February 19, 2009

Buffalo, Toronto Set to Light It Up Again

by Theresa Smith | Special to Lacrosse Magazine

Mark Steenhuis' heroics were not the only fireworks in Buffalo's big Week 7 win over Toronto. The teams combined for 101 penalty minutes in the fourth quarter alone. They meet again Friday at Air Canada Centre.
© Buffalo Bandits

Buffalo's record-setting, 25-10 rout of Toronto began with a somber tone in the aftermath of the crash of Flight 3407. The Bandits paid tribute to the victims of the crash and their families with a moment of silence before the opening faceoff.

Then they helped the community momentarily forget their pain with an offensive show, a 25-goal total that tied a 1996 game for the third-highest in their history, behind 28 goals scored against Charlotte on March 2, 1996 and 27 netted in a 1992 game.

Mark Steenhuis rewrote the National Lacrosse League record book with a single-game record 17 points, breaking John Grant Jr.'s mark of 15 points. His single-game assist record of 13 eclipsed Derek Malawsky's mark of 11. For good measure, he scooped up 11 loose balls.

"Mark's just one of the top players in the game,'' said Buffalo coach Darris Kilgour. "He makes everyone around him better. And he's done a better job this year of finding the open man when the man's in position to score.''

Steenhuis set up Roger Vyse for two of his career-high six goals.

Vyse, who did not play a week earlier due to a groin pull, made six of nine shots, improving his season shooting percentage to .390 - best among the NLL's top 25 scorers.

"Roger is a very good off-ball cutter,''  Kilgour said. "When he gets an opportunity, he's been burying every chance this winter. He works really hard and the guys have been looking for him. I'm glad to see him having success."

Counting his two assists, Vyse, the fourth-year player from Six Nations, Ontario, set a personal best with eight points. His sock trick is one goal shy of the team record for goals in a single game. John Tavares has scored seven goals three times, Steenhuis has done in twice, and Kilgour did it once in his playing days.

Cory Bomberry also filled the stat sheet with three goals and six assists.

Between late in the third quarter and early in the fourth quarter, the Bandits scored eight consecutive goals.

"Buffalo plays very well off-ball and Mark Steenhuis was able to find the open man on the off-ball side,'' said Toronto coach Jamie Batley.

"You don't have to look at that tape for long to see their off-ball goals were mostly from left-handed guys. They were getting open all night because those guys never stopped moving. I give credit to those guys for making our defense work hard.

"We left guys wide open. We really didn't give our goaltending a chance to make saves because the shots were either wide-open power shots from just inside their shooting line or they're on top of the goalie with no one checking them. So give their offense credit to the way they performed."

Frustration set in during a four-fight fourth quarter. Toronto racked up 65 penalty minutes to Buffalo's 36.

The teams meet again on Friday at Toronto's Air Canada Centre.

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