By Jeff Baker - Bandits.com
The Buffalo Bandits’ offense stayed hot and used a highlight-reel second half to take home an 18-13 win over the New England Black Wolves at Mohegan Sun Arena on Friday night. Buffalo (5-3) handed New England (4-3) its first home loss of the year to earn a three-game road sweep and control of first place in the East Division.
The Bandits raced out to a 4-2 lead after the first quarter. Both teams strung together three-goal runs in the streaky second quarter before Buffalo entered halftime on top, 8-6.
After the Black Wolves erased the deficit with four-straight goals in the first three minutes of the third to take their first lead, the Bandits responded with a five-goal run to go ahead 13-10 heading into the fourth quarter.
Just 22 seconds after Shawn Evans pulled New England within one at 14-13 midway through the fourth, newly-acquired transition player Thomas Hoggarth scored a timely goal in his Bandits debut to regain the two-goal lead. Buffalo ended the game with three more unanswered goals in the final four minutes to seal a valuable divisional win.
Dhane Smith scored four times to move into the NLL scoring lead and rookie Josh Byrne had a hat trick as the dynamic pair led the way for Buffalo for the second-straight week. But they weren’t alone as eight other Bandits found the net. Jordan Durston and Mitch Jones played distributors by each adding a goal and six assists while Callum Crawford, Craig England and Vaughn Harris all scored twice.
With the forwards clicking offensively, Buffalo continues to get contributions from players in all phases. Rookie defenseman Liam Patten notched his first career NLL goal in the first half and Ryan Wagner and Nick Weiss both chipped in with a team-high 10 loose balls. Harris recorded his third multi-goal game in four appearances since being promoted to the active roster and also handled faceoff duties by going 16-for-32.
Bandits goaltender Alex Buque put in another solid performance, finishing with 43 saves on 56 shots for his second-straight complete game and fourth win of the season.
New England goalie Aaron Bold’s recent struggles continued as he allowed 17 goals on 49 shots. Evans netted a game-high five goals, Kevin Crowley had four goals and four assists, and Stephan Leblanc had seven points (1+6) but the Black Wolves were unable to generate much offense elsewhere. Ex-Bandit David Brock had a game-high 11 loose balls in his first game against his former team after spending five seasons with Buffalo.
The special teams were a factor in the high-scoring affair as Buffalo went 4-for-6 on the powerplay while New England converted 2-of-3 chances.
The Bandits and Black Wolves will play a home-and-home starting in New England across the last two weekends of March to close out their season series.
Buffalo now enters the second leg of their back-to-back weekend by hosting the defending champion Georgia Swarm on Saturday, Feb. 10 at 7:30 p.m. at KeyBank Center. Tickets are on sale now.