Features | 5/6/2014 9:52:08 AM | Chris Ryndak
| Ryan Benesch (Credit: Bill Wippert)|
The Buffalo Bandits’ offense has come alive in the past two games and Ryan Benesch has reaped the benefits.
The 29-year-old forward, in his first season with the Bandits, recorded three goals and six assists in Buffalo’s regular-season finale against Rochester on April 26.
Benesch then became the second Bandits player to score seven goals in a postseason game when he put up 10 points against the Toronto Rock last weekend.
Mark Steenhuis had seven goals in the 2008 Semifinals against New York. They now share the franchise record for most goals in a playoff game.
“The offense, that’s just the way that we played,” Benesch said. “Luckily for me, it was me that got the shot and luckily they went in.”
Benesch had a productive postseason in 2013 as well. While with the Minnesota Swarm, he recorded a hat trick to go along with six assists in the first round against Toronto. The next weekend, he posted four goals and three assists against the Rochester Knighthawks.
After last weekend’s game in Toronto, Benesch said that with the way the offense was playing, any Bandits forward could’ve had a big game. The shots just happened to drop for him. Benesch now has 22 goals and 23 assists in eight career playoff games.
“When you’re hot, you’re hot and we rode him. And that created a lot of other chances for some other guys, too,” forward Shawn Williams said. “We played awesome and the ball moved well. We were burying chances and fortunately that was the game.”
The offense couldn’t have gotten hot at a better time and they’ll look to sustain the momentum in Game 1 of the NLL East Finals on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. against Rochester at First Niagara Center.
In the seven games prior to the regular-season finale, the Bandits had averaged just 8.14 goals per game. To score 14 and 15 in consecutive weeks can serve as a big boost to the offensive unit’s confidence.
“We’ve talked and honestly, we’ve struggled with our offense for the most part of the year. I’m glad we’re clicking at the right time,” Bandits coach Troy Cordingley said. “We were patient with the ball. All five guys are working for that one good shot and it doesn’t matter who has a shot or who has the goals. It’s the five-man unit that’s working real together.”
Buffalo went into the playoff game against Toronto on a franchise-record eight-game losing streak. Before the game, Cordingley tried to motivate his team by rallying around 45-year-old captain John Tavares.
Tavares holds the all-time record in nearly every offensive category. In both the regular and postseason, no one has scored more goals or picked up more assists.
Cordingley wore Tavares’ No. 11 jersey during his pregame speech. Playing for Tavares, who admitted he’s thinking about the end of his storied career, could also serve as a spark for the team.
“He said, ‘JT deserves to come back home and play in front of our fans at least one more time’ so I’m glad that we got him that win,” Benesch said. “I’m glad we’re going home.”
The Bandits were 1-3 against the Knighthawks in the regular season. Their only win came in the fifth game of the season, an 11-10 victory in Buffalo. All of the other games were decided by no more than four goals. Having played Rochester in a tight game on April 26 could be beneficial to the team’s psyche.
“We know we can play with them,” Williams said. “We know that they’re the class of our division and we have to be our best and we will be.”
The Bandits open the series at home on Saturday and Game 2 will be played at BlueCross Arena in Rochester on May 17 at 7:30 p.m.
If the series is tied after two games, a 10-minute period will be played in full immediately after the second game to determine which team will move on to the Champion's Cup Finals.
“We’ve played them four times already this year, so we know what they’ve got. They know what we’ve got and it’s just a matter of who’s going to bring it on both nights,” Benesch said. “It’s going to be a great series, going to be a great battle and I’m excited.”