An unlikely hero emerged for returning head coach Glenn Clark and the Toronto Rock, 11-8 winners over the Buffalo Bandits last night at the Air Canada Centre.
Jamie Taylor, playing only his third game of the season because of a knee injury in training camp, scored twice, including the game winner, an unorthodox backhand shot that fooled Buffalo starter Ken Montour with 3:51 to go.
The 27-year-old Hamilton native said the winner was not a hotdog move, but one born out of necessity.
"I couldn't go to my forehand, it was the only option I had," Taylor said.
Clark, back behind the Rock bench after serving a four-game suspension for an off-the-floor altercation, said he was happy to return.
"It was better than sitting in a hotel room, I can tell you that," said Clark, who got a warm reception from the crowd of 14,611.
The Rock rode a vintage effort from goaltender Bob Watson, who made 45 saves.
Watson admitted that it was his best overall effort of the season and added the team benefited from Clark's return.
"We try to do our best at the back end to hold the fort until you can pay off offensively," Watson said.
"I thought we showed a lot of poise and a lot of character. We could have panicked after what happened last week (the team gave up 10 straight goals in an 11-4 loss to the Rochester Knighthawks last Saturday) but Glenn kept us calm on the bench and that's what a good coach does."
After taking a 3-1 lead through a quarter, the Rock got into some penalty trouble in the second. National Lacrosse League career scoring leader John Tavares tied the game at 3-3 three off a pretty feed from Delby Powless before Taylor broke the deadlock minutes later.
Clark called a timeout with 18 seconds left in the half and Aaron Wilson responded, scoring to stretch the Rock lead to 5-3 at the break. Blaine Manning, who also scored for the Rock late in the first, to go along with a team-high five assists, said the goals at the end of the first two frames deflated the Bandits.
"Those are like killers," Manning said. "To give up goals like that is very painful. It was the difference in the game tonight."
Emergency Bandits starter Ken Montour was solid, turning aside 41 shots.
The Rock allowed Buffalo to tie the game twice in the fourth quarter before Taylor's heroics. Ryan Benesch made a beautiful cut to the net to put the Rock up by two off a pass from Manning.
Chris Driscoll fired a shot into an empty net, shortly after Manning suckered Buffalo's Billy Dee Smith into a terrible retaliation penalty.
The Bandits were plagued by penalties, but the Rock converted only two of seven chances, compared to Buffalo's one-for-two.
Manning and Wilson led the Rock with six points. Josh Sanderson and Benesch added four each.
The Bandits were missing leading goal scorer Kevin Dostie, while the Rock played without captain Jim Veltman (knee) and defender Cam Woods, who took a took a shot below the belt in the warmup.