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Bandits earn tense victory over Rock

Chris Cloutier scored the winner with 5:29 left to play and Matt Gilray added an empty-net score Saturday night in the Buffalo Bandits’ tense 10-8 National Lacrosse League victory over the Toronto Rock at KeyBank Center.

After a slow start, the Bandits took a 7-5 lead by scoring six times in a wide-open second period, wiping out a 3-1 Toronto lead.

Josh Byrne scored two of his three goals and Chase Fraser got on board with two of his three in the Bandits’ second quarter explosion.

Things settled down in the third period even though the Bandits had to kill three penalties in a row. Buffalo came out of the quarter with an 8-6 lead but it didn’t last long. The Rock tied when Challen Rogers scored 43 seconds into the fourth quarter and Rob Hellyer got his fifth of the game at 7:32.

Then Cloutier came through with his big goal with Garrett Billings and Corey Small getting the assists. Bandits goalie Matt Vinc had to come up with 17 saves in the fourth quarter to help stop the Toronto momentum.

The outcome left Buffalo with a 3-1 NLL record heading into Saturday’s road game at Colorado. The loss ended a three-game Toronto win streak.

Besides Cloutier, Gilray, Byrne and Fraser, other Buffalo goals were by Small and Steve Priolo.

Rogers scored twice for Toronto and Dan Dawson had the other goal for the Rock. Dhane Smith had three assists and Nick Weiss two for Buffalo.

The Rock outshot Buffalo, 17-11, in the opening quarter and took a 3-1 lead on two goals by Hellyer and one by Rogers. Five unanswered goals put the Bandits in front with Byrne, Small, Fraser, Priolo and Byrne again beating Toronto goalie Nick Rose.

Hellyer broke the spell with back-to-back goals, cutting the Buffalo lead to 6-5 but Fraser’s goal with 1:48 left in the period allowed the Bandits to take their 7-5 lead into the halftime break. Byrne scored on a penalty shot to make it 8-5 in the third. Dan Dawson of the Rock answered with the only other tally in the third period to make it 8-6 heading into the fourth.

Vinc had 58 saves overall. Rose of the Rock had 47, nine in the fourth.

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