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Bandits falter but clinch division crown

Filed under: Sports


So far this season, when the Buffalo Bandits have lost a game it has been in nailbiting fashion… one goal contests and overtime thrillers.

But Saturday night at HSBC Arena, the team turned in easily its worst performance of the season, serving up a punchless offensive performance and dropping a 16-9 defeat to the visiting Boston Blazers, before a crowd of 17,318 Bandits faithful.

Buffalo’s early success came via goals catching the Boston defenders napping and finding the open guy inside the slot. Brendan Thenhaus and Brandon Francis netted first period goals, while Boston was having success beating Bandits goaltender Mike Thompson via the long shot from the point. Boston had a 3-2 lead after one quarter, and upped it to 7-5 at halftime, with Kevin Buchanan doing most of the damage for the Blazers. He would end the night with five goals. “He’s a good shooter and if we don’t execute our own systems then we have Mikey to fall back on, and tonight they just shot better than they usually do,” said Coach Darris Kilgour.

After the half, fans were hoping to see some spark on the team. Roger Vyse, who was the team’s leading scorer, added a goal to bring the Bandits within one. But then the wheels came off, with Boston netting three straight, and that chased Thompson from the net in favor of backup Angus Goodleaf.

No matter. Boston took full control of the game, making the score 13-7 at one point in the fourth quarter. Buffalo would add two to get the crowd back into it, but it was not the Bandits’ night. The Blazers incapacitated stars such as Mark Steenhuis and Brett Bucktooth, and a last second penalty shot was just the icing on the cake. Final score, Boston 16, Buffalo 9.

Coach Kilgour was sullen as he explained his team’s shortcomings. “Mikey didn’t have his ‘A’ game, defense didn’t have their ‘A’ game, offense didn’t have their ‘A’ game, so it adds up to an ‘F’. We had a chance for a championship game here in Buffalo, and now we don’t. We gave away a lot tonight, not just a game but gave away home field advantage which is very disappointing.” Roger Vyse added, “We didn’t bring our full game tonight. Basically it was just on us they were working harder than us. We were missing a lot of passes. Just too many mistakes.”

Prior to the game, the Buffalo Bandits honored former player Rich Kilgour, whose #16 banner was raised to the rafters of HSBC Arena. Despite his team’s loss tonight Kilgour was savoring his special night. “It was pretty cool man. Lacrosse players don’t get these sort of honors a lot. It was something I never thought of or dreamed of, and when we got out there and they unfurled it I saw that it was a special moment.”

Kilgour sees the same ingredients and energy in this 2011 squad that were prevalent on the 2008 championship team. “Yeah definitely we’re sitting tied for the top of the league. We’re there. Tonight is only one game in the season. Hopefully we got this one bad game out of our system and we’ll be ready for the playoffs.” Brother Darris added, “Well earned. He’s done a whole lot for this organization. He’s put his heart and soul and blood into this.”

Out west, the Toronto Rock dropped their game to the Edmonton Rush, and that gave the Buffalo Bandits the eastern division title. What that means is that the Bandits will be the host team for the first two rounds of the playoffs, and will play these same Boston Blazers in the opening round of the playoffs in two weeks, while the other east matchup will pit Toronto against the Rochester Knighthawks.

Should the Bandits be successful and advance to the championship game, the host venue is still a tossup. Buffalo holds the advantage over every team except Calgary. So should the Roughnecks emerge from the west, they would host the game at the Saddledome in Calgary. Otherwise that game would be played right here in Buffalo.

Next Saturday the Bandits close out the season at home, 7:30 start, against the Rochester Knighthawks. Nothing is at stake except pride, bragging rights and a playoff tuneup.