The Buffalo Bandits earned a 16-15 comeback victory versus the Philadelphia Wings in front of 2,000 fans at the First Niagara Centre to open their preseason. Philadelphia opened the scoring when rookie John Ranagan notched an early transition
goal off a feed from Kyle Ross. The Wings would continue to build their lead with a pair of back to back goals from Pat Saunders to establish a 3-0 lead just ten minutes into the game.
Buffalo would get on the board when when Shawn Williams connected with Ryan Benesch, a trend that would continue throughout the game, to find the back of the net. Aaron Wilson would score with one minute remaining in the opening quarter to cut the Bandits’ deficit to one.
The Bandits continued their momentum into the second quarter, as Hayden Smith found Shawn Williams on the fast break for a breakaway goal to tie the game at three. Shawn Williams would tie the game for Buffalo off of a fast break, however, the deadlock would end abruptly when Buchanan tallied an unassisted marker for Philadelphia just eight seconds later.
The teams would exchange goals twice within the first five minutes of the quarter, which included Philadelphia’s Saunders completing an early hat-trick and Buffalo’s Williams depositing a second fast break goal.
Box lacrosse newcomer Garret Thul silenced any doubts regarding his adaption to the indoor game, helping the Wings maintain their lead with a pair of highlight reel diving goals. Derek Suddons, who recently signed with the Bandits after contract negotiations had pointed towards his departure, buried in transition for Buffalo to cut Philadelphia’s lead to 8-7. This would mark the last goal of the first half for the Bandits as the Wings would go on a four goal run which saw rookie James Delaney score along with Buchanan and Thul completing hat-tricks. The Wings would head into halftime with a 12-7 advantage. Philadelphia extended their lead the second frame off Saunders’ fourth goal of the day.
The Bandits would finally break their scoring drought when Derek Hopcroft, who was among a handful of Buffalo players to only suit up during the second half, sniped an outside shot to make the score 13-8. Saunders would answer back again for the Wings scoring his fifth of the game, however, the Bandits would claw away at the deficit with a three goal run to end the third and head into the final fifteen minutes down 14-11.
Buffalo opened the scoring in the fourth with Jaime Rooney’s second goal of the game, an acrobatic shorthanded effort assisted by Ryan Benesch. Rookie Dylan Goddard would strike on the powerplay to put the Bandits within one, before Kevin Brownell finished an end to end transitional effort to tie the score at 14-14 with 3:45 remaining in the contest.The Bandits captured their first lead of the day when Rooney buried his third goal on a cross crease dive to give Buffalo the 15-14 advantage. Philadelphia would tie the game just 20 seconds later when James Delaney trickled his second of the game past Bandits’ tender Steve Fryer.
Williams’ hat-trick goal, yet another fast break tally, would give Buffalo their second and final lead of the game. After a final flurry of action from the Wings resulted in Thul hitting the post with just four seconds remaining in regulation, the Bandits would escape with a 16-15 come from behind win.
Buffalo was led to victory by the newly formed tandem of Shawn Williams and Ryan Benesch. The duo looked quite comfortable playing together on the left side, connecting on three goals and multiple scoring opportunities. Williams had three goals, including the game winner, and three assists for six points, while Benesch shined in his first outing as a Bandit with two goals and four assists for six points. Jaime Rooney finished with three goals and one assist for four points despite only dressing the second half of the game for the Bandits. Rooney was not alone as Derek Hopcroft (2g) was also impressive after entering the game at halftime.
The Wings production consisted heavily from a trio new to the lineup; Pat Saunders, Garret Thul and Kyle Buchanan, who consisted for 9 of Philadelphia’s 12 goals and 12 points combined. Saunders was outstanding, leading all goal scorers with five goals including three within the opening 20 minutes of play. The Arthur, ON native’s last NLL stint was with the Wings in 2012 before spending last season with the Brampton Inferno of the Canadian Lacrosse League (CLax), finishing the season with 41 points in nine games.
West Point alum Garret Thul was impressive in his first foray into NLL action, finishing the game with three goals and one assist for four points. The lefty was a force all over the floor, The standout highlight of the former Black Knight’s debut was a pair of back-to-back goals, scoring his first exhibition NLL goal on a cross crease before immediately following with a second diving wrap around tally from behind the goal-line.
Kyle Buchanan showcased the talents that prompted Philadelphia to sign the former Washington Stealth member as a free agent. The righty shooter showed his scoring ability from both far and close range, finishing with three goals, and appeared to fit well playing with Kevin Crowley (1g, 3a) and fellow Philadelphia newcomer Ryan Ward (1a). Philadelphia scored with ease in the first half, leading by as many as five goals. The Wings inability to score in the second half allowed Buffalo to mount their victorious comeback, outscoring Philly 8-3 in the final two quarters. After going on a four goal run to end the opening half, Saunders’ pair of early third quarter goals would be the only time Philadelphia found the back of the net until James Delaney (2g) in the final two minutes of regulation.
Kuris Wagar started in net for the Bandits, alternating quarters with Steve Fryer. Wagar allowed just four goals in thirty minutes of play. Fryer was on the wrong end of a Philadelphia dominated second quarter in which he allowed 10 goals, before bouncing back and turning aside all but a lone tally during the closing frame. Evan Kirk played the opening three quarters in goal for the Wings, allowing 11 goals. Rookie Don Alton took the helm to begin the fourth before Chris Collins was put in to finish the game.
A core crop of the Buffalo roster were absent from the lineup, including goaltender Anthony Cosmo, John Tavares, Mark Steenhuis, Rory Smith and Steve Priolo. Notable lineup holes for the Wings included former Bandit members Tracey Kelusky and Luke Wiles.
Pre-game audio interview from Bandits players and personnel is available via In Lacrosse We Trust.