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Bandits advance to East final with win over Rock

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The Canadian Press
5/3/2014 9:36:56 PM
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TORONTO -- Ryan Benesch scored seven goals to lead the Buffalo Bandits to a 15-13 win over the Toronto Rock in the National Lacrosse League East semifinal Saturday night.

The Bandits, who were the only team in the nine-team league to miss the playoffs last season, will meet the Rochester Knighthawks in a two-game East final.

Buffalo's other goal scorers were John Tavares, with two, Mark Steenhuis, Andrew Watt, Shawn Williams, Jamie Rooney, Dhane Smith and Chad Culp. Buffalo outshot Toronto 57-54.

Kasey Beirnes scored four goals for the Rock, Colin Doyle and Nick Diachenko scored three each, Josh Sanderson got two, and Rob Hellyer chipped in with one. Stephan Leblanc, Toronto's leading goal scorer with 45 during the regular season, was unable to put a ball behind Bandits goalie Anthony Cosmo.

Buffalo led 4-2 after one quarter and 8-7 after two. Benesch, whose 25-goal regular season was his least productive in five years, put four balls behind Rock goalie Brandon Miller in the first half.

Beirnes tied it 8-8 early in the third quarter. Then, Buffalo was assessed a slashing penalty to Billy Dee Smith at the same time it was nabbed for too many men and Sanderson gave Toronto its first lead, 9-8, during the two-man advantage.

Benesch scored his fifth and sixth around a goal by Diachenko to send the teams to the fourth quarter tied 10-10.

Tavares, the Bandits' 45-year-old captain, restored Buffalo's lead and Smith made it 12-10 when he pulled a ball out of Toronto's crease to beat Miller.

Diachenko replied for the Rock. But Benesch fired an overhand bullet into the top corner of the net on a power play for a 13-11 Buffalo lead with Damon Edwards in the penalty box for a high hit on Rory Smith.

Diachenko, who scored two goals in three regular-season games with the Rock, got his third of the night and Culp offset it. Beirnes scored his fourth of the game but Tavares kept Buffalo ahead by two with a power-play goal.

With one minute remaining it was desperation time for the Rock. Miller was lifted for an extra attacker to no avail.

The Bandits entered the post-season on an eight-game losing streak while Toronto had won its last four regular-season games.

Buffalo open the East final at home next weekend. Game 2 will be in Rochester on May 17. Should the teams split, a 10-minute mini-game and sudden-death overtime, if needed, will immediately follow the second game.

Buffalo Bandits Toronto Rock (Photo: Graig Abel)

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(Photo: Graig Abel)
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