The Buffalo Bandits moved backed into the win column on Friday night with a 16-10 victory over the visiting Vancouver Warriors at KeyBank Center.
The Bandits, now 2-1 on the season, were coming off a loss to the Toronto Rock while the Warriors, now 1-2, were coming off a loss to the Calgary Roughnecks. Both teams suffered those losses in their home openers – their previous victories were on the road. The Bandits, especially, wanted to redeem themselves for their fans.
“The first half was very strong,” head coach John Tavares said in a post-game media scrum. “I thought we shot the ball very well. Our offense was moving and they were working to get each other open. Defense was in good position, they collapsed when they had to and helped when they had to.”
Recently activated Zach Herreweyers led the way in the first quarter with two goals. Ian MacKay’s first NLL goal at 11:55 was the highlight of the game – he grabbed a loose ball out of traffic in front of Aaron Bold and threw it over his left shoulder. The Bandits led 4-3 after the first.
Corey Small was a surprise scratch after participating in the full warmup. Co-head coach Rich Kilgour told the BR Live broadcast that he hoped Small’s scratching would light a fire under him. Small had five goals in the Bandits’ season debut but “only” one goal and two assists in their 17-12 loss to Toronto which was the worst output of the Bandits’ forwards except for Jordan Durston’s three assists. The Bandits have high expectations for the man they gave Mitch Jones away for. They want everything they can get out of Small and a single goal isn’t going to cut it, apparently.
“Somebody had to come out,” Tavares said. “Zach’s (Herreweyers) been looking really strong in practice and filling the net and we had to give him an opportunity. He got us going early in the game.”
Speaking of the former Bandit Jones, he showed another side to his ever-evolving game, dropping the mitts with Bryce Sweeting in the second period after the Bandits had scored five straight goals. Unfortunately; it didn’t fire up the Warriors as he had probably hoped; Thomas Hoggarth scored the Bandits’ sixth consecutive goal with three seconds left in the half to put them up 12-4. They outscored the Warriors 8-2 in the frame.
In total, the Warriors’ Aaron Bold gave up nine goals. Eric Penney spelled him for a bit in the second but Penney eventually finished the game.
Jones scored twice in the third but MacKay’s second and Shawn Evans’ third of the game kept the Bandits up by two.
The Warriors managed a three-goal run in the fourth while their special teams went to work. They scored two goals with Penney out and one power play goal, but Evans scored shorthanded to kill their momentum.
Evans finished with four goals and seven assists while Josh Byrne had a hat trick and seven assists. Hoggarth (2G/4A), Herreweyers (2G/1A) and MacKay (2G/1A) were also difference makers. Durston added four assists. Matt Vinc made 37 saves.
“Everybody’s contributing; everybody’s a threat,” Tavares noted.
The Warriors were led by Jones’ 3G/4A, Keegan Bal’s 2G/4A and Joel McCready’s 2G/3A. Jordan McBride chipped in a pair of goals while Logan Schuss contributed a goal and four assists.
Vancouver is at Georgia next Friday while Buffalo hosts Rochester the same night.