Both on the scoreboard and in the standings, the Buffalo Bandits tried to pull away from the New York Titans. They couldn’t do either.
Buffalo dropped a 11-9 decision to the Titans on Saturday at HSBC Arena in front of a near sellout crowd of 18,550. The loss puts New York (7-5) just a game behind the Bandits (8-4) in the East along with the Boston Blazers (7-5). The Bandits also fall a game behind Calgary (9-3) in the race for the NLL’s best record.
The Bandits and Titans each came into Saturday’s game sporting hot goaltenders, but only New York’s netminder would play. Buffalo’s Ken Montour was a different kind of hot, and his 103 degree fever made him inellegible to dress. Mike Thompson struggled in relief, giving up 11 goals on 40 shots.
“They outgoaltended us,” Bandits head coach Darris Kilgour said. “I thought we outplayed them, we outshot them. I thought we played very good defense. I thought Mikey let in a couple of easy ones.”
Those easy ones included several shots that squeaked by after it appeared Thompson made the initial save. He also allowed a long range goal from New York’s Matt Alrich, his first of the season that gave the Titans a two goal lead late in the fourth quarter.
New York opened the scoring just 1:12 into the first quarter with Brendan Mundorf’s 12th of the season. Buffalo’s Mark Steenhuis answered 44 seconds later, and the Bandits pressed New York hard for the remainder of the quarter. Titans goaltender Matt Vinc made a number of key saves, including several on a flurry of action and a breakaway.
John Tavares broke the tie at the 12:24 mark with a spectacular individual effort. While the Bandits were changing Tavares dove into the corner for a loose ball, fighting off four Titans while successfully scooping the ball to midfield. Tom Montour picked it up and sends a return lob to Tavares, who is left all alone and puts it by Vinc for the go ahead goal. He would finish with four points (2+2) on the night.
Just over a minute later, New York’s Bill Greer responded with an unassisted goal to tie the game again. A quick Titan response was a common theme on Saturday, and despite a number of early chances for Buffalo they couldn’t maintain a lead and put New York away.
“We pretty much outplayed them in loose balls and every other aspect of the game,” said Bandits defensemanBilly Dee Smith. “We just couldn’t put the ball in the net.”
While Vinc’s 50 saves would prove to be the story, Bandits coach Kilgour saw plenty of missed opportunities from his team.
“We gave them the chances to stay in that game,: Kilgour said. “If we shoot well, we’re up by five.”
Buffalo dominated the shots on goal, with 34 shots on net in the first half but just three goals. They would finish the game with a 59-40 advantage.
“We came up against a hot goalie, but we’ve got a team with a lot of good scorers,” said Bandits forward Mike Accursi, who had three points (1+2) on the night. “We’ve got to find a way to get the ball into the net.”
Accursi scored to give the Bandits a 3-2 lead in the second quarter, but four straight Titan goals sent them into the half with the 6-3 advantage. The scoring outburst was helped by a pair of Bandit penalties. New York scored with the extra attacker and the man advantage thanks to a Billy Dee Smith elbowing major, and added another when Clay Hill was called for cross checking at the 7:25 mark.
Tavares opened the scoring in the second half with his second of the night just 61 seconds into the third. After a Jordan Hall power play goal for New York, Mark Steenhuis scored twice for Buffalo to narrow the margin to 7-6 New York heading to the fourth quarter.
Hall’s second goal of the night extended New York’s lead early in the fourth, but Buffalo would storm back with two quick goals. Roger Vyse scored on the power play, and a Billy Dee Smith breakaway goal tied the game at eight with 10:19 left to play.
However, once again New York’s response would be quick. Just 35 seconds after Smith’s goal Brendan Mundorf scores for New York, giving the Titans a lead they wouldn’t lose this time.
Buffalo had their chance when Bill Greer took two penalties at the 6:38 mark of the fourth. The four minute power play would yield nothing for Buffalo, who looked uneasy and sloppy at times.
“I thought the power play was very stagnant tonight,” said coach Kilgour. Buffalo finished the game 1 for 6 on the man advantage. “We didn’t create enough shooting lanes, our feet were stagnant. Even when we got them rotating, we just quit moving the ball and hung onto it.”
Alrich’s long goal gave New York a two goal lead with less than four minutes to play, putting them in the driver’s seat for the victory. Mark Steenhuis scored his fourth goal of the night to narrow the gap, but once again New York responded quickly. Casey Powell’s goal with less than three minutes left put the game out of reach for Buffalo, and gave the Titans a big win.
It was another night of missed chances for the Bandits, in more ways than one.
“I think we probably hit ten or fifteen posts, so I think the shot selection was there,” Mike Accursi said. “He (Vinc) made the stops that he needed to make.”
Buffalo’s next game is Saturday in Boston at 7:30.