A crowd of 10,812 came out to the Air Canada Centre for some boxing matches Saturday night, and a lacrosse game broke out.
The Buffalo Bandits and Toronto Rock played one of the roughest games in Buffalo team history. When the proverbial dust had settled, the Rock (4-1) had come away with an 8-5 victory to earn a split of the home-and-home series between the teams; the Bandits won last week's game, 15-14 in overtime in Buffalo.
While the scrums received most of the attention early, it was Buffalo's offensive problems that ultimately decided the game and led to the Bandits' record sinking to 2-2 on the young season. The Bandits only had one goal in the first three quarters, and eventually tied the team's regular-season record for fewest goals in a game set last season.
"We couldn't keep our focus," Buffalo coach Darris Kilgour said. "We were a bunch of babies. We were very selfish out there. We did what we wanted to do and forgot what the team needed us to do. We ended up only scoring five goals with some really stupid play.
"We had a game plan, but we didn't execute it. Within two seconds we decided to do whatever we wanted to do. We run an offensive set to get the defense to do certain things to open up certain people. If we're not going to run those offensive sets, then we have to freelance. Then everyone had better be on the same page, because if you get one guy out of sync the whole offense is shot."
"It was a frustrating evening," added Mark Steenhuis of the Bandits.
The fireworks between the teams started almost immediately. There were three separate incidents within the first six minutes of play, which led to the ejection of Bandits Frank Resetarits, Brandon Francis and Steve Priolo and two Toronto players.
The Bandits had 70 penalty minutes by the end of the first period. Amazingly, that broke the team record for most penalty minutes (64) by a Buffalo team for an entire game. The Bandits' record for combined penalty minutes in a game later fell, as the 154 figure squeezed out the 153 compiled against Portland in 2009.
"I think the first five minutes took about 35 minutes to play," Steenhuis said.
The game turned a bit chippy for the rest of the first half, and both teams had plenty of power plays. Capitalizing on them was another story. Toronto was 0 for 8 on the man-advantage while Buffalo was 2 for 11. That wasn't good enough for Kilgour.
"The power play was absolutely brutal," he said, "That's what killed us. We had four four-on-threes, and a four-on-three should be an automatic goal, and we didn't get one out of it. If we get two of them, it's tied, 7-7, and we never have to pull Angus [Goodleaf, the Buffalo goalie]."
The Bandits' defenders even tried to be a little more aggressive than normal during the dry spell.
"Our defense has to help out on the transition, and we didn't help out there," Jon Harasym said. "We got outworked, and we weren't paying the price to get to the net."
Finally, Buffalo figured out a way to score in the last 15 minutes, closing the gap to a couple of goals twice. But Colin Doyle scored Toronto's last three goals to run his total for the night to four and wrap up the win for the Rock.
The Bandits will be home this week for their only Friday night game of the season, against Minnesota. Before that will be a tough practice on Tuesday for part of the team.
"It will be for the offense," Kilgour promised.