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The Bandits at Midseason – It Ain’t Pretty

ROCHESTER – Half of the 2012 National Lacrosse League season is in the books, and for the Buffalo Bandits and their fans, the team is staring at the abyss.

This afternoon at Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, a crowd of 7254 fans, which included a healthy presence of black and orange garbed Banditland supporters, watched the Rochester Knighthawks dispatch the Buffalo Bandits, 13-10, ending their four game home losing streak. For the Bandits, it was an ignonimous losing streak of their own, setting a franchise record of six straight losses.

13-10 does not in any way reflect the tone of this game, as the Bandits were outhit, out defended, out goal tended and out classed in almost every aspect of this game. They held the lead but once, a 2-1 advantage early on thanks to two picture perfect goals by John Tavares. At the end of the first quarter the teams were tied at three.

In the second quarter the wheels came off for the Bandits. Rochester outscored Buffalo 7-0 to take a 10-3 lead into the dressing room. At one point the Knighthawks had scored 8 goals on just 15 shots. Starting goalie Mike Thompson was chased in favor of newest Buffalo goalie Anthony Cosmo, who the Bandits acquired at a steep price just weeks ago. Cosmo would not fare much better. Meantime at the other end of the field Knighthawk’s goalie Matt Vinc was stellar, stopping 49 of 59 Bandits shots. Much of the Bandits goal production came late in the game, thanks to a late 5 minute major penalty to Rochester for spearing. “The second quarter was completely unacceptable,” said a dejected coach Darris Kilgour after the game. “It’s very, very, very frustrating. We have very good practices and it’s just not going into the game. in the second quarter we didn’t focus, we didn’t cover (Knighthawks forward) Cody Jamieson, Its just bad lacrosse.”

“Every game is a little bit different. I wish I could just say ‘this is what’s wrong’. Right now we’re making mistakes on every shift. We got to be smarter, as a lacrosse team, just be smarter. If we could do that we’d eliminate four goals a game against,” Kilgour added.

Mike Accursi, who was an integral part of the Buffalo Bandits 2008 championship squad, saying at that time that he wished he could remain a Bandit forever, was today’s Banditkiller in a Rochester uniform, tallying six assists, also reaching a milestone of 400 career assists.

Luke Wiles was the leading scorer for the Bandits with six points (1G, 5A). Mark Steenhuis also tallied two Bandits goals and spoke to the media. “Coming in here with the big ‘5’ n our back was pretty weird. We normally don’t have slides like this and now we turn that ‘5’ into a ‘6’. It hurts a great deal. It’s frustrating when you’re down right now, but we’re halfway through the season and we just can’t put our heads down. We got to work our way out of this, and to see where this takes us,” said Steenhuis.

The bad news is the Bandits are tied for dead last in the league at 2-6. The good news, for what it’s worth, is that 8 teams qualify for the playoffs in the 9 team league. “We’re just half a game out,” said Steenhuis.

Dedicated Bandits fans can also take heart that the team was 2-6 at the midpoint a couple seasons ago. Billy Dee Smith, one of the Bandit fan favorites and a team leader then proclaimed, “In this league things can turn around in a hurry. We are capable of running the table and going 10-6 on the year it could happen.” While that squad did not run the table, they still managed to salvage the season at a respectable 8-8 and qualify for the playoffs. We were hoping to get a similar prognostication from Smith after today’s game, but he was not available to be interviewed.

It all continues next week – the Bandits travel to the Air Canada Centre next Friday to take on the Toronto Rock, who have stumbled themselves these past couple weeks. They then come home Saturday to face the Minnesota Swarm at 7:30PM at First Niagara Center.

The Stars get ready to come out – Lacrosse style!

Come this Saturday, the eyes of the lacrosse world will be on the City of Buffalo, as the finest players on the planet come together to meet in the National Lacrosse League’s annual All Star Game.

