The Buffalo Bandits (4-1) defeated the Colorado Mammoth (4-4) 13-12 Saturday night in a thrilling overtime game which featured many young stars contributing for their teams.
To kick off the game, the Mammoth found themselves in a similar position as they have most games this season, trailing after 0:32 when Josh Byrne scored the games first goal after scooping a loose ball and breaking away from two Mammoth defenders. The Mammoth responded with a goal by former Tewaaraton winner Dylan Molloy, scoring his first NLL goal on a diving goal past Matt Vinc. Buffalo’s Nick Weiss was called for slashing which led to Ryan Lee getting the Mammoth the lead 2-1 on the power play goal. However just under two minutes later, Josh Byrne tied the game up at two each with a beautiful behind the back shot that Mammoth goalie Dillon Ward was late to respond to. Two tough breaks came for the Mammoth as Buffalo scored the next two goals even though Dillon Ward got pieces of both shots. Dylan Kinnear for the Mammoth got a cross field pass from Dylan Molloy to score for the Mammoth to end the first at 4-3 with the Bandits leading.
The second quarter started the same way as the first, with a Josh Byrne goal only 0:25 into the frame. Following up the first goal for the Bandits was Corey Small scoring the second of the second still under 1:00 into the quarter. Kyle Killen was called for an illegal substition which resulted into a penalty shot for Buffalo. Josh Byrne buried the attempt after a few dekes to give the Bandits a 7-3 lead. With under five minutes remaining in the half, Ryan Lee scored a diving goal past Matt Vinc which was challenged by Buffalo but was upheld on the turf.
Going into the half Buffalo led 7-4. Shots were even by both teams at 25 each, Buffalo led the loose ball tally 39-37. Colorado was 1-1 on the powerplay and Buffalo was 0-0 even though they were on the powerplay at the start of halftime. Josh Byrne was leading the scoring with four goals on the night by half. For the Mammoth, Ryan Lee was leading the charge with two goals.
At the beginning of the third Josh Byrne scored his fifth of the night off an assist from newly acquired Garrett Billings. Colorado’s Ryan Lee continued his hot night for the Mammoth by burying his third on the night with a low rip on Matt Vinc. Dillon Ward made two doorstop saves in a short period of time to keep the Mammoth in the game. After allowing three goals on seven shots in the second quarter, he was able to get back into rhythm. On the second big stop, Chase Fraser was given a goaltender interference call from running into Ward. Ryan Lee was able to quickly capitalize for the Mammoth on a laser that Vinc got a piece of, but a friendly bounce and roll off Vinc’s backside rolled the ball into the net. Kyle Killen got on the board after a long possession by the Mammoth when Eli McLaughlin went deep into the corner then back up towards the restraining line as he was double teamed. He dished to Jacob Ruest who found Kyle Killen on the doorstep and beat Matt Vinc nearside. After an arrant pass, Bandits captain Steve Priolo scooped up the ball and went coast to coast to score a transition goal to disrupt Colorado’s run. Ryan Lee kept the Loud House jumping around when he scored a low ripper to beat Matt Vinc for his fifth of the night. At the end of the third it was just a one goal game with Buffalo leading 9-8.
Immediately into the fourth quarter, Josh Byrne got his sixth of the night after Dhane Smith flipped a ball to him in front of the net to eventually beat Dillon Ward to restore a two goal Bandit lead. Much to the chagrin to the Mammoth fans, Dylan Kinnear had a diving shot that beat Matt Vinc but was waved off for a crease violation with no challenge from Colorado coach, Pat Coyle. Sophomore Kyle Killen got his second on the night with a shot that beat Vinc over the left shoulder to bring the Mammoth to within striking distance again. Dylan Molloy almost got his second of the night after a pass fake gave him a wide-open lane to the net but couldn’t convert on the opportunity. Buffalo’s Chase Fraser grabbed a rebound off Dillon Ward and in a single motion put the ball back into the off-center net to restore the two-goal lead for the Bandits with seven minutes remaining in regulation. Off a tough rebound, Joey Cupido ran the ball up the floor and found a streaking Dylan Kinnear who scored a diving goal to continue the back and forth affair in the last frame. On a crazy sequence, the Mammoth kept a loose ball in their zone with a flick into the air, Kyle Killen found Eli McLaughlin streaking to the net who buried it past Vinc with four and a half minutes remaining. Twenty-five seconds following the McLaughlin goal, Jacob Ruest didn’t want to be left out of the scoring party and added a goal to give Colorado its first lead since 2-1. Right after that face off Buffalo got the faceoff and had a clean look right in front of the net which Dillon Ward turned away to sustain the Mammoth lead for the moment. Looks by both teams yielded no results as the clock continued to wind down. Buffalo called its timeout with just over one minute remaining to talk end of game strategy. Coming off the timeout with Matt Vinc on the bench for the extra attacker, Buffalo went to their hot hand with Josh Byrne who tied the game with 1:03 remaining, his seventh on the night. The Mammoth recovered the following faceoff and got a shot by Eli McLaughlin that couldn’t beat Vinc. Colorado recovered the rebound to use their timeout with 0:31 remaining to draw up a play. An errant pass led to no shot for the Mammoth as regulation ended and went into overtime.
Colorado received the first possession in OT but was unable to capitalize. Buffalo had two looks from afar, but Dillon Ward saved them with relative ease. After the second shot for the Bandits, they called timeout with a fresh shot clock. Coming out of the timeout Corey Small ripped a shot that deflected off Dillon Ward, off the post, off Ward’s backside and trickled into the net despite a diving effort by Jordan Gilles to keep it out, to give the Bandits the win 13-12.
At the end of the game, stats remained fairly even among both teams. Colorado outshot Buffalo 53-50, Buffalo had more loose balls at 80-67 and the faceoffs were almost even at 16 wins for Colorado and 13 for Buffalo. Josh Byrne led the way for Buffalo, scoring eight points (7g, 1a), followed by Dhane Smith’s six points (0g, 6a) and Corey Small had five points (2g, 3a) including the game winner. For the Mammoth, Ryan Lee was one goal away from a sock trick of his own with 5 points (5g, 0a). Chris Wardle and Eli Mclaughlin were the key secondary pieces for Colorado with eight points (0g, 8a) and seven points (1g, 6a). In net, Matt Vinc gets the win and saved 41 out of 53 shots including one in OT. Dillon Ward finished the night saving 37 out of 50 shots, including two saves in OT.
Three stars on the night in order were Ryan Lee (COL), Josh Byrne (BUF) and Eli McLaughlin (COL).
Both teams will be taking on divisional opponents next week. Buffalo will return home to take on the Rochester Knighthawks in Week 10 on Friday, January 31. Colorado heads on the road to take on the San Diego Seals at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada for the first ever NLL game in Las Vegas on Saturday, February 1. The Mammoth game will be the NLL Game of the Week, which will be free for fans to stream via Bleacher Report Live or on the NLL’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Get your tickets for the historic matchup in Sin City between West Division opponents Colorado and San Diego here.