The Buffalo Bandits picked up their first home win of the season Friday night, defeating the Vancouver Warriors 16-10 at KeyBank Center. This moves the Bandits to 2-1 on the season, while Vancouver is now at 1-2.
The game marks an improvement for this Bandits team. The previous week, the team fell 17-12 to Toronto after playing a great first quarter which saw the orange and black go up 5-1. In that game, it was clear the young Bandits roster had a problem with playing a full sixty minutes of lacrosse. That was not the case in this one.
“We worked on our system literally all of practice,” said Buffalo co-Head Coach John Tavares. “We talked about what needed to be done, what needed to be improved on, and made adjustments from that previous week. We’ll keep building from there.”
In a surprise move, Corey Small sat out the game for the Bandits. This would have been Small’s first taste of action against his former team that traded him during this offseason. Instead, we got to see forward Zach Herreweyers on the floor, and he shined bright early in the game. His first two shots on net were goals, and along with Matthew Bennett’s first quarter goal, all were shot from the same spot on the floor. Warriors goaltender Aaron Bold seemed to have a problem stopping those outside shots from the top right side, letting in three goals on the first three shots of the game from there.
By the end of the first, this game was still tight. Buffalo showed some offensive prowess, but Vancouver was able to show a little of their own, and they were only trailing the home team by one goal, 4-3. The second quarter was literally almost all Bandits though.
“We got a bunch of new guys in the lineup, so it takes a little while to get the ball moving,” said Bandits forward Josh Byrne. “Once we did though, we got in our grove and I think we did a pretty good job.”
The second quarter saw Buffalo score nine goals, almost all unanswered save for a Warriors goal from Mitch Jones near the midpoint. Many of those points in that run came from a strong connection between forwards Josh Byrne and Shawn Evans.
“We’re both trying to get used to each other,” said Byrne on the two-man game between him and Evans. “This is the first year we’ve had a full training camp together, and be able to learn each other’s tendencies and read each other. So it’s starting to work a little bit better.”
On the night, the two players combined for 21 points. But they weren’t the only two finding the back of the net. Thomas Hoggarth once again proved he can be a threat coming out of the front door. The former defensive player was switched to offense for this season, and last night had another great performance on the score sheet putting up six points (2g,4a). Hoggarth is constantly the guy out there setting picks and cutting in hard to the crease to pickup rebounds and create opportunities on the floor.
The Warriors, after letting in over the half the shots he faced, pulled starter Aaron Bold in favor of Eric Penney. The relief performance by Penney did not fare much better in favor of the Warriors. Making 18 saves on 25 shots on goal, the Bandits offense seemed to be just clicking along.
For Bandits players and fans alike, perhaps the most interesting storyline leading into the game was the return of Mitch Jones to Banditland. Jones had spent parts of five seasons in Buffalo, having a career season last year which saw him put up 81 points. This was the first time he faced his former team. For Josh Byrne, it was especially meaningful to see him in another team’s jersey.
“It’s definitely weird having lived with Mitch last year,” said Byre. “Being close friends with him, it’s definitely tough seeing that. Especially when he drops the gloves with one of your teammates. But lacrosse is very close, no matter what team you’re on”
The Bandits end up taking it 16-10 by the close of the game. They’ll prepare for game three of four of their home stand, this time against bitter rival Rochester Knighthawks. That game will of course mark a reunion between Matt Vinc and his former Knighthawks teammates. The Bandits goaltender backstopped Rochester to three straight NLL championships, and will look to prove he is still a top goaltender in this league. Vancouver on the other hand will travel to Georgia to take on a Swarm team that looks like an offensive force with Lyle Thompson and Randy Staats out on the floor.