By Alex Beilman - Bandits.com
A hot goalie at one end of the floor cooled down the offense on the other end, as the Buffalo Bandits fell 12-8 to the Colorado Mammoth on Friday night at KeyBank Center. A late rally got the team to within four, but it wasn’t enough to salvage a game in which they never led.
“It wasn’t very pretty, that’s for sure,” Bandits head coach Troy Cordingley said after the game. “It was bad. We talked about being honest to each other, about an honest effort, and that was the farthest thing from an honest effort.”
The story of the game was undoubtedly Mammoth goalie Dillon Ward, who produced 47 saves on 55 shots. It seemed every time the Bandits were asking questions, he had all the answers.
“I think their goaltender played great. Being an offensive shooter, you have to tip your hat to him,” Bandits forward Mark Steenhuis said. “You obviously think you can shoot better. We have to capitalize a bit more on our chances and we’ll have better success.”
Chris Wardle, Zach Greer and Dan Coates all got the ball behind Anthony Cosmo in a low-scoring first quarter that put the visitors up 3-0. Ryan Benesch scored his first of the season with 1:05 gone in the second quarter to make it a 3-1 game. However, that is as close as the Bandits would come in terms of the score.
After two outstanding penalty killing efforts in the first quarter, the Mammoth found a way to make the Bandits pay on two straight power play opportunities. Greer got his second goal of four goals after Matthew Bennett was called for holding. After that, John Grant Jr. opened his 2017 campaign on a power play that resulted from the Bandits getting caught with too many men of the floor.
“We have to be smarter. I think we did the same kind of thing last year,” Steenhuis said. “We seem to get a lot of penalties. It’s our job to play smarter. It doesn’t mean we can’t play as hard, we just can’t let the sticks fly up or the nonsense like that. Any power play in this league will make you pay.”
The start of the second half was just as unkind to the Bandits as the first half. The Mammoth rung up three unanswered goals, before Alex-Kedoh Hill stopped the run with his first of three on the night to bring the score to 9-3.
After Hill’s first of the year, the two teams exchanged goals at the end of third quarter to bring it to a 10-4 game. The fourth quarter saw Greer cap his four-goal night, after a shot that appeared to hit the post was ruled a goal after a coach’s challenge.
The Bandits were able to put together a 4-1 run that saw Hill and Benesch complete hat tricks, but it was too little, too late and the 12-8 score would stand as the final.
Greer was a thorn in the Bandits side, leading his team with three goals and two assists. Mammoth forward Jeremy Noble was also a catalyst for his team’s offense, providing a goal and three assists over the course of the evening.
Benesch was able to contribute two assists as well as his three goals, and reigning league MVP Dhane Smith had three assists and a total of 11 shots. Brad Self, 2016’s NLL Transition Player of the Year, was also able to score in his Bandits debut.
The Bandits will have an early week off, as they prepare to take on the Georgia Swarm at home on Jan. 14. The team is looking forward to getting back to work to right the ship before their next game.
“Guys didn’t quit. You just have to show up Tuesday and work harder. They out-transitioned us, that’s for sure,” captain Billy Dee Smith said. “We didn’t bring it tonight. [Practice] is going to be hard. That’s what we need. We have to drive it into our heads somewhere, and I think running a little extra usually works.”