The Buffalo Bandits will be showcasing this game for the very first time here in Buffalo, and this afternoon, NLL Commissioner George Daniel, and Buffalo Bandits front office executives Dave Zygaj and Scott Loffler held a news conference to formally kick off the event and share what fans can expect this weekend.

First – the particulars. The All Stars will meet in an East vs West format. The game is set for this Saturday, February 25, 7:30pm at First Niagara Center. No fewer than six members of the Buffalo Bandits will be playing for the East squad.

But there will be much, much more for ticketed fans attending the event. A pre game Fan Fest starts at 4:00pm. Then at 4:30PM, the La Nova chicken wing eating contest will pit 50 contestants consuming Buffalo’s favorite taste treat in a battle for eating supremacy and Sabrebucks gift cards as prizes. There will be autograph sessions with the All Stars and with Bandits players. The team will also set up Fan Foto areas for memorable photograph opportunities, chances for photo opps with mascots from all the teams and the Buffalo Bandettes cheerleaders, and music spun with guest DJ’s. The first 1500 fans through the turnstiles will also receive a free commemorative game program.

All the pre game fun will be open to all ticketed fans, with events scattered throughout the 100 level of the building. The upper concourses will open at their normal opening time for the game itself. Fans can expect the normal Bandits game night presentation, with the fun music bumps, contests, and iconic PA announcer Chris “Swennie” Swenson at the mic.

“Given the fact that there’s such a great following (here in Buffalo), I am thrilled and excited to showcase what really are the best players in the world. So I think the game is going to be something special,” said NLL Commissioner George Daniel, as he spoke about this weekend’s festivities. “We’re just thrilled to have the NLL All Star Game here in Buffalo. The Bandits are one of the marquee franchises in the National Lacrosse League.”

When asked, Daniel admitted that bringing this game to Buffalo was something that was time to do. “It was just a matter of timing,” said Daniel. “Other cities have approached us about hosting the game, but with the success of last year’s game outside of Syracuse, and looking at the consistently good attendance figures here, it certainly became a no brainer to have it in Buffalo.”

Daniel also touched upon the state of the league, with some setbacks in certain markets and the loss of the Boston Blazers after the end of last season, bringing the league to its current roster of nine teams. “The nine owners that we have are the best quality of owners in the history of the league, and that’s a positive for us. Moving forward, I think our focus is quality over quantity, and I want to make sure that we don’t repeat some of the mistakes we made in the past, getting into certain markets too soon. Our focus really is looking at Canadian cities, getting back into major markets that we have been in the past such as New York,” said Daniel. He added that cities such as Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Detroit and returning to the New England area are on the radar screen.

“We’re fortunate to have the success we’ve had,” added Dave Zygaj, who represents the Bandits on the league’s Board of Governors. “We do what we can to share what we’ve done, not only with other teams in this league, to see to it that they are successful, but as well as with other potential owners.”

Scott Loffler, who handles the day to day administration of the team, shared a very interesting stat – that a Bandits game is typically one of the highest attended lacrosse events anywhere in the world, and the only event that tops Buffalo’s accomplishment is the NCAA lacrosse Final Four. This was confirmed by Commissioner Daniel. “We’ve sold 13,000 tickets so far, and we do have promotional family four packs available,” Loffler reported on Saturday’s game. The team is hoping for a good walk up and a full house, in a game that will be seen nationwide via ESPN3.

Loffler also admitted that they attempted to bring a watermelon chugging contest to the Fan Fest, but the chicken wing contest became the next best thing. “We filled the contest roster of 50 registrants within a day, and we’re encouraging fans and especially kids to come early and enjoy everything we have to offer,” said Loffler.

Tickets for the game, which includes admission to the Fan Fest, run from $25-$35, and information and online ticket purchasing is available via the Buffalo Bandits web site, or at the First Niagara Center box office.

Sharing the dais at First Niagara Center (L-R) Lacrosse Operations Director Scott Loffler, Bandit Luke Wiles, NLL Commissioner George Daniel, Bandit Billy Dee Smith, Bandits NLL Governor Dave Zygaj

No Bandits Championship This Year

There will be no fifth world indoor lacrosse championship for the Buffalo Bandits. At least not in 2011.

