The Buffalo Bandits (11-7) finished off their regular season campaign with an impressive 20-10 home win against the New England Black Wolves (4-14) in front of 15,374 fans at First Niagara Center on Saturday night. Buffalo will enter the postseason on a four-game win streak as they head to Rochester to play the Knighthawks in the East Division Semifinal on Friday.
New England kicked off the game with two quick goals from Pat Saunders. John Tavares and Dhane Smith answered to tie the game at two. Brett Bucktooth scored for New England before Mitch Jones tallied twice and Nick Weiss scored to end the quarter 5-3 in favor of Buffalo.
Buffalo extended its scoring run to 10-straight goals (Jones, Alex Kedoh Hill, Ryan Benesch, Smith, Tavares, Benesch, Jones) before Brett Bucktooth finally scored for New England to end the first half 12-4.
The Bandits extended their lead to 18-7 after three quarters with three goals from Hill and one goal each from Benesch, Tavares and Chad Culp. Saunders used three goals in the third to up his total to five for the game.
Tavares and Andrew Watt capped off the scoring for Buffalo. Drew Petkoff scored once and Jimmy Purves scored twice to round out the Black Wolves’ scoring.
Black Wolves head coach Blane Harrison announced that he wouldn’t be returning to coach the team next year due to travel strains. He also felt travel played a part in his team’s effort Saturday.
“To be honest, we’re not a team that does well on back-to-backs. We don’t travel well. We got up at 3:30am and it was a ‘planes, trains and automobiles’ situation,” said Harrison. “We didn’t have any pop in our step and our goalies didn’t see the ball well. They’re a very good team that’s headed for the playoffs and their crowd was pumping them full of energy.”
Buffalo has found success in every aspect of the game, which is exactly what they’re hoping for heading into the playoffs.
“We continued to move the ball really well. To put up 20 goals in back-to-back games in this league is pretty incredible,” said Bandits head coach Troy Cordingley. “We know the regular season is over and now we move onto the madness [of the playoffs]. We wanted to go in on a winning note and go in positive, but it’s a new season now. Tomorrow morning we wake up and we start the process of preparing for our first playoff game.”
Dhane Smith eclipsed 100 points on the season and joined Ryan Benesch in the century club. The milestone marked the first time in Bandits history that two players has more than 100 points in the same season. Dhane also notched his 65th assist, good for a Bandits single season record.
“Dhane’s awfully good. He’s 23-years-old and already has a 100 point season. It’s incredible and he’s such a fast player, too,” said Cordingley. “Benesch is just a pro. He’s a pro in everything he does and the way he approaches the game, he’s always put up numbers. We’re fortunate to have those two guys on our team.”
“It obviously feel good to hit 100 points and help the team. I didn’t realize I was that close, it’s great that [Benesch and I] both did it,” said Smith humbly. “I’m so grateful for the team around me. It’s easy to play with Tavares, Benesch and Mark Steenhuis. They’ve helped me out a lot.”
Ryan Benesch broke a personal single-game record by scoring 12 points and tied his personal record of nine assists in a game. He’s also proud of his roommate, Dhane Smith.
“I don’t know what to say. When we play offense like that, everyone will get points,” said the Bandits forward. “I’m really proud of Dhane. He’s one of the best offensive players in the league. I knew from watching him back in Juniors in Kitchener that he was something special, now he’s just proving it.”
Jay Thorimbert also broke a record on Saturday. With his 320th faceoff win, he became first all time for draws won in a season, surpassing Bob Snider’s old mark.
Pat Saunders (5+0) had five goals for New England while Garrett Billings (0+7) had seven assists.
“Pat doesn’t realize how good he is. We sat him down recently and told him we think he could be a 50-goal scorer,” added Harrison. “Billings might still be struggling with his recovery, but his hands are there and his vision is there.”
Buffalo heads to Rochester to take on the Knighthawks on Friday, May 8th at 7 p.m. ET for the single-elimination first-round East Division Semifinal.
Three Stars as Selected by the Media.
1) Ryan Benesch
2) Alex Kedoh Hill
3) Dhane Smith
By Steve Bermel for NLL.com. Photo by Bill Wippert.