Buffalo goes unbeaten in preseason (3-0) by surviving Colorado comeback
After two preseason wins over the New England Black Wolves, the Buffalo Bandits finished their slate of scrimmages Sunday afternoon against the Colorado Mammoth. The Bandits held off a late rally to conclude the preseason with a 9-8 win, giving them a perfect 3-0 record throughout preseason play.
Joe Resetarits led the way offensively with two goals and five assists for the Bandits. Jerome Thompson contributed three assists, and Mark Steenhuis, Dhane Smith, and Tyler Ferreira each added a goal and an assist.
All around, the Bandits put forth a strong effort against the Mammoth and drew many positives from their preseason performance. Bandits head coach Troy Cordingley likes what he sees so far.
“I liked our defense,” he said. “We’re a real big, physical team and we can only get better. Our offense is trying to adjust to the new system that we’re running. Guys are willing to do whatever it takes, so those are good signs.”
Aaron Wilson, who struggled to stay in the lineup last season amid a number of health issues, finished the preseason schedule with six goals and four assists in three games. He opened the scoring against Colorado in a first half that featured very few goals.
“I would say his spot wasn’t as safe as everybody else’s [coming into camp], but that’s the way it is,” Cordingley said. “It’s competition, and it makes players better. “
“Wilson’s a great player,” Resetarits added. “He’s been one of the top righties in the league, and just his veteran presence, his skill, he’s a guy you want around. He’s been playing great, and he’s been working hard.”
Anthony Cosmo played the entire first half for the second straight night, stopping 20 of 23 shots Sunday. After receiving a nomination for Goaltender of the Year last season, Cosmo showed he is ready to roll again in 2015 with 42 saves on 50 shots throughout the preseason.
“It felt pretty good,” Cosmo said. “I thought defensively we did a great job of keeping them to not taking quality shots. A lot of those balls coming from the outside makes my job easier.”
After falling behind 3-2 midway through the second quarter, Resetarits began a streak of six unanswered Bandits goals that spanned the duration of the third quarter. Goaltender Dave Diruscio was only forced to make three saves over the third quarter as the Bandits’ defense locked down against Colorado.
“We started where we left off,” Resetarits said. “I thought we played well up to the half and had a very good third, got some great opportunities.”
“We expect big things out of Joe,” Cordingley said. “Joe’s a guy who played very well for us last year, and this is only his third year in the League. I think he’s going to continue to grow into a complete player.”
With a 9-3 lead early in the final quarter following their big run, the Bandits ceded some ground to Colorado, who mounted a five-goal streak to bring the game within one goal with 1:07 to play. Colorado capitalized on one of their two power-play chances in the quarter and beat Buffalo often by getting out in transition.
“It was undisciplined [play], and Colorado took advantage of it,” Cordingley said. “You’re up by six goals and you know it’s still not over, so that’s something we need to work on is playing the full 60 minutes.
In that fourth quarter, Rance Vigneux faced 11 shots and stopped six, many of which were quality scoring chances. Cordingley said after the game that the Bandits will not carry a goaltender on the roster, so either Diruscio or Vigneux will be out of a job when final rosters are announced on Thursday.
“I like both of them,” Cordingley said. “They’re both good, young goalies. Cosmo’s a mainstay here, he’s real stellar, so we have to decide between one of the two.”
On offense, the Bandits have a lot of tough decisions ahead, as the coaches kept rotating players to see who got a chance to stand out. The Bandits expect this year’s offensive core to be just as good as, if no better than last year’s group.
“I think as a whole we’re a lot stronger,” Steenhuis said. “That left side, they wanted to bring in a couple extra guys, they really focused on that and added pieces everywhere. Overall we’re a lot stronger, and it’ll be nice when you actually get the roster and everyone’s together because there is a lot of mix-and-match right now.”
With three strong games in the books, Buffalo is now staring at a tough set of cuts to make, as final rosters are due to the NLL on Thursday. The Bandits then have two weeks to prepare that roster for the start of the regular season. Buffalo travels to Mohegan Sun to face off with the Black Wolves in the first game of the NLL schedule January 2 before returning home to host the Edmonton Rush the next night.
The preseason has provided many encouraging signs, but the real work lies ahead for the Bandits, who have their sights focused on advancing to the NLL championship after coming up just short last season.
“It’s good to win, but it really means nothing to be quite honest with you,” Cordingley said of the preseason success. “We have some very difficult decisions, and we have started dialogue all throughout [training camp]. We’re going to take our time and make what decisions are best for our team.”