The team fell apart early, then roared back twice with comebacks to make the game interesting, and made the game a nailbiter at the end. But it was the Toronto Rock who emerged victorious after this hard fought battle, and Toronto will represent the National Lacrosse League’s East in the championship game next weekend.

Buffalo got bad news right from the get go, and it seemed to affect them early on. Their heart and soul John Tavares was scratched from the game after the warmups, due to ongoing problems with the same calf muscle that sidelined him towards the end of last week’s game against Boston. Kyle Clancy was inserted into the lineup to replace Tavares.

Tavares’ absence and the player switch had a devastating effect. Toronto jumped out to a 4-0 lead by the end of the first quarter, including a power play goal coming off an “illegal equipment” call on Steve Priolo. Buffalo only mustered six shots and no real scoring threats in the first. Toronto then added two quickly in the second, and Coach Darris Kilgour pulled starting goaltender Mike Thompson in favor of Angus Goodleaf.

The switch seemed to help, as Kyle Clancy immediately got things started, receiving a perfect pass and scoring in close. Roger Vyse and Chad Culp went back to back and it was 6-3, and the mostly partisan Buffalo crowd of 12,184 was back into the game. Bandits defender Daryl Gibson then provided a momentum changer, committing the worst turnover ever from behind the Buffalo net to a waiting Colin Doyle, who buried the ball to make it 7-3.

By late in the second quarter, Buffalo had brought it to within one and were looking for the equalizer going into the dressing room. But Toronto had other ideas. Stephan Leblanc scored back to back goals in the final minute, and the Rock had a three goal cushion, 9-6, at the midway point.

Buffalo’s second half comeback would have to wait. Toronto made it bang bang in the first minute of the third to open a commanding 11-6 lead and led by four as the quarter expired. Thanks to yet another goal by Bandit-killer Garrett Billings, this one short handed, the Rock had a five goal lead as the fourth period got underway, and all seemed lost.

But the Bandits would not be deterred. Kyle Clancy scored his third of the night in close at the 4:12 mark, then Vyse added one on the power play two miutes later. Chad Culp and then Kyle Clancy yet again, brought the score to 12-11 Toronto. The crowd was on its feet, the building was electric, and one could feel a comeback in the air, just as Toronto had overcome a 6-0 deficit to win its playoff game against Buffalo just a season ago up in Toronto. “He did a great job, a great job,” said Kilgour on the play of Clancy. “Wish he could have had the last shot of the game.”

But there would be no more scoring. Buffalo had a couple of glorious opportunities in the closing minutes, and pulled their goaltender as the clock wound down. After some questionable Rock mayhem on Chad Culp, which drew no penalty, Brett Bucktooth’s shot in close skipped away into the corner, and Toronto got possession with 14 seconds to go. They arced the ball harmlessly away to then kill most of the clock, and the Rock escaped with a one goal win. As for a his take on the comeback which got away, Kilgour replied. “It wasn’t too difficult. We did it.We did it. We had two shots late which just missed, and two calls by the refs which should have been five minute high stick calls.”

Kilgour was especially animated about two referees. “It’s (Mark) Gardonio and (Matt) Robinson, two refs that we asked not have at this game and they sent them both here, pretty much home field Toronto refs they ref every game up in Toronto. You know they end up down here and blow two big calls at the end of the game.” Later on Kilgour caught himself on this issue. “I didn’t say it cost us the game, but it was two missed calls, like I said we had two open nets, (Tracey) Kelusky two open nets Bob Watson was down and out on both of them. We had opportunities to win this game it’s not all on the refs I just said they made two bad calls.”

