Rose stopped 52 of 64 shots on the night.
The Bandits entered the fourth quarter trailing 11-8, but the closest they ever got was within two goals. Byrne had two of his four goals in the fourth quarter, but that wasn’t enough to get Buffalo a win in the home opener.
“It’s a learning experience for us,” captain Steve Priolo said. “It’s early and as good as we are on paper, you have to prove it every night you’re out there. Our downfall today was that they went on two runs that buried us.”
The Bandits are back in action Friday night for the second of four consecutive home games when they face the Vancouver Warriors. Faceoff from KeyBank Center is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.