The National Lacrosse League proved once again why any team can beat anyone on any given night.
This time, it was the Western Division leading Minnesota Swarm that was the victim.
The Swarm had won three straight contests coming into Friday night’s game against the Buffalo Bandits, including two against the defending league champions. However, the Minnesota offense that had been clutch all year couldn’t rebound from a slow start.
Buffalo scored four of the first five goals and never looked back, as they grabbed their third win of the season in a 15-12 victory in front of their home crowd at HSBC Arena.
The Bandits (3-2) offense struggled the week prior against division rival, the Toronto Rock, as they managed to only score five times. However this week, Buffalo’s offense started on fire and its flame never went out—taking a 5-2 lead after one quarter and scored twice more in the second before Minnesota goaltender Nick Patterson was replaced in net.
Kevin Croswell replaced Patterson, who finished with 17 saves in his almost 25 minutes in goal, but the new Swarm goalie didn’t favor any better to finish the game, as he was beaten eight times on 29 shots.
Minnesota (3-2) scored twice late in the first half to get within four goals of Buffalo, but Mark Steenhuis netted two of his three goals in the third to help keep the Bandits at a comfortable distance ahead.
As you could probably guess, Buffalo head coach Darris Kilgour was pretty satisfied with his offense’s production in the game.
“The chances we created tonight were a lot better than the ones we created last week,” Kilgour said. “I’m very pleased with the offense; they really listened to us last night [during practice] and came through with the game plan.”
Chad Culp helped ignite the Bandits early attack, scoring three first-half goals while teammate Chris Corbiel also lent a hand in the first 30 minutes, scoring twice.
Minnesota scored four goals in the fourth quarter in an attempt to tie the game with one last run, but the Buffalo defense forced the Swarm to take tough shots, as they had been doing the entire night. In the end, Minnesota was only able to get 35 shots on goal.
However, even during the Swarm’s run in the final quarter, their defense couldn’t keep the status quo as the Bandits scored twice in the middle of the period to further make Minnesota’s hopes for a comeback more difficult.
“We were terrible defensively,” said Swarm head coach Mike Lines. “We had lapses the whole game. Everything was our fault. We just weren’t on the ball tonight, we deserved to lose.”
Not everything was bad for Minnesota, though.
Ryan Benesch finished with seven points (three goals and four assists), and Andrew Watt and Sean Pollock both contributed two red lighters, with one of Watt’s goals coming shorthanded in the fourth.
The victory improves the Bandits record to 12-2 all time against the Swarm while also moving them into a tie for second place in the Eastern Division behind Toronto. For Minnesota, they drop to second place in the West behind Calgary (4-2), who had a bye this week.
Buffalo will look to continue their climb in the Eastern Division next Saturday when they take on the Wings at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia while Minnesota will look to get back in the win column with a road game in Rochester the same night.
Here is a look at the other three Week 5 NLL games.
Knighthawks stop Wings winning streak as Gait retires
The Rochester Knighthawks witnessed both the beginning and the end of two Knighthawk careers this past weekend.
Prior to the Knighthawks’ game on Saturday against the Philadelphia Wings, 43-year-old Gary Gait announced that he was going to retire after 18 years in the NLL in order to concentrate more on coaching.
“The franchise has been great to me,” Gait said in a news release. “They asked me to play and I did, and now it’s time to focus on coaching the Syracuse Women and the Hamilton Nationals.
“I will definitely miss the guys in the locker room.”
Gait departs from the game second in the NLL in all-time goals with 635 and in points with 1,165.
However while Gait was leaving the game, Jordan Hall was entering it, and he didn’t disappoint in his first game in a Rocherster uniform. Hall scored three goals and added an assist to help the Knighthawks defeat the Wings 11-6 and end Rochester’s two-game losing streak.
“I thought the guys were giving me some good looks,” Hall said of his four point performance. “They were hitting me while I was cutting so I’m happy how things went tonight.”
Craig Point and Mike Accursi also had good games for the Knighthawks (3-2) with them both scoring two goals. Athan Iannucci led the Wings (3-3) in scoring with two goals and three assists while teammate Drew Westervelt finished with two goals and two assists.
Next week, the Knighthawks will look for another home win as they host the Minnesota Swarm while the Wings will host the Buffalo Bandits at the Wells Fargo Center.
Blazers get payback over Rock in defensive game
The Toronto Rock are still the first place team in the NLL Eastern Division, but the gap between first and second is closing.
Dan Dawson scored three goals, including his 300th of his career, to help the Boston Blazers defeat the Rock 9-7 at TD Garden in Boston.
Unlike Boston and Toronto’s Week 3 matchup in which the Rock won 15-14 in overtime, defense was the name of the game for both teams on Saturday.
“I thought we were really good defensively—I thought [Boston] was really good defensively,” said Toronto head coach Troy Cordingley, whose team managed only 36 shots on net. “We struggled a lot on offense in the first quarter. The first half, their defense played very physical and we couldn’t penetrate the prime scoring area.”
The Blazers (4-3) held a 6-2 lead at halftime, but the Rock (4-2) battled back and made it a game in the second half. Boston ended up holding on for their second straight victory, even though they were outscored in the final 30 minutes of regulation.
Kevin Buchanan also had three goals for the Blazers while teammate Casey Powell finished with a six-point night (one goal and five assists).
Garrett Billings led Toronto in scoring with three goals and one assist.
Next Saturday, the Blazers will look to make it three wins in a row as they host the struggling Colorado Mammoth while the Rock will host the Western Division leading Calgary Roughnecks.
Mammoth blow fourth quarter lead as Stealth score four straight goals
Once again, the Colorado Mammoth held a fourth quarter lead, and once again, they couldn’t hold on to it.
The Mammoth had an 8-6 lead three minutes into the fourth quarter after Brian Langtry and John Grant Jr. both scored within a minute of each other to start the period.
However, the Washington Stealth showed why they still wear the title of defending champions, as they finished the game on a four-goal run to defeat Colorado 10-8 at the Pepsi Center in Denver. Three of Washington’s four fourth quarter goals came in the final 3:12.
Luke Wiles finished with three goals for the Stealth (3-3) with two of his strikes coming in Washington’s game-winning run. Teammates Tom Johnson and Rhys Duch both finished with two goals and one assist.
The loss is Colorado’s third in a row and drops their record to 1-4 overall. The Mammoth have also yet to win a home game in their last 11 contests, with their last victory coming in the 2009 regular season finale against the Edmonton Rush.
All of the Mammoth’s losses this season have been by two goals or less.
“We have opportunities every game we play, and we’re not getting it done,” said Colorado head coach Bob Hamley of his team’s failure to win the close games. “We need to figure it out in a big hurry.”
The Mammoth will have the opportunity to pick up an Eastern Division win next weekend when they head to Boston to take on the Blazers while the Stealth will play the winless Edmonton Rush in a home-and-home series next Friday and Saturday.