After a disappointing Week 7 loss on the road to the Rochester Knighthawks, the Buffalo Bandits were looking for a little bit of redemption in their season series finale with the Philadelphia Wings Saturday night.
The Bandits (6-2) responded in a major way by giving the Philadelphia Wings (3-6) a complete 60 minute performance and clinching their season series with a commanding 13-7 victory in front of 13,980 Banditland faithful at the First Niagara Center.
“That was 60 minutes of good team lacrosse,” said Bandits head coach Troy Cordingley. “I thought we were good in all areas of the game.”
Leading the way for the Bandits this evening was another stellar performance by goaltender Anthony Cosmo. Cosmo was awarded the first star of the game by making 45 saves on 52 shots for a .865 save percentage.
“You have to credit my defense on that one,” Cosmo said. “Our defense is keeping them out (from high quality scoring chances) and allowing me to see the shots.”
Buffalo’s offense this evening was led by the game’s second star Mark Steenhuis with a hat-trick and two assists. John Tavares and Ryan Benesch each recorded six points with one goal and five assists a piece. Tavares’s fourth assist this evening was the 900th assist in his hall of fame career.
After the game, Tavares reflected on his incredible milestone with, “It’s nice to get those (milestones) out of the way. Every time I get one, I’m like, well I guess I should go for the next one. So I guess I should go for 1,000 now? At this rate it’s going to take a long time.”
While one Bandits legend was enjoying his latest milestone, one possible future Bandits superstar was enjoying the first milestone of his career. During the middle of the third quarter, Bandits second round draft pick Mitch Wilde recorded the first goal of his NLL career.
“I knew the open lane was there, so I went full tilt. I found the open lane and went short-side and then far-side for the goal. Scoring that first goal really eased my nerves.” said Wilde. Wilde celebrated his first goal the same way that many other past Bandits have celebrated their first by launching himself into the glass at Banditland.
“My best buddies back home told me to do that so that was a shout out to them.”
The Bandits outscored the Wings 2-0 after the first quarter. Ryan Benesch opened the scoring for the Bandits at 4:20 by launching a laser of a shot stick-side past Wings goaltender Evan Kirk. Shawn Williams would score less than two minutes later on the power play when he received a behind the net pass from Tavares and placed it top shelf past Kirk.
Cosmo blanked the Wings in the first quarter by stonewalling each of their 11 shots. Cosmo made some incredible point-blank saves and shut down Wings leading goal scorer Jordan Hall when he was alone at the top of the crease and made a diving shoulder save.
Tavares continued to pour it on for the Bandits in the second quarter. Just 16 seconds in he was driving to the net uncontested and beat Kirk short-side to make it a 3-0 Bandit lead. The Wings would finally see their first tally of the game 1:36 later when Kyle Buchanan was able to get a low bounce shot past Cosmo.
Not wanting the Wings to begin mounting a comeback, Joe Resetarits answered right back to maintain the Bandits three goal lead. The Wings would only get one more goal for the first half when former Bandit Roger Vyse would slip one past Cosmo to make it a 4-2 Bandit lead. Mark Steenhuis would answer back less than two minutes later to give the Bandits their final goal of the first half and the 5-2 lead heading into halftime.
Tavares was satisfied with the way that his team would respond time and time again whenever the Wings would score. “We answered seemingly after each time Philadelphia scored. Our defense challenged them.”
Just like the beginning of the second quarter, the Bandits blazed out of the gate in the third quarter when Jay Thorimbert won the draw and took it five-hole past Kirk just eight seconds in and also while they were shorthanded.
After former Bandit Tracy Kelusky answered back less than a minute later for the Wings, the Bandits 2013 second round draft pick (15th overall) Wilde recorded his first career NLL goal.
After Kevin Crowley responded for the Wings at the 6:06 mark in the third quarter, Steenhuis would score his second goal of the game to give the Bandits a four goal 8-4 lead to end the third quarter.
Looking to mount a comeback in the final quarter for the Wings, Kyle Buchanan recorded his second goal of the game just seven seconds into the fourth.
To finally quash any hopes of a Wings comeback for the rest of the game, for the next six minutes, the Bandits would go on a five-goal run. Leading the Bandits during this final run was Aaron Wilson (in just his second game of the year due to injury) with two goals, one goal from Shawn Williams and one goal from Mark Steenhuis who completed his hat-trick (second of the season).
On the second of Wilson’s goals at the 3:33 mark of the fourth, another major NLL career milestone was achieved with Tavares recording his 900th career assist. The 13,980 Banditland faithful rose to their feet and celebrated along with their captain in his achievement.
Wings rookie Garrett Thul would record the final two goals of the game but it was too little too late and the Bandits secured the 2-1 season series with the Wings. This win is incredibly important in the case that the Wings and Bandits are in a tie-breaker for the division standings. Sometimes, this can mean the difference of making it into the playoffs.
“It was a big game for us, especially with the tie-breaker against Philly. The last time they came into this barn during Week 1, they ran us out pretty good; so it’s good to get a little revenge and redemption,” said Bandits goaltender Anthony Cosmo.
He later added, “I am here for the long haul. I am here to win a championship. And if I have to take this team there on my shoulders, then I definitely will.”
The Bandits will have the next two weeks off to rest and regroup before their 7:30 pm Saturday, March 8 showdown with the Minnesota Swarm at the First Niagara Center.