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Bandits thwarted by Toronto in home opener

The story of the night for the Bandits was defense, or rather the lack thereof.

After a fast start, just like in its win at Philadelphia last week, Buffalo was unable to stop a furious Toronto offense in a 17-12 loss at the Keybank Center Friday night.

Josh Byrne and Thomas Hoggarth each recorded hat tricks for the Bandits, now 1-1 on the season. Forward Shawn Evans scored a goal and dished out six assists.

Tom Schreiber had a hat trick as part of a seven-point performance to lead the Rock, now 1-0.

The game was going Buffalo’s way in the first quarter, and the Bandits led 5-2 and outshot the Rock 19-8.

But things began to sour midway through the second quarter. Rob Hellyer and Challen Rogers beat goaltender Matt Vinc to cut the lead to one and the proverbial wheels began to come off.

After a major penalty against the Bandits, Schreiber knotted the game 5-5 and Johnny Powless gave Toronto a 6-5 lead.

The Rock led the rest of the night.

After Toronto scored for the 11th time, coaches John Tavares and Rich Kilgour replaced Vinc with Zach Higgins.

Vinc was signed to a three-year deal in the offseason, heralded as the centerpiece of Buffalo’s defensive rebuild. He is a six-time National Lacrosse League Goaltender of the Year.

Higgins did not fare much better in net. Every time Buffalo solved Toronto goaltender Nick Rose, the Rock would get one right back to squash any momentum that the Bandits started to build.

For instance, early in the fourth quarter, Buffalo cut the Rock lead to 11-9 thanks to a sniper shot from defenseman Matt Gilray.

Not even two minutes later, though, Toronto defenseman Brandon Slade hit paydirt on a power-play goal.

A 3-0 run by the Rock over the next few minutes put the game out of reach for the Bandits.

Chase Frasier cut the lead to 15-11 with four minutes left in regulation, but Toronto scored twice in the next minute and a half to shut the door.

“It’s a long season and we’ve gotta move on,” Tavares said after the game. “We’ve gotta get better 60 minutes all around.”

Buffalo has one week to regroup before the Vancouver Warriors visit Buffalo on Dec. 28.

The Warriors defeated the Calgary Roughnecks, 14-13, on Dec. 15 in their season opener.

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