By: Steve Bermel / NLL.com Correspondent
Photo: Bill Wippert / Buffalo Bandits
The Buffalo Bandits (0-1) kicked off their 2017 season Friday night when they hosted the Colorado Mammoth (1-0) in front of 14,268 fans at the KeyBank Center. The Mammoth never trailed in their convincing 12-8 road win over the 2016 East Division Champions. Dillon Ward looked sharp in his 2017 season debut stopping 47 of the 55 shots he faced. Colorado forward Callum Crawford led all runners with six points (4+2).
“Ward was awesome. The whole defense played great tonight,” said Mammoth assistant coach Dan Stroupe. “The win was a team effort. It was a great team effort.”
The Mammoth’s new offensive addition, Zack Greer, also had a strong night finishing with three goals and two assists. The lefty was acquired in a trade with the Saskatchewan Rush in exchange for Adam Jones.
“Greer’s a great guy,” said Stroupe. “It was great to see him out there on our team.”
The Mammoth jumped out to a 3-0 first quarter lead. Chris Wardle scored first at the 3:54 mark followed by Greer. Dan Coates added a shorthanded goal with 46 seconds left in the frame. Colorado netminder Dillon Ward stopped all seven of the shots he faced.
Ryan Benesch scored 1:05 into the second quarter on a shot from the slot. Greer and John Grant scored on back to back Mammoth powerplays and opened up a 5-1 lead with 6:54 to go in the half. The Bandits new transition man Brad Self answered before Jeremy Noble scored in quick transition and sent Colorado into the half with a 6-2 lead.
The Mammoth built on their strong start scoring the first three goals of the second half and chased Bandits goaltender Anthony Cosmo in favor of Davide DiRuscio. Alex Kedoh Hill scored a shorthanded goal before Crawford tallied on the power play to make the score 10-3 in favor of the visitors. Benesch cut the Mammoth lead to four and sent the game into the final quarter with Colorado leading 10-4.
Greer gave Colorado an 11-4 lead with a hat trick less than a minute into the fourth quarter. Hill, Nick Weiss and Benesch brought Buffalo back within four, but Jacob Ruest scored the Mammoth’s twelfth goal and sealed the victory.
The Bandits were not happy with their game in the loss.
“That wasn’t very pretty, it was bad,” said Bandits head coach Troy Cordingley. “We were chasing the entire game.”
Buffalo was missing two of their big offensive players from last year. Anthony Malcom is on Injured Reserve with a lower body injury while Daryl Veltman is celebrating the birth of his first child with his family.
“We’re supposed to have depth. We’re supposed to have guys who are going to step in and play,” said Cordingley. “You’re going to have injuries. We just were not good tonight. We never got to the gameplan. We forgot how hard it is to get where we got to last year.”
“It wasn’t a lack of effort,” said Bandits captain Billy Dee Smith. “It was a lack of smart effort. We didn’t get enough shots early. We just have to show up to practice Tuesday, work harder and make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
The Bandits return to action at home on January 14 when they take on the Georgia Swarm at 7:30pm EST. The Mammoth host the Vancouver Stealth on January 7 at 9:00pm EST.
Three Stars as Selected by the Media:
1: Zack Greer
2: Callum Crawford
3: Ryan Benesch