The Buffalo Bandits suffered a tough one goal loss to the Philadelphia Wings last night 7-6. A mid game surge by the Wings offense, coupled with a depleted Buffalo offense unable to respond, pushed Philly to the victory in the lone regular season meeting between these two clubs.
Former Bandit rookie Liam Patten, who is now in his second season as a Wing, opened things off as he found the back of the net on Matt Vinc. Garrett Billings answered back for Buffalo some 20 seconds later to get his first and only goal of the night. Billings would go on to contribute assists to four Buffalo goals before the final buzzer sounded. Considering injury losses to key Bandit forwards in Dhane Smith and Chase Fraser, Billings did his best to try and quarterback an offense that was clearly lacking the firepower to get past a rock-solid Zach Higgins and the Philly back end.
Matt Rambo answered back quickly to give the Wings a one goal lead, not long after however Buffalo rookie JP Kealy buried a highlight reel behind-the-back goal from the point past Higgins. The game seemed winnable by either team, and strong defensive play was on display by both sides.
Many say lacrosse is a game of runs, and the Wings sure made use of that in the second quarter, scoring four straight and leaving Buffalo scoreless for the second quarter and most of the third. The Wings style of offense relies heavily on pushing the ball in transition and they’re not afraid to up the tempo and make the opposition work to get the ball back. Brett Hickey got their run started off, and familiar faces to the goal column Rambo and Kevin Crowley piggybacked off that effort to find goals of their own.
Crowley’s goal along with Blaze Riordan’s goal afterwards marked two straight powerplay goals for Philadelphia. Penalties were few and far between, but Philly was able to make due and buried on two of their three man up opportunities. Buffalo was blanked on their only man advantage.
Those special team stats like power plays are important, as are faceoffs. Buffalo was absolutely killed on the faceoff dot by one of the best in the business, Trevor Baptiste. The University of Denver product went 14 for 17 from center floor against both Bryce Sweeting and Ian MacKay, with at least two of those losses coming from procedure violation calls. Giving a team like the Wings the first crack at almost every possession can be detrimental, and Philly more than capitalized with the faceoff edge they had with Baptiste.
Corey Small would finally break the Wings stranglehold in the waning seconds of the third quarter, and would be the only Bandit to find the back of the net for the rest of the night. Small led Buffalo’s late game offensive surge to try and best Philly, scoring two more before Buffalo dropped by one. Coupled with errant passes, a slow transition game, and an offense that seemed to not want and push the middle of the floor without Smith and Fraser, he couldn’t do it alone.
Higgins played one of his best games yet in his 2020 season between the pipes. He would end the night with 44 saves on 50 shots, and his stellar play garnered him first star honors for the night. Matt Vinc had no reason to hang his head, as both netminders were the true stars of the defensive battle at the Key Bank Center. Vinc made 46 saves on the 53 shots he faced, overcoming the tough go he had the last time at home against Rochester.
The win puts Philly at 6-3, while Buffalo’s loss drops them to 6-3. A win could have pushed Buffalo ahead in the packed North Division considering Halifax’s overtime loss on the same night, but now leaves the division just as hotly contested as it was. The Bandits are next in action against that very Halifax club next weekend at home, while the Wings have a back to back as they travel to New England.