By Steve Bermel | NLL.com Staff Writer
Photo Bill Wippert
The Buffalo Bandits (5-8) hosted the Saskatchewan Rush (9-4) on Saturday night in front of 16,419 fans at the KeyBank Center seeking a win to stay in the thick of the playoff hunt in the East Division. The defending champion Saskatchewan Rush had other ideas though, as they used several multi-goal runs to earn a 17-14 win in “Banditland.”
The first quarter saw the Bandits fly out of the gate and take a 2-0 lead on goals from Dhane Smith and Ryan Benesch. The Rush responded with a four goal run, getting tallies from Ben McIntosh, Mike Messenger, Matthew Dinsdale and Robert Church. Smith scored again for Buffalo before Ryan Keenan gave the Rush a 5-3 lead to end the quarter. The Rush never trailed after taking the lead on Dinsdale’s goal.
“I thought we came in here tonight prepared as we played against a desperate team. We gave up two goals early which was a tough start, but we put an end to that, got four and controlled it from there,” said Rush head coach Derek Keenan. “We were really good for most of the game.”
“Early in the game we started missing assignments,” said Bandits head coach Troy Cordingley. “We also gave them a couple power plays and that’s a potent team on the power play.”
The Rush used the second quarter to expand their lead to four goals. Adam Jones and Adrian Sorichetti scored for the Rush before Pat Saunders netted a goal for the Bandits. Jones scored again for the Rush but Mitch Jones responded for Buffalo. McIntosh and Sorchetti potted two more goals and Benesch scored a power play goal to end the half with Saskatchewan leading 10-6.
Buffalo closed the gap to 10-8 with goals from Andrew Watt and Smith, but a three straight goals from Jones, Mark Matthews and Curtis Knight gave the Rush a 13-8 lead. A goal from Craig England brought Buffalo within four, 13-9, heading into the final frame.
The fourth quarter saw 10 goals scored in an absolute flurry. Nick Weiss and Alex Kedoh Hill scored for the Bandits and Knight answered for the Rush. England and Weiss each found the net again and brought Buffalo within one, 14-13 but Saskatchewan tallied two goals of their own from Matthews and Keenan. Dave Brock scored Buffalo’s last goal before Keenan and McIntosh closed out the game.
By Steve Bermel | NLL.com Staff Writer
“Credit to them, they’re a very good team. Defensively we were mediocre today,” said Cordingley. “But, I give credit to our team. We didn’t quit. We battled and we got within one but couldn’t close the gap.”
The loss keeps Buffalo in playoff limbo, but thanks to some teams losing in the East Division to West opponents, they’re far from eliminated.
“We want to get into the playoffs by winning on our own. We don’t want help. We’re all scratching and clawing,” said Bandits defenseman Billy Dee Smith. “It’s not necessarily about peaking right away, it’s about peaking late. As long as we peak heading into the playoffs and make the playoffs, I think anything can happen.”
The Rush were very displined after struggling with penalties last week. Saskatchewan was only shorthanded twice.
“Last week we had 18 minor penalties called against us and that killed us. We went from being one of the most disciplined teams in the league to almost leading in penalty minutes,” noted coach Keenan. “We needed to fix that and I thought we were pretty good in that way tonight.”
Aaron Bold turned away 39 of the 53 shots he saw. The Bandits made a goaltending change when starter Anthony Cosmo gave up 5 goals on 13 shots. Davide DiRuscio stopped 39 of the 51 shots he faced.
“Me personally, when we have to make a goaltending change, I try to get fired up and play better,” noted Smith. “Any time they’re pulling the goalies, it’s usually [the defense’s] fault.”
Mark Matthews (2+7) lead all runners with nine points while Curtis Knight (2+4) had six. Dhane Smith (3+4) had seven for the Bandits and Ryan Benesch (2+3) had five.
Buffalo returns to action at 9:00 P.M. EST on Saturday, April 8th when they visit the Calgary Roughnecks. Saskatchewan also plays next on April 8th when they host the Vancouver Stealth at 9:30 P.M. EST.
Three Stars as Selected by the Media:
1 – Mark Matthews
2 – Dhane Smith
3 – Adam Jones