The Buffalo Bandits (3-2) celebrated the team’s Champions Night with a 12-10 win over the New England Black Wolves (3-2) in front of 13,556 fans at First Niagara Center on Saturday night. Wearing retro throwback jerseys, Buffalo welcomed former players, honored four championship teams and featured an alumni game at halftime.
Bandits rookie Tyler Ferreira scored a goal and notched two assists in his NLL debut. Dhane Smith led Buffalo with six points (3+3) while Daryl Veltman added five of his own (1+4) as the Bandits improved to 3-0 at home this season.
Davide DiRuscio turned aside 43 shots in his first start of the season. DiRuscio got the nod since Buffalo’s starting goaltender Anthony Cosmo was given a night off. He was quick to credit his defense for his first win of the season.
“The defense played really great and they gave me the shots that I wanted to face. They did everything for me tonight,” said the Bandits goaltender. “I try to stay as even as I can and not get emotionally too high or too low. I’m working hard at every practice and staying ready for whatever happens.”
The Bandits opened a 5-2 lead on the Black Wolves in the first quarter that featured 16 penalty minutes, three short-handed goals and two powerplay goals. Sheldon Burns and Kevin Buchanan notched goals for the Wolves. Alex Kedoh Hill scored twice and Smith, David Brock and Anthony Malcom each found the net once for Buffalo.
Buffalo expanded its lead to 8-3 with goals from Mitch Wilde, Mark Steenhuis and Ferreira. Ferreira’s goal was the first of his NLL career. Kyle Buchanan closed out the scoring in the final minute of the first half.
Pat Saunders and Shawn Evans tallied goals for New England to open the second half before Daryl Veltman answer and Smith added two more to extend Buffalo’s lead to 11-5. Kevin Crowley brought the Black Wolves back within five to conclude the scoring in the third quarter.
The Black Wolves netted four straight goals to open the final quarter, one from Saunders, two from Kyle Buchanan and one from Crowley, to cut Buffalo’s lead to one. Kevin Brownell iced the game for Buffalo with an empty net goal and seal the win 12-10.
Although their comeback effort came up short, New England took control of the game late. The five-goal run in the second half concerned Bandits head coach Troy Cordingley, but he was happy to earn the win.
“We stopped making things happen. We were caught back on our heels. There are no excuses. We have to be better in that situation, but we found a way to hold to win. I thought our game for 50 minutes was pretty stellar,” said the Bandits coach. “You’ve got to work for your wins. There are no easy ones as we saw tonight. Putting two wins together, that’s what we need to do.”
The game had big divisional implications and Buffalo’s win put them in a three-way tie with New England and the Georgia Swarm for the East Division lead. After beating Buffalo last week to have sole possession of first place in the East Division, the Black Wolves would have liked another win this week.
“We only play Buffalo three times and a victory today would have given us the head-to-head season series win,” said New England assistant coach Tracey Kelusky. “It’s a game of runs; unfortunately we shot ourselves in the foot big time by letting them dictate play in the first half. We take away positives from every game, we did a lot of good things late in the first half and in the fourth quarter. We’re disappointed in the outcome, but you have to take small victories where you can.”
Buffalo returns to action when they visit the Georgia Swarm at 2:05 p.m. ET on Sunday, Feb. 14, New England also plays on the 14th at 3 p.m. when they host the Toronto Rock.
Three Stars of the Game:
1) Dhane Smith
2) Kyle Buchanan
3) Davide DiRuscio
By Steve Bermel for NLL.com. Photo by Bill Wippert.