The 2016 National Lacrosse League season has been marred by unsafe leads, with teams seemingly coming back each week from large deficits to rally for victories. Saturday night at the Langley Events Centre was not one of those nights.
The Stealth fell behind 6-1 after one quarter but did not pull off the improbable rally, falling 13-8 to the Buffalo Bandits in front of 3,382 fans.
“Any lead is good but at the same time, it is lacrosse, anything can happen,” said Buffalo’s Dhane Smith, the game’s first star after a five-goal, eight-point performance. “Road wins are the hardest wins and we just wanted to take it shift by shift. We kept our composure. We took a few stupid penalties, but luckily our penalty kills stepped up, our goaltending stepped up and we cane out with the win.”
In addition to Smith’s eight points, Mark Steenhuis (0+5), Ryan Beseech (1+4) and Daryl Veltman (3+1) led a balanced Bandits attack.
Rookie Jordan Durston led the Stealth with three goals while Corey Small had two goals and two helpers.
The win improved Buffalo to 6-4 while Vancouver fell to 3-6, including 0-3 against the East Division.
The game was barely four minutes old and the Bandits had scored four times on seven shots to chase Eric Penney from the Stealth goal.
The second quarter was more competitive with Buffalo scoring four and Vancouver three for a 8-4 game at the half. But that would be the closest they came.
Each team scored one in the third quarter.
“They have a high-powered offence but we gave them a little bit too much respect at times,” said Vancouver’s Matt Beers, who tried to spark his team with a scrap against Steve Priolo to open the second half. “We were playing a little bit spread (out) and we didn’t do our goalies any favours.”
This was the second straight home game where Vancouver had a slow start. They overcame it last time, but could not duplicate the feat this time around.
Beers admitted frustration with poor first quarters.
“We come out and are getting beat to loose balls. We are getting outplayed and that simply can’t happen,” he said. “We are all professionals and we are all here for a reason and we have to do our job out there. We are a veteran group but we have to find it quick before it is too late.”
A major part of the problem was an inability to hit the net and the failure to generate second chances off resets, said Stealth coach Dan Perreault.
“Offensively, we didn’t have enough quality chances,” he said. “We relied on the outside shots and our shots were off.”
The Stealth offence failed to reach double digits for the first time in four games.
Rhys Duch had at least three goals per game in his last five contests but was held goalless. He did have four assists. Logan Schuss had been on a tear of late with 33 points in his last four games, but was held to one goal and three helpers. Garrett Billings had a goal and four assists.
“There offence with how potent it is, we talked about being in shooting lanes and passing lanes, all the stuff you talk about when you prepare,” said Buffalo coach Troy Cordingley.
“It was a combination of dictating where there shots were from and when we broke down, (Anthony) Cosmo was really good.”
Cosmo finished with 44 saves as the Stealth had a 52-48 shot advantage.
“I thought our defence did a great job tonight,” he said. “We know these guys have a great shooting team. Just tried to keep them to the outside.”
The Stealth hit the halfway point of the season at 3-6 heading into next week’s road game in Toronto (2-6). They are a half-game ahead of Calgary for the third and final playoff spot in the West Division.
“This league is one of those leagues where anyone can win on any given day so if we don’t come to play, then we are not going to win,” Beers said. “We have to find that consistency that a lot of teams are searching for.”
Three Stars of the Game:
1) Dhane Smith
2) Anthony Cosmo
3) Jordan Durston
By Gary Ahuja for NLL.com. Photo by Garrett James.