By Steven Bermel | Staff Writer
Photo Credit Kohi Ton
The Buffalo Bandits (1-5) dropped another game at home on Friday night, falling to the New England Black Wolves (3-4) by a score of 14-11 in front of 13,813 fans at the KeyBank Center. The Bandits find themselves in last place in the East Division and 0-4 against their divisional opponents.
The win was the second time the Wolves beat the Bandits this season with their third meeting coming on Sunday. New England assistant coach Tracey Kelusky was excited about the win, but wants to stay focused on one game at a time.
“We’re not going to look too far past tonight right now,” said Kelusky. “I thought we did a lot of things fairly well this evening, but we’ll look at the video and see where we can be better on Sunday.”
The Bandits fell into trouble early once again and gave up the first four goals of the game. Sheldon Burns opened the scoring for New England before Reilly O’Connor, Zac Reid and Kevin Crowley all tallied goals. Dhane Smith answered for Buffalo before Reid scored again. The Black Wolves took a 5-1 lead into the second quarter.
“We’ve talked about slow starts. It’s hard to battle back. Our offense wasn’t very good tonight, especially in the first half,” said Bandits head coach Troy Cordingley. “I made the move [to change goaltenders] early enough, when we were down 4-0, to change the momentum, but it’s not just not enough to give us the kick we need.”
“It’s tough. We played really well in the second half, but we can’t give up a 4-0 lead early,” said Smith. “It brings us down and it’s hard to climb back up.”
The Wolves pushed their advantage in the second quarter and took a 9-3 lead into the half on goals from Burns, Jay Thorimbert, Kyle Buchanan and Crowley. Brad Self and Mitch Jones scored for Buffalo.
Buffalo netted three of the five goals scored in the third quarter. Crowley opened the scoring for the frame but Smith netted two straight for the Bandits. Kyle Buchanan scored again, but Kevin Brownell scored in transition for the Bandits and trimmed New England’s lead to 11-6 heading into the final 15 minutes.
Buchanan and Ryan Hotaling both found the back of the net early in the fourth quarter to give New England a seven goal lead. The Bandits then went on a three goal run and made the score 13-10. Buchanan scored another goal, this one on the power play, and gave the Wolves a 14-10 lead. Jones scored in the last minute for Buffalo and brought the final score to 14-11.
Wolves goaltender Evan Kirk turned away 38 or the 49 shots he faced and was key to the quick start and win for his team.
“‘Kirky’ made big saves in timely situations,” noted Kelusky. “Both teams came in with their backs against the wall and we were fortunate to get the momentum in our favor early on.”
Kyle Buchanan lead the way for the Black Wolves, racking up seven points (4+3) in the win.
“I think Kyle’s a recipient of the hard work he puts in,” said Kelusky. “I know he had a 4+3 on the scoresheet, but his best moments came winning battles in the corners and earning us fresh possessions.”
Smith also had seven points (3+4) and led the Bandits runners in his second game back from injury.
The Bandits are looking up at the whole division and know that their work is cut out for them going forward. Every game left on the schedule is an important one.
“We’re stung right now. We’re struggling. It’s up to us to fix this. It’s going to take hard work, we have to dig ourselves out of this hole,” said Bandits forward Mark Steenhuis. “We have 12 games left. We could lose the next 12 or we could win the next 12. We have to get better and work harder.”
The Bandits and Black Wolves will meet again on Sunday, February 19th at 1:00 p.m. EST from the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT.