The Buffalo Bandits and the Toronto Rock will meet for the final time in the regular season tonight at the Scotiabank Arena at 7:30 pm. The season series is tied at 1-1 as both teams will be playing for bragging rights and potentially the top spot in the East after both have already clinched a playoff spot. These two teams straight up do not like each other. Whether it is their close proximity, the history of their rivalry, or grudges between players, tonight’s game will be a true ‘War on the Floor’.
The Bandits sit atop the NLL with a record of 12-3 and have been playing with a swagger and dominance that they have been missing in previous seasons. From their post game celebrations to their flashy goal scoring they are the team to beat.
What has been the difference this season?
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If you ask anyone the most obvious answer has to be Matt Vinc. The legendary goaltender has brought his Hall of Fame goaltending as well as veteran leadership to the Bandits not just on the floor, but in film sessions and in the locker room as well. The emergence of young stars like Thomas Hoggarth, Ian Mackay, Chase Fraser and Matt Gilray have also given the team a much needed boost of energy on the floor and helped create a much closer team as evidenced by their ‘It’s a Party’ celebrations after every one of their wins where everyone, even the coaches, are joining in.
After the Bandits win against Toronto on March 23, head coach John Tavares made it clear that “We want to play in Buffalo” in the first round of the playoffs and to do so they have to finish as the No. 1 seed. Yes, this ‘War on the Floor’ just got interesting.
Every game is still the most important of the season for the Bandits as Tavares explained that, “We still have a lot of work ahead even though there’s only three games left.”
The Bandits will face three great teams to end the season starting with the Rock. The Rock have been up and down in the last month, but have won six straight games at home and will also be boosted by the return of star lefty Adam Jones in tonight’s game. Jones missed five games and the Rock only won two of those five games without him in the lineup. His return could give them the extra edge they need to get back in the race for the No. 1 seed. The Rock are only 2.5 games behind the Bandits and with a win in tonight’s ‘War on the Floor’-like matchup and one tomorrow against the Rochester Knighthawks, they are right back in the hunt.
Toronto has been one of the best teams in the NLL all season, but suffered a setback two weeks ago in their back to back games against the Georgia Swarm and Buffalo that were both losses. Last weekend against the Philadelphia Wings, they started to look like the clutch team that they were in January and February again as they won 12-11 and clinched their playoff spot. Nick Rose has been steady all season in the net and lefty Johnny Powless is finally starting to put up big numbers and could benefit from Jones’ return if he draws a lot of attention on the left side. Challen Rogers has also provided a boost with his move to the power play, but for the Rock to make a serious run they will need the continued production of rightys Rob Hellyer and Tom Schreiber who are two of the hardest forwards to cover in the league.
For a behind the scenes look at this Rock team who have come together for a great season you can watch the “On the Road” documentary following Tom Schreiber during the NLL season.
Tune into Bleacher Report Live tonight at 7:30 pm EST to watch these two teams battle it out for playoff position and more importantly pride.
Watch the game tonight here.