By Jeff Baker - Bandits.com
In one of the most dominant performances in franchise history, the Buffalo Bandits shut down the New England Black Wolves in the first half and used a 12-goal second-half scoring run for a 20-7 road win at Mohegan Sun Arena on Friday night.
Vaughn Harris broke out with a career-high eight points (4+4), Mitch Jones scored five goals, Dhane Smith notched eight points (2+6), and Shawn Evans had six points (2+4) as the Bandits (7-7) moved into a three-way tie for first place in the East Division playoff race.
Jordan Durston added five points (2+3) and Josh Byrne registered four points (1+3) to set the Bandits’ new rookie scoring record, eclipsing Derek Keenan’s 49-point eight-game campaign in 1992, with 51 points (21+30) through 14 games.
While Evans’ first trip back to New England since being traded was one of the main storylines going in, the Bandits came out with an all-around team effort to snap a four-game losing streak in emphatic fashion.
Tied 2-2 midway through the first quarter, Buffalo went on a five-goal run including a natural hat trick by Jones, while goaltender Alex Buque and the defense held the Black Wolves scoreless for over 22 minutes, to close out the half up 7-2.
New England ended their scoring drought with two quick goals to start the second half to pull within 7-4 but Buffalo went on a streak for the ages by scoring 10 consecutive goals in less than nine minutes to take a commanding 17-4 lead after three quarters.
Adding two more goals in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter, Buffalo cruised to the 13-goal win, tying the team record for the largest margin of victory in a road game.
With the offense netting a season-high 20 goals, Buque had his most impressive outing of the season with 40 saves to hold the Black Wolves to seven goals, the fewest allowed by the Bandits this year.
Buffalo put together a complete showing in all facets of the game. The Bandits went 7-for-10 on the power play, killed off all four New England power plays, won the loose ball battle 98-72 and were strong on the draw as Harris went 20-for-29 on faceoffs.
The second-lowest scoring team in the league, the Black Wolves’ offensive struggles continued as they failed to reach double-digit goals for the third-straight game. Kevin Crowley netted a hat trick and Stephan Leblanc had two goals as the only other multi-goal scorer for New England.
Callum Crawford, dealt to the Black Wolves in the Evans trade, scored an athletic diving goal for New England’s second tally but was held to two assists the rest of the way.
One-upping Crawford’s crease dive, Bandits captain Steve Priolo had the highlight of the night when he scored a behind-the-back goal 5:50 into the second quarter to help spark the decisive scoring run.
Tied with New England (6-6) and Toronto (6-6) atop the East, the Bandits will continue its playoff push when they host the Black Wolves on Saturday, March 31 to close their three-game season series. The rematch marks the start of a four-game stretch, which includes three contests in Buffalo, to finish out the regular season.