By Chris Ryndak - Bandits.com
With eight losses in their last 10 games, the Buffalo Bandits are running out of time in the season to figure out what exactly has gone wrong this season.
The Bandits snapped a franchise-record six-game losing streak two weeks ago with back-to-back wins over the Toronto Rock and Minnesota Swarm only to be defeated last weekend by the Calgary Roughnecks by 11 goals.
Buffalo fell back into their bad habits and lost to the Toronto Rock, 15-9, at First Niagara Center on Saturday.
“Shift to shift, this team is up and down and I can’t describe it any more,” said head coach Darris Kilgour said. “I’ve put enough emotion into this team. It’s time for them to buck up and man up and do what the team needs them to do, not what they want to do.”
The Bandits (4-8) were within one goal 2:26 into the fourth quarter, but Toronto (6-6) pulled away after Bandits defenseman Darryl Gibson was sent to the box on a five-minute cross-checking penalty. Toronto scored three times on that power play and added three more goals in the final frame.
That major was the second the Bandits took in the game. Right out of the gate in the first quarter, Bandits transition player Jeremy Thompson committed a high-sticking major that the Rock used to get off to a fast start. Toronto scored three times on that man-advantage with Garrett Billings, Dan Carey and Stephan Leblanc all adding their names to the score sheet.
Buffalo racked up 32 penalty minutes in the game and the Rock capitalized in a big way. Toronto’s power play went 7-for-13 and moved the ball around the floor with ease.
“You can’t blame the officiating. You hit a guy in the head, it’s a five-minute penalty,” said Bandits captain Chris White. “We’ve got to smarten up. We’ve been talking about it for 12 games now and it still hasn’t happened. Until our guys want to wake up and fix our mistakes because we keep doing the same things over and over, we’re going to keep losing. That’s the reality of it.”
Billings finished with 15 points (4+11), meaning he was in on all of the Rock’s goals. He broke the record for most points scored against the Bandits in a single game, previously held by Rochester’s Derek Malawsky (13 points on Jan. 5, 2002).
“It’s all us,” Kilgour said. “How many power play goals did he get? How many free shots did he get?”
Bandits forward John Tavares finished with four goals and an assist, adding to his team lead in goals and points. However, the play of the team this season also has him trying to figure out where exactly the problems stem from.
“It’s frustrating when we’re taking all these penalties when we’re obviously trying to get a win. It’s penalty after penalty after penalty and we’re just not making that adjustment and I don’t understand why,” he said. “Especially when we’re down a couple, guys gotta realize that they gotta control themselves and we’re eager to make a big play, but at the wrong time. We have to control our momentum and stay out of that box.”
Mike Thompson made 43 saves on 56 Rock shots before being relieved in favor of Anthony Cosmo with 8:06 to play in the fourth quarter. Thompson made 30 saves on 37 shots in the first half alone.
“It’s just super frustrating. I can’t say frustrating enough. It’s just bad play after bad play,” Kilgour said. “If it wasn’t for John Tavares and Mike Thompson, we might be getting beat by 10 every game.”
Rock goaltender Nick Rose stopped 35 of 44 shots to earn his second win for Toronto. Stephan Leblance had nine points (4+5) for the Rock as well.
Even though they only have four games left in the season, Tavares thinks there’s one thing they can take out of the loss to the Rock.
“The only thing really, I’m thinking is that people are counting us out,” he said. “So sometimes it’s actually pretty good to be the underdog so if we can get some of that momentum going into the playoffs, we can win, build some confidence, get some wins because everyone’s counting us out.
“If we can start peaking at the right time, if we can get start going back up that roller coaster towards the playoffs, who knows? Maybe we can surprise some teams in the end.”
Next on the schedule for the Bandits is a home game against the Philadelphia Wings on April 7. Face off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.