Kyle Clancy emerged as the star of the game with four goals and two assists, this coming after he wasn’t even expecting to play. “I was sort of on the bubble before the game, but I was ready to go you got to be ready. It was bittersweet at the end. It definitely was not in the playbook for us to have to come back like that. I guess it wasn’t in the cards for us.” Clancy explained that there was a play set as the seconds ticked down at the end. “Darris gave us a play and we ran up and sort of got scrambled when they started to press us. We got two good looks at it. We practice our six on five with the goalie pulled. I guess it just didn’t want to go in for us tonight.” Roger Vyse, who also suffered from a strained calf in practice and was described by Kilgour as “50%”, added, “you don’t want to give up early leads like that. We weren’t ready to play I guess. Things happen like that in games. We had to battle back. Just one goal away…..” Vyse’s voice trailed off.

Later on in the night, the news came out of Calgary that Washington had defeated the Roughnecks to win the West and play in the NLL Championship game next Sunday. Had the Bandits pulled out the victory, Buffalo would have been the host venue for the championship game, before a national TV audience in the United States and Canada. As it turns out, that game will be played in Toronto’s Air Canada Centre, the Rock and the Stealth, a rematch of the 2010 championship. For the Bandits, another chorus of “wait until next year.”

photo credit: Drew Smeltzer

Bucktooth Leads Bandits to Big Win

Toronto may have emerged as the Buffalo Bandit’s biggest rival, but when the Rochester Knighthawks come to town, expect an electric crowd, plenty of action and another streetfight. Last night’s National Lacrosse League game between the Buffalo Bandits and the Knighthawks did not disappoint.

A sold out crowd of 18,690, aided by huge walk up sales and a 2-for-1 300 level ticket promotion, saw the Buffalo Bandits improve to 5-3 at the mid point of the season, as they dispatched the Rochester Knighthawks 11-8.

This one started out as a huge goaltenders duel, Buffalo’s Mike Thompson and Rochester’s Matt Vinc performing as acrobats at both ends of the field. Rochester finally broke open the scoring mid way through the first quarter, but Buffalo answered with two of their own, including Brett Bucktooth’s first of three goals on the night.

Bucktooth would add two power play goals later in the game, none prettier then on a lead pass from Roger Vyse in the third quarter. Vyse had a pretty good night of his own, tallying two goals and adding two assists.

Nonetheless, Rochester would come storming back in the third, scoring three straight within a two minute span midway through the period to make it a 6-6 tie. This all came after Buffalo’s Brandon Francis and Troy Bonterre went at it hot and heavy in a knock out drag out fight which the 6’2″, 245# Francis clearly got the better of. Yet Bonterre was unbowed, gesturing to the fans and getting into things through the glass once escorted to the penalty box.

The fourth quarter opened, and disaster struck. Almost. Rochester’s Scott Campbell raced down the field right off the opening faceoff, and beat Thompson on a breakaway. 7-6 Rochester, and the teams actually resumed play briefly. Then it was stopped as the challenge flag was thrown from the Buffalo bench, and the officials went to a video review.

No goal! Campbell’s foot was in the crease and the goal was wiped out. The momentum changer for Rochester turned into one for Buffalo, and the Bandits immediately capitalized. A few seconds later, Brandon Thenhaus gave Buffalo the lead back with a shot in close, and right after that Mark Steenhuis’ laser gave the Bandits a two goal cushion. The crowd was pumped, the Bandits had momentum, and Rochester never recovered. “It was in the crease, and then we responded and we got a big goal, the crowd got into it, we got another goal and got the momentum. I think that’s important in any game”, said Brett Bucktooth. Coach Darris Kilgour added that his bench noticed the infraction as it was being shown on the arena’s HD Board. “The guys started yelling right away. I thought it might have been too late to throw the flag, but that’s what we did and luckily it was within the time limit.”

With the Bandits nursing a 10-8 lead late, it was keep away time, and Buffalo managed its possessions and defensive schemes almost flawlessly. With Rochester pressing and pulling the goaltender late, Tom Montour raced down the field on a breakaway and added the icing on the cake with the final tally of the game.Final score: Buffalo 11, Rochester 8.

