The Buffalo Bandits snagged a come from behind win over the visiting Calgary Roughnecks 12-10 Saturday night at the Key Bank Center. While the Bandits certainly were never out of the contest, they were down 8-6 at halftime, and it was clear at that point that the Roughnecks controlled the tempo of the game. A strong all-around performance in the second half boosted the orange and black to get the win.
“We found a way to stay in the game the first half,” said Bandits co-Head Coach John Tavares. “I thought being down two was a blessing for us. It gives life at halftime, and we came out strong and tied up. Then we only gave them two goals in the second half, and we found a way to win that game.”
The Bandits first half was marred by a sluggish defense, and a slow start from Matt Vinc, but pretty soon the team got going. As a team, going down early shows when a team can really be a team, and through player leadership you see who can persevere.
“We didn’t get down on eachother,” said Bandits forward Dhane Smith. “That shows a great team. In previous years I feel like we’d get down, and then they’d get on a run. Luckily now we have Vno [Matt Vinc] in net, and he made some unbelievable saves tonight.”
Bandits captain Steve Priolo echoed those same thoughts.
“We just literally were like ‘we shouldn’t be in this game but we are, so let’s take advantage of this,’” he said of his team’s morale at halftime. “I’m so proud we have guys that can really dig deep and find a way to win. A big part of that comes through with Vinc.”
Matt Vinc 40 saves on 50 shots between the pipes for Buffalo. And while Roughnecks forward Curtis Dickson seemed to have Vinc’s number all night (putting up four goals), by the fourth he wasn’t giving Calgary shooters any looks.
Buffalo’s offense was stumped early on by goaltender Christian Del Bianco and the Roughnecks defense. But by the second, the Bandits visibly looked like they finally were able to make things happen and put the ball in the net. Chase Fraser was able to fire a straight rocket from the slot and got nothing but net past Del Bianco. A lot of those quick shots off screens and cross crease passes seemed to be Buffalo’s only opportunities to score.
Another big credit goes to the the Bandits emerging transition game, which has seen a huge development over the course of this season.
“We really picked it up in our transition game,” said Dhane Smith. “As an offense, you wish those guys keep picking it up. They put the ball in the back of the net when our offense couldn’t.”
Smith had a respectable night on offense, contributing two goals and two assists, including the game winning goal. Buffalo was able to share the ball and make every player out on the floor an offensive threat. Even defenseman Steve Priolo was able to push the ball up the floor and snag two beautiful goals on Del Bianco.
Despite the loss, Calgary played a strong game. This loss puts them at 5-5, and so while this loss hurts going forward as we move to the chopping block part of the season, they showed what it takes to win at times. Defensively they were able to limit Shawn Evans’ offensive prowess by play hard, physical defense on the Bandits forward.
It was a back and forth physical affair for all 60 minutes, but ultimately as a team you need to put up more than two goals in a half if you expect to regularly win games in this league.
With the win, this puts Buffalo one step closer to taking Toronto out from the top of the East standings. The Rock sit in first at 6-1, despite Buffalo maintaining a 7-2 record. Much of this is attributed to the Bandits Week 2 loss at the hands of Toronto 17-12. Both these teams have divisional matchups next week, with Buffalo visiting Rochester, and the Rock visiting New England, so the bar is set for an interesting week in the East come next weekend.