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Bandits return home, host division rival Toronto for ‘90s Night’

The Buffalo Bandits return to the KeyBank Center on Saturday night to host longtime rival Toronto at 7 p.m.

The Bandits enter the game at 2-1 after a 16-10 win at Georgia last Saturday.

Toronto is 3-1 overall and holds second place in the NLL North division after the Rock defeated Rochester, 13-12.

It will be the first meeting between the cross-border rivals since last May’s Eastern Conference Final. Buffalo beat Toronto, 12-8, and advanced to the NLL finals.

Toronto took two out of three of last season’s regular season matchups.

Spearheading the Rock’s offense is veteran forward Rob Hellyer with 19 points, good for 13th overall in the league.

Three other Toronto players have 17 points in Dan Craig, Dan Dawson and Tom Schreiber. Schreiber also ranks ninth in the league in shots on goal with 66. With 48 total goals, Toronto is fourth in the NLL.

Buffalo’s offense has gotten off to a rusty start, currently tied with Rochester for last in the league with 39 goals scored through the team’s first three games.

In contrast, Buffalo had 45 goals through last season’s first three games. The Bandits have played one less game than Rochester, however.

Buffalo’s scoring machine got a big boost against Georgia, however, with the return of Chase Fraser from injury.

The Bandits’ veteran scorer notched six points with three goals and three assists against the Swarm. He helped Buffalo establish a 12-3 lead by the third quarter.

Dhane Smith leads Buffalo with 17 points (six goals, team-high 11 assists). Chris Cloutier currently paces the team with eight goals. Josh Byrne is right behind him with seven.

Buffalo also got a boost defensively with the return of Steve Priolo to the starting lineup. His play was instrumental in killing Georgia power plays and helped to hold the Swarm to just three first-half goals.

Toronto has a strong defense as well, led by Brad Kri who has caused a league-high 10 turnovers.

Nick Rose will likely start for the Rock in net. He’s played every minute this season for Toronto and holds a 10.09 goals-against average.

His Bandits counterpart will once again be Matt Vinc. After he was pulled from goal in Buffalo’s 15-10 loss to Halifax on Dec. 28, he was stellar against Georgia.

Vinc racked up 44 saves against the Swarm. He currently has a 12.65 goals-against average in 151 minutes in net this season.

After Saturday’s game, Buffalo will head west to face Colorado on Jan. 25 at the Pepsi Center at 9:30 p.m.

It’ll be the ever-popular “90s Night” at the KeyBank Center for Saturday’s game. Ticket packages are being offered that includes a throwback Bandits fanny pack. Fans are also encouraged to wear 1990s garb.

In other Bandits news, the team announced Friday that forward Garrett Billings has signed a one-year contract with the team.

Billings, 33, is a nine-year NLL veteran that spent last season with the expansion San Diego Seals.

He has also played for Toronto, New England and Vancouver and is a former three-time All-NLL team nominee.

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