“I thought this was the best defense we’ve played all year, Mikey (Thompson) really stepped it up in net. A complete game, the guys really played well,” said Coach Kilgour. Kilgour knows that stellar goaltending will be a key if the Bandits hope to put together a championship run this year. “For sure. If you don’t have very good goaltending, you’re not going to go very far in the playoffs. Mikey’s been very solid all year. He moves to 5-1 and he’s doing an excellent job for us.”

For Bucktooth, this was just a continuation of his great play in his homecoming at last week’s NLL All Star Game in Verona, NY. Bucktooth greeted the media looking especially fetching as he wore a bright red Japanese kimono. Player of the game award? “Darris gave this to me to wear for the night. It’s something that we do, yeah.” Bucktooth admitted that his play has improved as the season has progressed.”I was a little snakebitten earlier, so I just wanted to come out and shoot with some confidence, was just trying to get shots off quickly.” Kilgour added, “He’s been getting better each game. He’s been a bit snakebitten earlier this year. We definitely need to get him going and couple other guys going.”

The Bandits will only have a short time to savor this one. They catch an early flight to Boston to face the Blazers at TD Garden on Sunday night. At stake will be second place in the very competitive East. “Yeah 5AM wakeup,” said Roger Vyse. “We’ll have to be ready to go. Just another big game.”

Steenhuis, Montour lead Buffalo Bandits to huge win

It was clearly the most emotional game of the season. And the most physical. With the season on the line, the Buffalo Bandits dug deep inside of themselves tonight at HSBC Arena, taking on the Orlando Titans, one of the league leading teams. When it was all over, the Bandits had themselves a 12-10 win, before 16,194 very happy fans.

This one was all Bandits early on, and Mark Steenhuis opened the scoring early. In fact, his natural hat trick to make it 3-0 had the fans on their feet in the first quarter, Steenhuis would end up with 10 points on 6 goals and 4 assists to lead all scoring.

Buffalo continued to pour it on in the second quarter. Power play goals on a 5 minute major by Steenhuis and Kyle Clancy gave Buffalo a 6-2 lead. It was 8-2 before Orlando answered, and the Bandits went to the dressing room at halftime with a five goal cushion.

But this game would turn out to be a costly one in terms of injuries. Early in the second quarter Orlando’s Chet Konecny and Buffalo’s Kyle Schmelzle traded punches, with Schmelze ending up with a broken nose. He was taken to the hospital for further observation. Then later in the quarter, Rory Smith gave Buffalo’s Steve Priolo the business with yet another fight, and Priolo suffered a concussion and would not return. Chris Corbeil also left the game with an injury, and the Bandits were three men short on the bench as the second half began.

That’s when Orlando made it interesting. With Buffalo working with a short bench, the Titans scored three straight goals in the third to make it an 8-6 game. But just like Buffalo had watched their opponents score timely goals just when they were making a run in recent games, this time it was the Bandits’ turn. Steenhuis scored his 6th of the night late in the third quarter.

In the 4th quarter Orlando’s Pat Maddelena scored what was one of the more unusual goals one would ever want to see. The Bandits net was off its moorings and laying at least 6 feet from its position, leaving goaltender Ken Montour to defend the space where the goal mouth was. Maddelena snuck the ball past Montour and into the goal area, and the referees arms went up to signal goal. “It’s an antiquated rule,” explained Coach Darris Kilgour. “Now once the net comes off the moorings they should blow the whistle, and I’m sure that’s a rule they will revisit real soon.”

A minute later John Tavares answered to give the Bandits another three goal cushion. Orlando scored a minute later, but then Kevin Dostie snuck behind the defenders and scored to give the Bandits their three goal lead again. Orlando’s potent attack would not let up, with Casy Powell scoring on the power play with 5 minutes to go to bring it within two.

Then Mike Accursi scored a huge goal off a rebound, and after video review it was shown that Accursi did not penetrate the crease and the goal stood. Orlando pulled the goalie with two minutes left but could only manage one goal. The Bandits won two huge possessions in the closing minute to seal this very big win.

