Buffalo Bandits Gameday: Bandits at Toronto Rock - The Buffalo News

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Buffalo Bandits Gameday: Bandits at Toronto Rock

Faceoff: 7 p.m. Saturday.

Online: NLL TV.

Radio: 1520 AM

Records: Buffalo 1-1, Toronto 0-2.

Last time out: The Bandits were blown out by the Rochester Knighthawks last Saturday, falling 21-11 at Blue Cross Arena. The Knighthawks never trailed, as they got out to a 5-0 lead in the first quarter. Toronto last played on Dec. 16, when the Rock were handled by the Saskatchewan Rush. Toronto was held to three goals in the second half in a 17-9 loss.

The rematch: The Bandits and Rock played each other at KeyBank Center during opening weekend, making Toronto the first repeat opponent on Buffalo's schedule this season. Goalie Alex Buque was outstanding in that matchup, making 55 saves in the Bandits' 13-9 victory.

Special teams opportunity: If Toronto continues to take penalties like it has this season, look for Buffalo to pounce. The Bandits have scored on 50 percent of their man-up opportunities, good for third in the National Lacrosse League. Toronto leads the league in penalty minutes and is last on the penalty kill, allowing seven goals on 10 opportunities.

Moral victories: The Bandits peppered the net last week, getting 66 shots on Rochester's Matt Vinc. Unfortunately for Buffalo, Vinc displayed why he's one of the best goalies in the world. Mitch Jones was the most successful of the eight Buffalo players who scored on him. He notched a hat trick in addition to two assists to lead the Bandits in points.

Upcoming milestone: Buffalo's Callum Crawford is five points away from 800 in his NLL career.

Sophomore slump: Toronto forward Tom Schreiber was arguably the biggest story of last season, an American who dominated the NLL in his first year playing any level of box lacrosse. He earned Rookie of the Year honors after scoring 33 goals and 94 points in 18 games last season. That magic hasn't been there through two games, as he's only notched one goal and five points.

Goalie change: Backup goalie Davide DiRuscio suffered a lower body injury in the first quarter of last week's game, so Bandits GM Steve Dietrich brought in Zach Higgins to serve as Buque's backup for the time being. Higgins is a five-year veteran of the NLL, spending time with the Swarm and Roughnecks. He has a .755 save percentage in 55 career games. Last season he played one game with Calgary, making 34 saves.

Shaking things up: Toronto made a surprising early season trade on Dec. 20, sending forward Stephan Leblanc to the New England Black Wolves in exchange for transition player Sheldon Burns. Rock owner, president and GM Jamie Dawick said the move was made to improve the Toronto back end and transition after a poor start to the year. Burns, in his fourth season, has 21 goals and 47 points in 49 NLL games.

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