Powered by an eight-goal run to close the game, the Colorado Mammoth (3-7) snapped a five-game losing streak with a 12-6 road victory over the Buffalo Bandits (5-5) before a crowd of 16,428 at First Niagara Center on Saturday night.
“We were hungry tonight. It’s no fun losing and [we were] tired of it and we took it to Buffalo,” said Mammoth head coach Bob Hamley. “Tonight, we got some timely goals in the second half and I’m proud of the guys for battling through the weekend.”
Coming out of halftime tied at four, the Bandits scored two quick third quarter goals to take a 6-4 lead, but that was the last time Buffalo would find the back of the net.
Making his first career start, Mammoth rookie goaltender Tye Belanger made 30 saves on 36 shots, shutting Buffalo out for the final 26:17 of the game. The 22-year old Mooretown, Ontario native saw his first of the 2013 season action Friday night against Toronto in relief of Dan Lewis.
The night did not start well for Belanger, however, as he allowed three goals on the first five shots he faced. But after a rough start, he settled down and was solid down the stretch.
“He did really well,” said Hamley of his young netminder. “We knew when we scouted him that he doesn’t get rattled…and he didn’t get rattled tonight after a couple goals and was steady for us all night.
“Tye held the fort and I’m pretty proud of him.”
Bandits goaltender Anthony Cosmo stopped the first 19 shots he faced before Mammoth forward Adam Jones finally got Colorado on the board with a shorthanded goal with 7:36 left in the second quarter. Jones finished with four points (2+2), while Cosmo stopped 48 of the 60 shots he faced.
Buffalo had a 3-0 lead when Jones scored, a lead that could have been significantly larger had the Bandits had any success on their four early power play opportunities.
Ultimately, the Bandits failed to score on all five power play chances against a Mammoth team that had been struggling mightily in man-down situations.
“Our [penalty kill] has been struggling a bit and they did a fabulous job tonight,” Hamley said.
Nothing went right for Buffalo as they dropped their second-straight game.
“We quit working,” said a frustrated Bandits head coach Darris Kilgour. “A bad showing all the way around for our offense… I can’t name a spot on offense that played well tonight. To get outscored 12-3 by that team in the last three quarters is not very good.”
As Buffalo failed to generate consistent offense, Colorado stuck with its game plan, severely outshooting the Bandits 60-37.
“Our game plan can’t change, no matter the score,” said Hamley.
One reason for the lopsided shot total was the numerous instances where the Bandits threw the ball away in transition or had defensive players taking the ball to the net before the offense could set.
“We need to do a better job handling the press,” said Bandits defenseman Scott Self. “Teams are starting to watch film on us and jumping us at center and we’re struggling with it…we’ve got to give our offense some easier opportunities instead of throwing the ball away and running around all the time.”
The lack of offense was damning on both sides of the floor, as the Bandits defense appeared to fatigue late, allowing six fourth-quarter goals.
“It just seemed to wear us down because we weren’t getting the offensive possessions,” Kilgour said. “When you get outshot by [nearly] 30 shots at home, that says it all right there, of course [the defense] is going to get worn down.”
When looking at the Bandits offensive woes, it is clear that the team is not on the same page at times.
“We got through long stretches where we just don’t play with each other, we play as individuals,” said Kilgour.
For the Bandits, this marks their fourth-straight home loss, a perplexing statistic considering the Buffalo faithful continue to come out in large numbers to support the team.
“I don’t know what’s been going on these last few games at home,” Kilgour said. “We go play real strong in Toronto (on Feb. 28) and then come home and we’ve got no energy, no desire, no will to compete.”
For Bandits players, who are always quick to point out the boost the fans give them at First Niagara Center, they are similarly perplexed.
“We should be winning these [home] games,” said Bandits rookie Dhane Smith, who was the only Bandit with a multi-goal game (2+0). “Especially in front of a crowd like that. They’re doing everything right, we’re just not producing out there.”
The fight showed by the Mammoth to dominate on the score sheet in the fourth quarter may have saved their season, as the win pulled them into a tie with the Minnesota Swarm for the final playoff spot.
But it wasn’t just on the score sheet where the fighting occurred.
With just 30 seconds to play and the score 12-6, an all-out brawl broke out that saw every player on the floor except the goaltenders pair off in a huge melee. With equipment strewn everywhere, the referees did what they could to settle the situation.
Buffalo players David Brock, Billy Dee Smith and Jimmy Purves each received Match Penalties, while Richard Morgan, Ilija Gajic and Joe Sullivan also received Match Penalties for Colorado.
Kilgour was furious with the Colorado coaching staff, who had called timeout up six goals with 30 seconds left, by screaming at them from his bench after the players were separated. After the final whistle, Kilgour even attempted to confront the Mammoth coaches at the tunnel heading to the locker room, though the altercation went no further.
These two teams will meet again in just one week’s time, this time at Pepsi Center in Denver next Saturday at 9 p.m. ET.