Mark Steenhuis gave all the credit to his short staffed defense, as well as to Ken Montour, who made save after spectacular save to keep the Bandits in this one. “He made three or four miraculous saves in the fourth quarter alone,” said Steenhuis. “It was one of those wins that feels real good when its over.”

Coach Kilgour, who notched his 93rd win as Bandits coach, tying the record held by Les Bartley, was quick to pass out raise for his players. “It’s a really big win for us, and we held our composure and pulled it out. Ken was unbelievable, we were only running six defensemen, and when there were breakdowns Kenny made some huge saves for us. John (Tavares) and Brett (Bucktooth) played back door for us and they too deserve honorable mentions.”

Kyle Clancy was back in the lineup and Kilgour was happy with his play as well. “He makes great plays and makes everyone else look better. He’s very young and he’s got learning to do but he is doing a great job for us.

With all the injuries, Kilgour said the team will have to go out and get some new players. “Right now we’re looking to sign two or three players and figure out what we’re going to do next week. Right now I just want just savor this win and have a good time with the boys tonight.”

The Bandits will play three straight on the road, starting next Friday at the Air Canada Centre against the Toronto Rock. Buffalo is now at 3-6, while Toronto leads the division at 6-4. Game time is 7:30PM.

Can the Bandits season get any worse? “Yes We Can!”

The Buffalo Bandits spiral into oblivion took another bad turn tonight, as the team fell to the equally woeful Philadelphia Wings tonight at HSBC Arena, before a deflated crowd of 15,336 fans.

Buffalo never led in this one. The Wings took advantage of consistent faceoff wins, hustle in the corners, and mediocre goaltending by Angus Goodleaf, who nonetheless faced 58 Philadelphia shots, to take control of this game. Each time the Bandits made a bit of a run to make the score close, such as Tommy Montour’s shorthanded netter in the third, Philadelphia immediately answered. The Wings built a four goal lead going into the fourth quarter, thank to a last second third period goal which caught the Bandits napping.

Yet the Bandits would make it interesting. Early in the fourth back to back goals by John Tavares and Kevin Dostie brought Buffalo within two. But that was as close as they would come. Defensive miscues by Buffalo cost dearly as the quarter continued, with Philadelphia answering with two more goals of their own. The Wings added a power play goal in the final minute to seal a 15-11 victory, only their second win of this season.

“It’s definitely a low point. But this season is not over. We have to bear down and win some games here,” said Coach Darris Kilgour after the game. And what is not working? “Goaltending, Offense and defense,” Kilgour shot back.

Rookie sensation Kyle Clancy was kept out of the lineup tonight despite his impressive performances in the two previous games. Leading scorer and star Mark Steenhuis was held scoreless for the game, netting only two assists, and was pretty much a non factor. “He had a bad shooting night tonight,” said Kilgour. “Accursi didn’t have a good shooting night. We missed some good chances in the fourth when it was 12-10. We hit two posts, Brett (Bucktooth) hit one right down the middle. Johnny (Tavares) had a breakaway, and didn’t bury it. We’re not playing hard. We’re not playing as a team. That’s the bottom line.”

The team members had a lengthy closed door meeting following this game, and it was a while before any of the players came out into the hall to speak to the media. Kevin Dostie, who scored twice tonight, said, “It’s about as low as Buffalo has ever been. We’re 2-6, and we definitely think we still have a good team.” Dostie added, “We had a long talk in the dressing room, and we need to think about some things this week and come back with a victory against Orlando. Hopefully the guys will show up mentally prepared from now on. I’m sure you’ll see some changes next weekend.”

While an improbable 6-2 second half would leave the Bandits at 8-8, even that may not be enough to secure a playoff berth. Billy Dee Smith, who scored one of his patented highlight reel breakaway goals, set the bar higher. “The leadership is there, we’ve got to look at ourselves and change something. I’m thinking of going 10-6. I think we can go on a run here. Anything can happen in this league.”

