The Buffalo Bandits (8-4) were back in action Friday at the First Niagara Center when they hosted the Vancouver Stealth (3-9) in front of 14,301 fans. The Bandits used a giant 12-point game from Dhane Smith (6+6, 20 shots on goal) to earn a 17-10 victory. The team’s fourth-straight win kept Buffalo in sole possession of first place in the East Division.
With his fifth goal of the game, Smith earned his 100th point of the season. With six games remaining in the regular season, he may have an eye on Shawn Evans 130-point record that was set last season.
“I’m impressed with his offense, but he chased down four guys tonight and stripped them. On two of those plays, we scored goals. The guy is incredible,” said Bandits head coach Troy Cordingley. “He’s always a team-first guy. I’m glad he’s on our team.”
Rhys Duch opened the game’s scoring before the Bandits got three straight goals from David Brock, Smith and Daryl Veltman. Corey Small ended the first quarter with an answer and clipped Buffalo’s lead to 3-2. Buffalo used goals from Kevin Brownell and Smith to take a 5-2 lead into the half.
The third quarter saw nine goals scored, four by the Bandits and five by the Stealth. The Bandits clung to a 9-7 lead on their way into the final frame. Buffalo used a huge fourth quarter to jump out to a 14-8 lead and seal its eighth win of the season.
“Give credit to John Tavares for what he’s doing with the offense and coach Rich Kilgour for what he’s doing with the defense. They strive for perfection,” said Cordingley. “Our defense struggled for a seven or eight minute span but our offense was able to take over.”
Fellow forward Mark Steenhuis was amazed by what he saw from teammate Dhane Smith tonight.
“What that kid is doing right now is special. It’s a true testiment to what kind of player he is. He’s a superstar. Every game he could be the number one star,” said Steenhuis. “It’s amazing to be a part of. It’s amazing to see. It’s fun.”
Duch (6+1) led all runners for Vancouver. Small (2+3) added five points of his own in the loss. The Stealth were missing both Garrett Billings and Logan Schuss who were placed on Injured Reserve before the game.
“I think Rhys has stepped up to the plate with two six-goal games. He and Corey (Small) are playing well. The offense is playing well and clicking,” said Stealth head coach Jamie Batley. “Defensively, we have got to stop these breakdowns.”
Coach Batley was disappointed in another fourth quarter that got away from his team.
“We did the exact same thing we did last week in the fourth quarter. We didn’t stick to the gameplan. We’re going to possibly have to change some things in the fourth quarter,” said Batley. “Last week, we were down one goal in the fourth. And this week, we were down one goal in the fourth. And they both got away from us.”
The Bandits will return to action on April 2nd at 7:05 p.m. ET when they visit the Georgia Swarm while the Stealth host the Toronto Rock that same night at 10 p.m. ET.
Three Stars of the Game:
1) Dhane Smith
2) Rhys Duch
3) Mark Steenhuis
By Steve Bermel for NLL.com. Photo by Bill Wippert