The Buffalo Bandits (10-7) kept their hot streak going with the team’s third-straight win by beating the New England Black Wolves (4-12) on Sunday by a score of 20-9 at Mohegan Sun Arena. On Saturday, the Bandits clinched their playoff spot with a 17-9 home win over the Vancouver Stealth, officially eliminating the Black Wolves from the race. Buffalo also got a bit of revenge, as they finally got a win back from the pack for the first time in three tries this year.
“You always want to win,” said Bandits head coach Troy Cordingley about the team’s impressive showing despite having already locked up a playoff spot. “I liked our effort, especially in the second half. We seemed like we had a little more energy in the second half; the ball was moving real well, the defense was pressuring well. Wins are good in this league, and we clinched last night. This team has owned us and it was good to get a win against them.”
“Guys are disappointed because everyone wants to be in the playoffs,” said Black Wolves head coach Blane Harrison. “We were down two guys from last night, and we played with one less guy tonight. One guy got benched for disciplinary, off-field stuff, so we played with 15 guys and had to put an offensive guy back on defense.”
“We also know we’re battling injuries, we’re battling youth, and we’re battling some guys who haven’t had a lot of experience. It was going to be a bit of a maturation process. We thought we would get there sooner, but the injuries have put us back a couple of steps. Now we’re going to have to worry about it next year,” added Harrison.
Bandits forward Mark Steenhuis led all scorers with 10 points with five goals and five assists. Ryan Benesch added four goals and four assists, while breaking John Tavares’ single season team record for goals, as he now has a league-leading total of 52 for the season. Alex Kedoh Hill collected three goals while Nick Weiss added two goals as well.
“I don’t think you really go out looking for something like that individually,” said Steenhuis. “We’re just trying to work as a team; trying to kind of hit our stride here moving into playoffs. We were able to clinch last night and it was a good feeling. We want to keep this momentum and get hot right now. We’re scoring goals, we’re holding teams down to under 10 goals the last couple of games. We’re liking what we’re doing, but we’ve got to keep it going.”
“You don’t really think about that stuff until after, when someone tells you,” said Benesch about setting the team record for goals. “To surpass ‘JT’ (John Tavares) is an incredible honor, he’s my linemate, my stallmate, and I have looked up to him for years now. I’m happy we’re still on the same team.”
For the Black Wolves, defender Jimmy Purves had two goals, and Kyle Buchanan added two goals and one assist. Garrett Billings collected five goals and defenseman Mike McNamara scored his first career NLL goal late in the fourth quarter.
The Black Wolves fought hard and the game got physical fast as Craig England and David Brock threw down the gloves just three minutes into the game. The scoring never seemed to stop, as both teams answered right back when a goal was scored. However, the Bandits controlled the pace of the game very early on, and never let off the gas pedal.
“Craig’s a guy who is willing to lay it on the line for the team,” stated Black Wolves defender Bill O’Brien. “There’s a bunch of guys on defense who lay it on the line for the team. They’re not afraid to throw some blows if it comes down to it.”
The New England Black Wolves finish their season with a doubleheader weekend, first taking on the Toronto Rock on Friday, May 1 at 7 p.m. ET at Mohegan Sun Arena, and then hitting the road for their season finale against the Bandits on Saturday May 2 at 7:30 p.m. ET.
The Bandits will then go on the road for their first-round division semifinal playoff matchup the following weekend, either Rochester or Toronto depending on the Week 18 results as those two teams battle for first place in the East.
Three Stars of the Game as selected by the media:
1) Mark Steenhuis
2) Ryan Benesch
3) Alex Kedoh Hill
By Alyssa McLaughlin (@BlackWolvesBeat) for NLL.com. Photo by Khoi Ton.