To turn this season around, the Bandits will next have to face the Orlando Titans. Last season this team was based in New Jersey, and beat the Bandits three times in 2009, including their playoff win where they held the Bandits to just three goals. When the season began, Coach Kilgour and several of the Bandits players had this date circled on the calendar as a must win retribution game.

Game time at HSBC Arena next Saturday is 7:30 PM.

Kyle Clancy Shines But Bandits Lose a Tough One to Toronto

Bandits newcomer and surefire fan favorite Kyle Clancy continued to impress tonight, scoring 2 goals and 5 assists. Toronto’s Colin Doyle made his own mark as one of the immortals of the game, becoming only the third player in National Lacrosse League history to score 1000 points. Fights galore and a pileup after Buffalo goaltender Ken Montour got run in the crease in the second quarter.

All this and more made for an entertaining game tonight at HSBC Arena, before a crowd of 14,467, including a sprinkling of Rock fans who made the trip from as far away as Ontario and as close as Elmwood Village.

When it was all over it was the Toronto Rock who got the win, thanks to a strong fourth quarter, where they scored five unanswered goals to defeat Buffalo 14-10.

Buffalo played an almost flawless first quarter, ending with a 3-1 lead. Frank Resetarits undressed the Toronto defenders to give the Bandits a 2-0 lead, and Billy Dee Smith scored shorthanded on a breakaway to make the score 3-1.

Toronto took over in the second quarter, however, scoring seven goals, the last three of the frame coming on the power play, as the Bandits continued to get into penalty trouble throughout the quarter.

After Toronto opened the third quarter to take its biggest lead of the night, the Bandits came storming back to tie it at 9, with goals by Brett Bucktooth, Roger Vyse and Mark Steenhuis. Both teams settled down with good goaltending at both ends, and Mike Accursi then gave the Bandits a 10-9 lead very late in the frame.

The Rock retook the lead early in the 4th, thanks to a pair of quick goals by Bandit-killer Blaine Manning. The 10th and tying Toronto goal was clearly a crease violation, but the Bandits failed to produce the required challenge flag within 10 seconds as stated by rule. Toronto would add three more goals, including a late empty netter to seal the deal. That would be all the scoring in the game as the Bandits were held scoreless for the entire quarter. Final score Toronto 14, Buffalo 10.

“I don’t believe that game was lost in the fourth quarter,” said forward Mike Accursi. We didn’t execute our game plan the way we wanted to. They are a good team. We weren’t that good tonight.” Coach Darris Kilgour fumed after the game, “It (the fourth quarter) was a replay of our first four games. We’re making bad decisions again.”

Kyle Clancy continued to make a big splash since joining the team off the practice squad last week. Said Accursi, “He was getting good looks and getting cutters. He was probably our spark tonight. Hats off to him he played well.” Kilgour added, “I didn’t expect this out of him. It’s a bonus, but if our best player is a 19 year old kid then we’re in bigger trouble than I thought.”

Clancy handled the media questions like a polished veteran. “It felt good, I am getting comfortable and that’ll help us get some wins hopefully.” Clancy has been welcomed with open arms by his teammates since joining the team. “They treat me like family and hopefully we’ll get clicking here sooner than later.”

Over in the visitors locker room, the Toronto Rock were saluting their own Colin Doyle, who took his place in indoor lacrosse history, and was also given recognition during the game by the Buffalo public address announcer. Doyle downplayed his accomplishment while speaking about the win. “We played really well. I’m proud the way everyone stepped up today.” As to hitting the 1000 point mark, Doyle said, “It was pretty special to join the company like that. It says something about how long and how hard one has played in this league. I’m proud of it and to be with Gary (Gait) and John (Tavares) is a pretty big honor.”

The reeling Bandits, now 1-5 on the season, head to Philadelphia next week to face the Wings, then come home in three weeks to face the same Philadelphia Wings at HSBC Arena. Game time on February 27 is 7:30 PM.

