Rush forward Robert Church notches eight points in win over Bandits
The Buffalo Bandits (6-6) saw their losing streak extend to three games in front of 12,936 fans at KeyBank Center on Saturday night. The visiting Saskatchewan Rush (11-2) earned some revenge after dropping a contest to the Bandits in January.
On a team loaded with offensive talent, Robert Church was the hero in ‘Banditland’ for Saskatchewan. His six goals and two assists earned him first star honors.
“I was getting open in the middle and Mark Matthews was finding me for a couple of easy ones that I could tap in,” said Church. “It was good to get a win and get some payback for the one we gave up early in the year.”
The first quarter saw the Rush score on their first shot of the game as Matthew Dinsdale beat Bandits goaltender Alex Buque. Shawn Evans scored his first goal as a Bandit to tie the game at one. Church found the net but Josh Byrne answered for Buffalo. Church, Ben McIntosh and Matthews put together a three goal run for the Rush. Mitch Jones ended the run and Saskatchewan took a 5-3 lead into the second quarter.
“We’ve done a good job all year of scoring goals early,” noted Church. “It was nice to get a nice lead and answering them when they scored. We made it difficult for them to get a comeback going.”
Ryan Keenan opened the scoring in the second quarter for Saskatchewan. Church scored his hat trick while both teams were short a man. Dhane Smith scored shorthanded for Buffalo, but Church scored again on the power play to give the Rush an 8-4 halftime lead.
Dinsdale scored the first goal of the second half before Jeff Shattler gave the Rush a 10-4 lead. Evans scored on the power play, but McIntosh answered for Saskatchewan. Evans scored again for Buffalo, but Dinsdale and Keenan responded.
Trailing 13-6 in the fourth, Smith and Jordan Durston scored back to back for Buffalo. Shattler and Church restored the Rush’s seven goal lead. Craig England and Smith got Buffalo’s ninth and tenth goals, but Church scored again to give the Rush a 16-10 win.
Rush goaltender Evan Kirk had a strong game in goal and helped his team build an early lead and keep it.
“Kirky looked good, their defense looked good, but we had some chances we didn’t capitalize on and it ended up going in the back of our net,” said Evans. “If those go in, we’re right back up there. But, instead, it’s a two or three goal swing. We’ve got to be better all around.”
Bandits head coach Troy Cordingley wasn’t happy with his team’s effort. He alluded to some roster changes that might be made before Sunday’s game and called out the Bandits for their lack of compete.
“I don’t think we played very well tonight – again. It’s the second game in a row at home that we laid a goose egg. Our offense in the first half was dropping balls and our defense was missing assignments,” said the Bandits coach. “It’s a game of mistakes and we have to limit them. We’re not going to make the playoffs playing like that. We had no sense of urgency and our compete level wasn’t very good.”
Smith finished with six points (3+3) for Buffalo and tried to explain how he and the other leaders could help the team compete more.
“We didn’t focus on the little things like loose balls. We got out of our rhythm and got away from the game plan,” said Smith. “It’s tough. Scoring goals is one way to help the team, but setting picks and picking up loose balls, we need to start off doing that and do it all game.”
With the Toronto Rock beating the New England Black Wolves and the Bandits losing to the Rush, the East Division shuffled a bit, but remains incredibly tight. Buffalo sits just 0.5 games behind New England for first in the East.
“Every game matters, we’re looking forward to playing Georgia,” said Smith. “We know they’ll be hungry since we beat them in our barn and we’re going into their territory.”
The Bandits head to Georgia to play the Swarm at 4:05P.M. EST on Sunday. The Rush will host the Rochester Knighthawks at 9:30 P.M. EST on Saturday, March 24.
Three Stars as Selected by the Media:
1 – Robert Church
2 – Mark Matthews
3 – Kyle Rubisch