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Bandits rock solid in victory over Toronto

If the Buffalo Bandits had some sort of checklist before Saturday night’s game with the Toronto Rock, they could say afterwards that they fulfilled all of their objectives.

Receive contributions from their offensive stars? Check. Get scoring help from other players? Check. Keep the Rock offense from exploding? Check. Have great goaltending when necessary? Check. Play a disciplined game? Check.

All of those points contributed to Buffalo’s 12-6 win over Toronto before 13,395 in First Niagara Center. However, the key point of the game may have been a couple of challenges from the Buffalo bench.

With the score tied, 4-4, early in the second quarter, the Rock “scored” twice within 86 seconds in which shots dribbled in off Bandits’ goalie Anthony Cosmo. The Buffalo bench challenged both of the calls, thinking a Toronto player had stepped in the crease before the ball crossed the goal line. The replay official agreed and nullified both goals.

“That was a huge turning point,” said Buffalo defenseman Steve Priolo.

Toronto had been having trouble scoring goals this season, a big reason for its 0-3 start. The Rock appeared to lose some life at that point.

“That was a huge swing for us,” Cosmo said. “They’re a team that was struggling, and I saw that their confidence was rising before that. Those two goals could have swung the game their way.”

“We got energy from it,” said Buffalo coach Troy Cordingley. “We were getting to the ball, doubling the ball on their offensive guys, backing each other up. We did an extremely good job of moving the ball up.”

The Bandits scored the next six goals during the next 18 minutes of play. That made sure that Buffalo would improve to 2-1 in the young season, and not have to endure its third straight dramatic finish.

The Bandits were more than satisfied with their performance overall. Start with the offense, which was led by Dhane Smith. The forward finished with four goals and five assists.

“This was a good bounce-back game,” Smith said, as the team was coming off a loss in Colorado. “We forgot the last one, and we came prepared.”

He received help from Ryan Benesch and Mark Steenhuis, who scored two goals each. Four other Bandits scored. Two of them, Daryl Veltman and Alex Kedoh Hill, had not played against Colorado.

“Daryl is a huge factor,” Smith said. “He’s a veteran who talked on the bench a lot, and he knows what he’s talking about. Kedoh can play both ways effectively.”

At the other end, the Buffalo defense did an excellent job of disrupting the Toronto attack.

“Our defense played real well again,” Cosmo said. “I thought it was our best defensive game in a long time. They really forced their team to do what we wanted done on the defensive end, allowing me to see the ball and make some easy saves.”

And when the defense did let Toronto get some quality shots, Cosmo usually was there to make the big save.

“Anthony was great; everybody knows he’s one of the best to ever play,” Priolo said. “When he knows where the shots are coming from, that makes his job that much easier.”

The defense was helped by the fact that the team stayed out of the penalty box, taking only two minor penalties. That’s unusual for a game between two old foes.

“I loved that discipline,” Cordingley said. “That’s been a work in progress. Tonight we just played. We were not worried about the refereeing or anything.”

Beating Toronto was an added bonus for Buffalo. The Rock are now three games behind the Bandits in the loss column, and it’s not even February.

“This is a rivalry that been deep, even going back to when I played for them,” Cosmo said. “These teams don’t like each other. It’s great to beat Toronto.”

The Bandits play in New England next Saturday night.