The Toronto Rock took care of unfinished business against division rival Buffalo Saturday night, beating the Bandits 8-5 to keep a hold on first place in the NLL.
Both teams came into the Air Canada Centre wearing their hearts on their sleeves, renewing their bitter rivalry following last week’s overtime thriller in Buffalo.
The first quarter was a physical one, with five fights erupting.
The Rock received 18 penalties in the first quarter alone and tallied more penalty minutes in the quarter (64) than it had through the first four games of the season combined (20).
The referees assessed eight fighting majors and five game misconducts between the two teams in the opening frame.
Rock captain Colin Doyle, who scored an empty-netter to seal the deal, was tired but happy after the tough match.
“You’ve gotta win all sorts of games in this league so it’s nice to see we can ... win those scratch-and-claw games where you rely heavily on defence and goaltending and penalty killing and come out with a win,” Doyle said.
“They were starting to put a push on ... and when (the Bandits) get on a run they can get pretty good and we had to put an end to that.”
Bandits coach Darris Kilgour, on the other hand, was not a happy man.
“The referees got totally too involved in the game, made a lot of ticky-tack calls and took the flow right out of the game,” Kilgour said. “Obviously it affected both teams and at the same time I think both teams need to be a little bit smarter.”
After a slow start — scoring-wise, that is — to the game both teams settled in, with Mat MacLeod breaking the ice for Toronto five minutes into the game. The Rock led only 3-1 at halftime.
Toronto came out of the gate on fire in the second half, playing suffocating defence and putting tallies up on the board, scoring three straight goals to go up 6-1.
Buffalo made it close in the fourth quarter to pull within one goal, but Doyle scored less than a minute later, putting the Rock up by two and never looking back.
Buffalo outshot Toronto 55-36, with Bob Watson making 50 saves.
“Lacrosse is a game you’re gonna score and it’s a game of momentum runs,” Watson said. “It was a tough game last week and obviously we wanted to bounce back ... and we wanted to put ourselves in the position to be in first place.”
Newly acquired defender Ryan Sharp made his Toronto debut and endeared himself to fans with his gritty play and never-back-down attitude.
Sharp was assessed five minutes for fighting in the first quarter and received seven penalty minutes for the game.
Garrett Billings, who was a game-time decision, didn’t dress because of a wrist injury he sustained coming down from a high hit in Toronto’s game against the Bandits on Jan. 22.