Toronto's Adam Jones, a Canisius College graduate, notched three goals and two assists as the desperate Rock handed the Buffalo Bandits a 16-11 loss Saturday night at KeyBank Center.
Buffalo was led by Mitch Jones and Shawn Evans, who both had three goals and an assist. Dhane Smith had one goal and four assists.
Road to the playoffs: Buffalo needed a win and for the Rochester Knighthawks to defeat the New England Black Wolves to clinch a playoff berth. Neither result went in the Bandits' favor, so their playoff fate comes down to the final week. The Rock needed a win against Buffalo to remain in playoff contention.
Honoring Tucker: Saturday's outing was the fifth annual Tucker Out Lymphoma Night, which is orchestrated in remembrance of Tucker Williams, the late son of former Bandits forward Shawn Williams. Tucker lost his battle with cancer on Dec. 17, 2014, at eight years old.
Buffalo wore lime-green trimmed jerseys designed by Tucker's brother, Dyson. The game-worn jerseys were auctioned off and replica jerseys and signed lacrosse balls were sold with proceeds going to pediatric cancer care. The game balls were also decorated with a Tucker-themed logo.
— Buffalo Bandits (@NLLBandits) April 17, 2018
Mark Steenhuis is one of the few players left on the roster who played with Williams and has been with the team for every Tucker Out Lymphoma Night. He said it particularly hits home for him as a father. Steenhuis' son was born at approximately the same time as Tucker. He said the two used to play with each other around the arena.
"You're speaking of a family that everyone around the lacrosse world holds at such a high standard," Steenhuis said. "The travesty that they had to go through and suffer as a family is something that no family should ever have to go through. ... Having a night like this, I hope shows the impact that such a great kid had on this world."
Hot out of the gates: The Williams family was on the floor for an emotional pregame ceremony, but the Bandits appeared to channel the energy well early. Buffalo scored the first two goals of the game, tallies from Evans and Vaughn Harris, and earned multiple second-chance opportunities.
However, the Bandits' offense started to stagnate and the transition defense struggled. Toronto went on a 4-0 run in the first and a 3-0 run at the start of the second to get out to a 7-3 lead. Buffalo clawed back into the game by scoring three of the last four goals of the first half to make it 8-7 Rock at the break.
Backbreaker: Toronto opened the second half on a 3-1 run, but gifted Buffalo an outstanding opportunity for another comeback when Latrell Harris took a five-minute elbowing penalty with five minutes left in the third. Remarkably, the Rock outscored Buffalo 2-1 while down a man. Buffalo failed to cut the lead to under three in the fourth.
Look at the leaderboard: Dhane Smith, who played in his 100th game in the league Saturday, entered the weekend ranked third in the league with 95 points. With his five tonight, he's nine behind NLL-leader Mark Matthews and three behind second-placed Robert Church. All three have played 17 games.
Getting comfortable: Bandits defenseman Reid Acton missed a second straight game while on injured reserve and for a second straight week, Bill O'Brien took his place on the active roster. O'Brien, who the Bandits signed to the practice roster on Jan. 16, made his debut with the team against Calgary. Previously a regular with the New England Black Wolves for three seasons, O'Brien said its helpful to play back-to-back outings to get back in rhythm.
"Last week I had a lot of energy, whether it was nervousness or something else," O'Brien said. "I tried to hone it and just make it excitement. It's the same here. I'm trying to hone my energy. With a game under my belt, it's a lot easier."
Up Next: Buffalo closes out the regular season next Saturday at home against the Knighthawks.