NLL: Bandits back in win column

Buffalo Bandits’ Nick Weiss guards his goaltender Alex Buque in a game against the Toronto Rock on December 30, 2017. (Photo credit: Anna Taylor)

After giving up 41 goals in their previous two games, the Buffalo Bandits put together a total team effort and defeated the Calgary Roughnecks 13-8 in front of 11,308 fans on Saturday night at KeyBank Center. The win moves Buffalo to 2-2 while Calgary drops to 1-3.

Heading into week five, Saturday’s matchup featured Calgary’s struggling offence versus Buffalo’s underperforming defense. Both teams came out quickly, as Kevin Brownell scored for Buffalo and Dan MacRae for Calgary, all in the first 30 seconds of the game. Those opening goals set the tone, as both teams pushed the ball in transition for the bulk of the game. Garrett McIntosh and Curtis Dickson also tallied for Calgary, while Callum Crawford, Dhane Smith (twice) and Justin Martin, who scored his first NLL goal, answered to give Buffalo a 5-3 lead after one.

Buffalo looked to have addressed their previous defensive woes and were noticeably more aggressive. The resulting pressure had the desired effect, as Calgary’s offense looked out of sync for the entire night. Buffalo forced Calgary to settle for numerous outside shots, while any attempts to get inside were met with double and triple teams.

With both teams playing a tight second quarter, it was a five-minute illegal body check by Callum Crawford at the 4:37 mark that injected some emotion into the game. While going after a loose ball, Crawford leapt up and hit Ryan Martel in the head. Martel was helped off the field and didn’t return. On the resulting power play, it was the Bandits who took advantage of sloppy play by the Roughnecks and scored on a shorthanded breakaway as Jordan Durston recorded his second goal of the game. Calgary, however, answered with a Dane Dobbie shot that found the top left corner. As the quarter expired, a frustrated Tyler Digby launched Mitch de Snoo through the air when de Snoo wouldn’t let go of Digby’s stick.

Calgary came out in the third and got exactly what they needed: an early goal from Curtis Dickson. But it was Jordan Durston’s hat trick goal that was the highlight of the quarter. Taking a feed from Crawford behind the net, Durston took one stride, leapt through the air and dunked the ball over Frank Scigliano’s left shoulder. The teams exchanged late goals and the quarter ended with more rough play once again involving de Snoo.

With Buffalo holding a 9-6 lead heading into the last quarter, Crawford took over for the Bandits. Coming off the bench, he took the ball on his wrong side and threw in a beautiful twister. He followed that up a minute and a half later with a side arm bullet that went short side. The Bandit’s offense flowed through Crawford all night, as his playmaking abilities and chemistry, especially with Smith, Jones and Durston, were on full display. Crawford capped the night off with another one of his signature twisters.

Calgary’s offensive troubles continued as once again they had problems generating quality chances. The lack of off-ball movement became obvious, as time and time again the camera angle from above showed all five of the Roughnecks forwards standing still allowing the Buffalo defense to key in on the ball carrier.

Alex Buque rebounded after being pulled in the previous two contests and stopped 44 of 52 shots. Frank Scigliano stopped 38 of 50 for Calgary.

Next week, the Vancouver Stealth will be in town to play the Bandits, while Calgary will return home for a game against the defending champs, the Georgia Swarm.