The Buffalo Bandits (1-2) earned their first win of the season over the Vancouver Stealth (2-2) in front of 12,903 fans at the KeyBank Center on Saturday night. The game was all about offense as 36 goals were scored in the 21-15 win for the home team. Buffalo used a six goal run in the fourth quarter to close out Vancouver and finally find themselves in the victory column.
“The difference between the first two games and this one was nothing more than that we had more heart,” said Bandits assistant captain Steve Priolo. “We saw it in our coaches’ faces and we saw it in our fans’ faces that we let them down and that was unacceptable.”
The first quarter was a see-saw battle with four goals scored by each team. Thomas Hoggarth opened the scoring for the Stealth just 17 seconds into the game on the first recorded shot on goal. Peter McFetridge doubled the Vancouver lead before Brad Self and Andrew Watt each scored in transition for Buffalo. Corey Small added two goals for the Stealth while Anthony Malcom and Ryan Benesch notched goals for the Bandits.
The Bandits once again gave up the first goals in the game, but their head coach Troy Cordingley said something was different in this case.
“The biggest thing I noticed on the bench is that there was no panicking. When they scored two goals right away, nobody was doubting themselves,” said the coach. “There was a hole we dug ourselves into, but we managed to dig out of it.”
Malcom scored the first goal of the second quarter and gave the Bandits their first lead of the 2017 season 5-4. Buffalo then got two shorthanded goals on the same penalty kill from Ryan Benesch and Priolo. Priolo’s goal chased Vancouver goaltender Tyler Richards in favor of backup Tye Belanger. Daryl Veltman completed the Bandits four goal run on the power play. The Stealth then answered with a four goal run of their own. Jordan Durston scored twice in a row before Garrett Billings netted his first goal of the season in his 2017 debut. Rhys Duch capped the run for Vancouver. The scoresheet tilted back to Buffalo as Mitch Jones and Craig England, who scored his first career NLL goal, gave the home team a 10-8 lead heading into the half.
The two goals that Buffalo scored on the same penalty kill was a momentum changer for both teams.
“I told [Benesch] ‘we’re going to kill this penalty’ but then I turned back around and said ‘check that, you’re going to score a goal,'” highlighted Priolo. “He went down and scored, and then I got my goal.”
“It’s always a backbreaker to give up shorthanded goals against, but that’s a product of getting run on all night,” said Stealth head coach Jamie Batley. “They just ran on us all night. We got out-transitioned.”
The teams put up 11 goals in the third quarter. Both Benesch and Jones earned their third goals of the game. while Logan Schuss netted three goals in the frame and kept the Stealth within one heading into the break. Despite being outshot 47-38, the Bandits held a 15-14 lead after three.
Schuss scored again for the Stealth to lead off the fourth quarter and tied the game at 15 a side. Unfortunately for Vancouver, that was the last time they scored as the Bandits ripped off six straight goals to end the game.
“It’s tough to come back when you give up big runs,” said Batley. “I was proud of the team, we turned it around and made it 15-15, but Buffalo scored again six seconds later. For the most part, they outworked us.”
The Bandits finally saw some success in their transition game which they’re so well known for and it lead to impressive results.
“Our transition game was huge tonight, we talked about that in length this week,” noted Cordingley. “That’s how we got our offense going. Then our offense was sharing the ball. That’s how we were successful, we confused the defense with ball movement and foot movement.”
Corey Small led all runners with 10 points (3+7). Duch added seven points (2+5) while Schuss notched six (4+2). Benesch led the way for Buffalo with nine points (4+5) while Priolo had six (3+3).
“It was a team effort. Guys were moving their feet and moving the ball,” said Benesch. “Tonight our defense ran off the floor hard and allowed transition to happen.”
After coming in to relieve goaltender Anthony Cosmo in both of the games so far this season, Davide DiRuscio was given the start for the Bandits. He turned away 44 out of 59 shots in the win.
“We want you to save the ones that we need you to save, that’s what we always ask of our goalie,” said Cordingley of his netminder. “That’s what he did tonight. There’s a couple that he wishes he could have had, but he played his heart out. He was pretty good for us.”
The Bandits will travel to the Mohegan Sun Arena where they’ll take on the New England Black Wolves on Saturday, January 28th at 7:00 p.m. EST. The Stealth head to the Sasktel Centre on Friday, January 27th to face the Saskatchewan Rush at 9:30 p.m. EST.
Three Stars of the game as selected by the media:
1 – Ryan Benesch
2 – Steve Priolo
3 – Corey Small