Buffalo improves to 2-0 in preseason by taking rematch vs. New England
After defeating the New England Black Wolves at home last weekend, the Buffalo Bandits ran away with the second preseason matchup between the two teams. The Bandits scored seven power-play goals en route to a 17-10 exhibition victory on Saturday night at the Toronto Rock Athletic Centre in Oakville, Ontario.
John Tavares, the league’s all-time leading scorer, led the way in scoring for the Bandits with five goals and four assists in the win. Mark Steenhuis contributed with three goals and two assists in his first action of the preseason. Aaron Wilson, Chad Culp, Corey Fowler, and Tyler Ferreira each added three points to power the Bandits’ onslaught.
All three goaltenders on the roster saw action in Saturday’s scrimmage. Anthony Cosmo played the entire first half and stopped 22 of 27 shots. Rance Vigneux took over for the third quarter to make seven saves on 10 shots against, and Dave Diruscio played the final stanza, turning away 10 of 12 Black Wolves shots.
Buffalo took advantage of undisciplined play from the Black Wolves, who committed three major penalties. The Bandits scored five of their seven man-advantage goals on those extended power-play chances by creating movement on both sides of the floor and working to find the best shots possible.
Showing no signs of his old age, 46-year-old John Tavares proved that he is ready for yet another NLL season. Three of Tavares’ five goals came on the power play, and Bandits head coach Troy Cordingley was impressed with his entire team’s effort on the man advantage at this early juncture of the season.
“The ball was crisp and moving, some real good shots,” Cordingley said. “They were undisciplined at times and we capitalized on that. That’s huge in this league.”
After sitting out of the first scrimmage with New England, Steenhuis returned to the lineup as Ryan Benesch did not play. If the Bandits have all three of their veteran leaders firing on offense this season, the team could be tough to keep up with.
“He’s only been out for the one session last weekend, and he played very well I thought,” Cordingley said of Steenhuis. “Mark’s a guy that we ran a lot last season, and need a lot from him throughout the year.”
Defensively, Cordingley pressed his team to attack New England early in their possessions. The Bandits forced New England into a number of turnovers and did a strong job of limiting the number of close shots that each of the goaltenders had to face.
While the Bandits’ defensive core suffered minimal turnover from last year, the few newcomers have been making an impact. Nick Weiss, acquired at the 2014 NLL Draft in the deal that sent Rory Smith to the Vancouver Stealth, has displayed a calm demeanor all preseason that has helped spark the Bandits’ transition game. Brandon Goodwin and Adam Will also saw significant time at defense Saturday night, and played well alongside veterans like Steve Priolo, Billy Dee Smith, and Andrew Watt.
“I liked the way that we were doubling balls,” Cordingley said. “We did a good job at making things happen rather than waiting for them to happen, we were a lot more aggressive than we were last weekend.”
After surrendering just nine goals in the team’s first preseason scrimmage, the Bandits’ defense put together two consecutive strong showings against the Black Wolves. Buffalo opens the 2015 NLL season January 2 on the road against New England, so the two teams should be familiarized with each other for their regular season debuts.
The Bandits return to First Niagara Center Sunday for their final preseason matchup against the Colorado Mammoth. Time is running out for players to make their case for a spot on Buffalo’s final roster, but the depth showcased throughout training camp has created an encouraging problem for the Bandits.
“We’ve got to keep getting everyone in the lineup here, give them an equal opportunity to impress us,” Cordingley said. “It’s difficult. We’ve got guys that can play. We’ve got tough decisions to make as a coaching staff, but that’s what we want.”