Boston Blazers Dominate Buffalo Bandits in Playoff Preview: NLL Week 15 Recap

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Boston Blazers Dominate Buffalo Bandits in Playoff Preview: NLL Week 15 Recap
Boston's Nick Cotter (right) tries to get past Buffalo's Jay Thorimbert (left) in a game earlier this season (Credit: Larry Palumbo).

The Boston Blazers will have to hope that the outcome from their regular season finale with Eastern Division-leading Buffalo will be as good as their upcoming playoff matchup with the Bandits. 

Kevin Buchanan led Boston with a five-goal, nine-point effort as the Blazers defeated the Buffalo Bandits 16-9 at HSBC Arena in Buffalo. The victory is Boston’s second in a row after the team dropped five straight. 

"We just didn't come to play," said Bandits forward Roger Vyse to NLL.com. "We weren't capitalizing on our chances [and were] missing a lot of passes. [We had] too many mistakes."

With the loss, the Bandits (10-5) are eliminated from contention as the league’s top club and home-floor advantage throughout the playoffs. 

“We had a lot to play for,” said Buffalo head coach Darris Kilgour to NLL.com. “We gave away a lot tonight.” 

However, the weekend wasn’t entirely bad for the Bandits as Buffalo did clinch the top seed in the East after second-place Toronto lost to Edmonton. With the final playoff seeds set, the Bandits can start preparing for their rematch with the Blazers in the Eastern Division Semifinals on the weekend of Apr. 29. 

The victory for Boston (8-8) comes at a good time as it gives the team some much-needed momentum going into the postseason. The Blazers win also denied the Bandits the season series sweep. 

"It'd be tough to face a team for a fourth time having lost three games in a row," said Boston head coach Matt Sawyer on if the Blazers lost to the Bandits again. "We were hoping to put a little bit of doubt in their minds." 

Individually, the first three quarters of the game were tight, as Boston was able to outscore Buffalo by one goal in each stanza. It was the fourth quarter in which the Blazers were able to put the heat on the first place Bandits. 

Boston scored three goals in the first 84 seconds of the final quarter and then ended the game on a three-goal run to take the dominating seven-goal win. 

The Blazers held forward Casey Powell out of the game in order to give their superstar some rest and pulled Dan Dawson in third quarter as a precautionary measure after he appeared to suffer a lower body injury. Before being pulled, Dawson played well as he scored two goals and assisted on six others. 

With two of their best players out, the rest of the Blazers stepped up, including Jamie Rooney, who finished the game with three goals and two assists. 

Vyse led Buffalo in the game with three goals while Brendan Thenhaus and John Tavares both finished with a two-goal night. Bandits goalie Mike Thompson had a rough evening in net as he made 21 saves on 31 shots before being pulled in the third quarter in favor of Angus Goodleaf. 

Prior to the game, Buffalo honored former player and current assistant coach Rich Kilgour, by retiring his No. 16 in front of the 17,318 in attendance at HSBC Arena. 

“Well-earned. He's done a lot for this organization," said Darris Kilgour of his brother being honored. "He put his heart, soul and blood into this. He deserves all of it." 

Boston will have a bye in Week 16, giving the Blazers an opportunity to get healthy and prepare for what will sure to be a different performance by the Bandits in the playoffs. Buffalo will close out their regular season next week when they host western New York rival, the Rochester Knighthawks. The Bandits and K-hawks will play at 7:30 p.m. EDT on Saturday Apr. 23.

 

Now here is a look at the other four Week 15 games in the National Lacrosse League.

 

Mammoth clinch postseason berth 

The rest of the teams in the NLL better watch, here come the Colorado Mammoth.

That’s right, the same Mammoth team that had not won at home for almost two seasons has clinched a postseason berth after defeating the Calgary Roughnecks 11-6 on Friday at the Pepsi Center in Denver. 

“I thought we were a little tired,” said Colorado head coach Bob Hamley after the game. “It was our fifth game in nine days, but everyone is happy. They’ve worked very hard this last month to get to where we are now and we are happy to move on.” 