Wheels come off, Bandits falter in Washington 13-11

EVERETT, Washington…Tonight at Comcast Arena in Everett, the Buffalo Bandits opened their two game road trip against the Washington Stealth, before a crowd of 2879. This one went to the Stealth over the Bandits by a score of 13-11, to improve Washington’s record to a perfect 3-0. The Bandits, meanwhile, fall to 0-3, one of the worst starts in the franchise’s history. “The effort was there, but the heads certainly weren’t,” said an angry and frustrated coach Darris Kilgour after the game.

Fans in this sleepy suburb 25 miles north of Seattle are still getting used to the newest game in town. The Stealth relocated from San Jose, California since last season, and now play in this 8500 seat arena in downtown Everett, which is also the home venue for the Western Hockey League Everett Silvertips.

The team’s public address announcer used the timeouts to explain the various rules and nuances of the sport. It didn’t take long for the first lesson. During the first quarter the two teams traded goals which resulted in coach’s challenges. (Both goals ended up counting). And while the referee was on the phone sorting it all out, fans were getting the tutorial on the goings on down on the field.

Buffalo got on the board first, on a breakaway by Ian Llord 31 seconds into the game. Both teams exchanged goals and then the Stealth would take the lead 4-2 by the end of the first quarter.

Buffalo tied it at four early in the second, but then Washington ripped three straight goals midway, and that would send starting goalie Ken Montour to the bench in favor of back up netminder Angus Goodleaf. Montour finished allowing 7 goals on 24 shots. “We needed to give the team a shakeup. It’s frustrating to watch Kenny carry this team for two years and then leaving him out to dry,” Kilgour fumed.

The change gave new life to the Bandits, who then scored two late goals to bring it within one, courtesy of Brett Buckbooth and Mark Steenhuis. Goodleaf provided an assist on the Steenhuis goal.

In the third quarter, Steenhuis added a power play goal to tie the score at seven. But then the wheels came off for the Buffalo Bandits. “It’s the same story. The mistakes and the mental errors cost us time and time again. We’ve talked about this at practice but these guys do not respond. These are professionals. They know better than that,” said Kilgour.

Washington would score the next four goals to take a commanding 11-7 lead. The Bandits stopped the bleeding as time expired, with Mike Accursi scoring from in close to make it a three goal deficit.

Buffalo’s Chris Corbell netted the first goal of the 4th quarter on a breakaway at the 5:10 mark, but the Stealth answered immediately to once again make it a three goal cushion.

The Bandits pulled their goaltender with 1:56 left to play and down 13-10. On the first possession, Kevin Dostie had nothing but net to bring the deficit down to two. Buffalo then had possession for almost the entire final minute, with Steenhuis playing on one shoe, his other trademark orange sneaker laying in the faceoff circle. Said Steenhuis, “Yeah it sure got a bit slippery out there, but at the moment you can’t think about anything other than crashing the net and trying to get that next goal. Fortunately I didn’t get hurt that really doesn’t happen too often.”

But Buffalo could not get it any closer, and Washington killed off the final few seconds to seal the win.

Steenhuis finished with a team leading five goals. “None of us are very happy with the start. We are making a few changes offensively and defensively. But we’re moving in the right direction yet not putting it together as fast as we want to. I take a bit of the blame. I have to make more of my shots.”

The Bandits will have little time to think about this one… they fly to Edmonton on Saturday to face the Rush at Rexall Place. “We have to let this one soak in for a while, “ said Steenhuis. “We want to hold on to this and then we forget about this. We can’t go 0-4 that’s a quarter of our season. Coach Kilgour added, “I still think we’re a good team I think we can turn this around but right now we aren’t playing good enough.”

If the Bandits hope to win their next game, they will have to do it without their superstar John Tavares. Tavares did not participate in pregame practice and sullenly reported after the game that he probably will be unavailable for the team in Edmonton. “That’s a big blow to us. Losing him and Roger Vyse, who pulled a calf this week in practice, certainly hurts us. But it is up for others to step it up. We’ll see how these guys respond tomorrow.”

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