By Jeff Baker - Bandits.com
Alex Buque returned to his early-season form with 44 saves and the Buffalo Bandits (2-2) got back to .500 with a 13-8 win over the Calgary Roughnecks (1-3) at KeyBank Center on Saturday night.
With a focus on tightening up the defense after allowing a team-record 41 goals over their last two outings, Buffalo clamped down on the league’s bottom-ranked offense to stay unbeaten at home.
“Our goal was having the 19 guys that were dressed to give us an honest effort and play hard for each other,” Bandits head coach Troy Cordingley said. “And that’s what we did. We won a lot of battles... I thought our defense was spectacular.”
After being pulled in two-straight road losses, Buque put together another strong showing in Buffalo to follow up his 55-save effort from their season-opening win.
“He’s a huge competitor,” Cordingley said. “I know it bothered him...he knew he had to be better. And he was real good. He answered the bell.”
Calgary’s offensive woes continued as they were held to single-digit goals for the third time this year. The Roughnecks were unable to provide much offense outside of Curtis Dickson, one of the league’s most prolific goal scorers, who scored four times in the losing effort.
“He’s a superstar player,” Buque said. “You’ve got to do your best. He’s going to get his goals.”
Buffalo meanwhile got contributions from all over including two of their top threats. Callum Crawford followed up last week’s hat trick with four goals while Dhane Smith netted two as the duo again showed some strong chemistry.
“Callum is a true professional,” Cordingley said. “He’s brought something that we haven’t had ... two guys like him and Dhane on the right side. They’re just brilliant offensive minds.”
Secondary scoring options also came alive for the Bandits as Jordan Durston had a hat trick and Kevin Brownell added two goals.
“That’s what a team’s all about,” Buque said. “It’s not just one person who’s putting all the goals away or all the big plays. It’s about a unit. Everybody bought in.”
A pair of recent second-round picks made an impact for Buffalo as well. Justin Martin scored his first career goal late in the first quarter on a breakaway assist from fellow defender Ethan Schott, who was making his pro debut.
“A 21-year-old kid going out there, playing his first NLL game, he was a little nervous,” Cordingley said. “But that kid is all effort. That’s how he made the team.”
Brownell got Buffalo off to a fast start 19 seconds into the game with his first goal of the season. Calgary responded 11 seconds later to make it 1-1 but Crawford’s first of the night three minutes later gave Buffalo a lead they would hold the rest of the way.
The sticks went cold for both teams in over nine scoreless minutes to start the second quarter before Durston broke the ice to make it 6-3 with 5:38 left.
Durston struck again as his shorthanded goal with 48.8 seconds remaining in the half increased Buffalo’s lead to four goals before Dickson converted twice on the power play to pull Calgary within 7-5 early in the third quarter.
The Bandits answered midway through the quarter with Durston’s third goal before Brownell scored all alone in front of Roughnecks goalie Frank Scigliano with 13.2 seconds left in the third to go up 9-5.
The Bandits added four goals in the fourth quarter to seal the win as Cordingley’s club started 2018 on the right foot.
“You live and die with every game,” he said. “Christmas, holidays, New Year’s wasn’t very happy around the Cordingley house.”
Buffalo remains at home next weekend, taking on the Vancouver Stealth on Saturday, Jan. 13, before starting a three-game stretch on the road.
“Everybody knows when you play in Banditland, you have an extra player out there,” Crawford said. “It’s honestly special in this building. And being here is obviously an advantage for us and teams know that.”