John Grant Jr. led the Colorado (5-10) charge as he finished with three goals and one assist in the game while teammate Gavin Prout had one goal and five assists. Forward Alex Gajic finished with four helpers. 

Former Mammoth player Cory Conway led Calgary (11-5) on the scoresheet with two goals and one assist. 

Both teams traded goals in the early going of the game, but the Mammoth gained the advantage in the second with three goals and then found the back of the net five times in the final quarter to earn their second victory of the season against Calgary. 

Colorado and Calgary will face each other again in the first round of the NLL postseason, beginning the weekend of Apr. 29. The Mammoth will close out their regular season next week at the Minnesota Swarm.

 

Nine-Goal Second Half Leads Swarm Past Wings 

The Minnesota Swarm used nine second-half goals to defeat the Philadelphia Wings 11-9 on Saturday night at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. 

Philadelphia led 5-2 at halftime, but the Swarm’s offense began to heat up in the third quarter with four goals in the stanza. 

Ryan Benesch led the Minnesota attack with three goals while Andrew Watt, Kevin Ross and Callum Crawford also had good nights as they each finished with two goals in the game. 

Ryan Boyle led Philadelphia in scoring, finding the back of the net three times while teammates Brendan Mundorf and Max Seibald each scored two goals in the game. 

Saturday’s game was the final contest of the season for the Wings, who end their season with a 5-11 record. Minnesota (7-8) has one more game before the playoffs as they will host Colorado next week. If the Swarm beat the Mammoth, they will take the second seed in the West playoffs, however if they lose, they will finish third and Washington will take the second spot.

 

Rush end season with win, Rock lose third in a row 

In the regular season finale for both the Edmonton Rush and the Toronto Rock, the team that is not going to the postseason looked and played like the better team. 

The Rock needed a win and two Buffalo Bandits losses to regain first place in the Eastern Division, but they weren’t able to accomplish the first part of the recipe, as they lost to the Edmonton Rush 18-14 on Saturday at Rexall Place in Edmonton.

“Just another opportunity we’ve let slip by us and it is not acceptable,” said Toronto forward Garrett Billings to the NLL.com. “Nobody’s happy right now, we know we’ve got to change something before the playoffs start.” 

With Buffalo securing the top seed in the East, Toronto (10-6) will play the Rochester Knighthawks in the first round of the postseason. However, the Rock will be limping into the playoffs as they are on a three-game losing streak and have lost four of their last five contests. Toronto began the season 9-2 and was the last team in the NLL to lose their first game of the year. 

Edmonton (5-11) was eliminated from playoff contention on Friday night after Colorado secured the final Western Division spot with a win over the Calgary Roughnecks. 

Six players in the game finished with three goals, three for both teams. Corey Small, Ryan Ward and Scott Evans all accomplished the feat for the Rush while Billings, Blaine Manning and Stephen Hoar did it for the Rock.

 

K-hawks Stay Hot with Big Road Win in Washington 

The Rochester Knighthawks continued their hot play on Saturday night as they defeated the Washington Stealth 18-10 at Comcast Arena in Everett, Wash. 

Led by the play of goaltender Matt Vinc, who stopped 38 Washington shots, the Knighthawks won their second game in a row and their fourth in five contests. 

“He has been good all year long for us,” said Rochester Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen of Vinc. “At the same time, our defense, we’re fighting to get our legs now, we’re starting to play a very good team system.” 

Shawn Evans led Rochester with three goals and three assists while teammate Jordan Hall finished with three goals and one assist. Craig Point, Mike Accursi and Cody Jamieson all finished with two goals. 

Four Washington players finished with two goal nights as Rhys Duch, Luke Wiles, Cam Sedgwick and Lewis Ratcliff all found the back of the cage twice in the game. 

The Knighthawks will close out their regular season next weekend against Buffalo while Washington begins to prepare for their playoff matchup with Minnesota. With the Stealth loss and a Swarm win, the Swarm can host the first-round playoff meeting if they defeat the Colorado Mammoth next week. If Minnesota loses to Colorado, then Washington will host the Western Division Semifinals game.

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