Rock, Swarm, Rush Prevail in Playoff Action

Toronto Saturday night, the Toronto Rock scratched and clawed their way back from a 6-2 halftime deficit to defeat the Buffalo Bandits 7-6 at Air Canada Centre. The Rock will now face the Rochester Knighthawks one week from tonight in the East Division Final.

Buffalo's defence stifled the Rock offence in the first quarter. Their active sticks and aggressive defence limited Toronto's ability to generate many quality scoring chances and Buffalo led 4-0 after one quarter.

The Rock offence went from being limited in the number of scoring chances they produced to carrying a heavy edge in the offensive play in the second quarter outshooting the Bandits 18-8. Unfortunately, Toronto was unable to make up any ground as the two teams traded goals back and forth and Buffalo led 6-2 at the half.

After Buffalo's Anthony Cosmo held the Rock off the board early, Nick Rose returned the favour stopping all 11 Buffalo shots that came his way in the third quarter. The Rock offence generated a pair of goals to trim the Bandits lead to 6-4 through three quarters.

The Rock continued chipping away at the Bandit lead and rode the incredible play of goaltender Nick Rose during the final 15 minutes of play and tied things up 6-6 with 5:17 to go.

With 1:35 to go, Brenden Thenhaus brought the Rock faithful to their feet as the Rock had battled all the way back and taken a 7-6 lead. With just a second left on the clock Buffalo scored, but after review it was ruled the Bandits had a player in the crease and the Rock advanced to the East Division Final for the third consecutive season.

Nick Rose held the Bandits off the board entirely for the final 34:03 and made 36 saves to earn his first career playoff win.

Kasey Beirnes fueled the comeback from the offensive side of things scoring three straight second half goals, including the tying goal.

* * * *

DENVER The Colorado Mammoth made its first home playoff appearance since 2008 on Saturday night, but it was the Minnesota Swarm that ended up celebrating a milestone.

The Swarm earned its first ever playoff victory by defeating the Mammoth 14-10 in the West Division Semifinal at Pepsi Center. Minnesota entered 0-5 all-time in the postseason.

On a night when Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock donned a Mammoth jersey and presided over the ceremonial opening faceoff, Colorado was forced to play catch-up the entire contest in front of a charged-up crowd of 14,152. The Mammoth never held a lead and trailed 5-2 after the first quarter, 8-5 at the half and 10-7 entering the fourth.

"We're really disappointed," Mammoth coach Bob Hamley said. "It's been such a great year. We'll have to sit down and evaluate where we are, but we made a lot of strides this year. No one gave us a chance at the beginning of the year to be where we are today."

Buoyed by National Lacrosse League MVP John Grant Jr.'s fifth goal, the Mammoth trimmed the deficit to 10-9 early in the fourth quarter, but never drew closer as Minnesota scored the next three goals and kept Colorado scoreless for more than 10 minutes. NLL Rookie of the Year Adam Jones broke the drought with 1:04 remaining, but it was too late to mount a comeback.

"We were so focused on not giving up goals that we weren't truly in the flow of the offense," said Grant Jr., who set an NLL mark with 116 points in the regular season.

Grant Jr. (5g, 2a) and Jones (3g) paced the Mammoth while goaltender Chris Levis stopped 31 of 44 shots before being lifted for the final two minutes. Captain Gavin Prout returned to action for Colorado after missing the final two games of the regular season and added one goal and three assists. His 83 regular-season points were fifth-best in the NLL.

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