NLL: Bandits take first place from Black Wolves

Dhane Smith and Josh Byrne lead Bandits to first place

Last night in front of 5,357 howling fans at the Mohegan Sun Arena, the Buffalo Bandits (5-3) defeated the New England Black Wolves (4-3) 18-13. With the victory the Bandits now stand alone in first place in the Eastern Division.

Rookie Josh Byrne started the scoring for the Bandits just 13 seconds into the game, as Buffalo wanted to make an early statement.  Reilly O’Connor would tie the game a minute later off a feed from Kevin Buchanan.

Buffalo would then go on a three goal run.  The third goal of that run was scored by Byrne as he blew by the defender, jumped in the air and dunked his shot past Aaron Bold.  Kevin Crowley would stop the Buffalo run temporarily as he would get full extension and fire a shot past Alex Buque. The first quarter would end with the Bandits holding a two goal lead and also setting the pace.

The second quarter was about the runs. Buffalo would score three straight to build up a five goal lead. Josh Byrne would collect his hat trick in this goal run by the Bandits. Callum Crawford would get his second of the night. But as quick as Buffalo had their run, it was time for New England to dash into action. Shawn Evans would net two of the three, one of which was shorthanded and assist on the third (Kevin Crowley scored the other). Liam Patten would stop the bleeding 30 seconds later and Kevin Crowley would finish the first half scoring with seven seconds left, still down by two as in the first quarter, but now the momentum was turning towards the Black Wolves.

New England came out firing to start the third quarter, scoring four more times in the first 3:10 to cap off a five goal run that started at the end of the half and would now hold a two goal lead at 10-8 early in the third quarter. But that was short lived. Buffalo would respond with a five goal run to close out the third quarter. Two goals each by Dhane Smith and Vaughn Harris along with a single marker from Craig England would give Buffalo a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

After Shawn Evans would score to start the final quarter, Kevin Buchanan would score shorthanded to cut the lead to a goal. Mitch Jones and Shawn Evans would score respectively for their teams on the powerplay and the Black Wolves would trail 14-13.

Newly acquired Thomas Hoggarth scored his first goal as a Bandit just 22 seconds later to start the Bandits four-goal sprint to the finish. Dhane Smith (power play) and Kevin Brownell (empty net) would score 27 seconds apart to close the game out and the Bandits would shuffle home with a 18-13 victory and sole possession of first place.

Buffalo had a well balanced attack on offense. Josh Byrne (3G/2A), Dhane Smith (4G/1A) and Callum Crawford (2G/3A) led the attack. Mitch Jones and Jordan Durston each had a very solid game both notching a goal and six assists each. Alex Buque stopped 43 of 56 shots for the win and came up with some big saves.

Shawn Evans (5G/2A) and Kevin Crowley (4G/4A) led the Black Wolves. Stephan LeBlanc (1G/6A) had a very solid game, while Aaron Bold stopped 32 of 49 in the loss.

New England needs more goal production from Leblanc and both Buchanan’s. They cannot continue to have Evans and Crowley score 60 to 70 percent of their goals each game.

Buffalo returns to action tonight to host the Georgia Swarm. New England will return to action next Sunday, February 18 when they host Colorado.