It was an up and down affair in New Jersey, but it ended in defeat for the Bandits.
Buffalo dropped a 12-9 final to the New York Titans in front of a modest crowd of 6,222 at the Prudential Center in New Jersey. The loss drops Buffalo to 10-5 on the season, moving both New York and Boston within a game of the East Division lead with just one game left in the regular season.
Lacrosse is often called a game of runs, and this one would become a model of that saying. The two teams each dominated a quarter in the first half, with New York jumping out to a 4-0 lead after the first 15 minutes of play. The Titans saw goals from Mike McLellan, Ryan Boyle, Casey Powell, and Jordan Hall. The Titans frustrated Bandits goaltender Ken Montour while New York goalie Matt Vinc continued to defy the Buffalo attackers with a perfect quarter of play.
The roles would reverse in the second half, with Buffalo exploding for six straight goals, including four within a span of 70 seconds. John Tavares started the flurry with an unassisted goal, and Mike Accursi notched one at the 5:16 mark of the second quarter. Twelve seconds later Tavares scores again, and Accursi matches that goal just 35 seconds after that to tie the game at four. The offensive explosion was capped by a pair of Mark Steenhuis goals, one just 23 seconds after Accursi’s second goal of the night, and another at the 11:09 mark of the second quarter.
New York’s Casey Powell would score late in the second quarter, but Buffalo took a 6-5 lead into the locker room at halftime. Neither team could be too happy with their first half performance, and with the stakes raised the modest crowd in Newark would be treated to an eventful second half.
Buffalo began the third quarter with two quick goals, with Pat McCready scoring and John Tavares picking up his third of the night on the power play. The Titans then took over the game, scoring five straight to take the lead and never look back.
Brendan Mundorf’s goal for New York near the halfway point of the third proved to be the turning point, and the Titans slowly clawed back in it with goals in succession from Powell, Boyle, and MacLellan. MacLellan’s goal at the 13:49 mark of the third gave the Titans back the lead, a lead which they wouldn’t relinquish for the remainder of the game.
New York started the fourth quarter with another goal, this time on the power play. The tally gave New York the 10-8 lead just 1:25 into the final period. Mike Accursi answered with his third goal of the game just 31 seconds later to narrow the gap to 10-9, but it would be the final push for Buffalo. Casey Powell scored his fourth goal of the night with just under four minutes to play, and Buffalo botched a power play opportunity by giving up a shorthanded goal to Brendan Mundorf. The marker at the 13:49 mark officially put the comeback bid to bed, and locked up a 12-9 victory for New York.
Tavares finished the game with five points (3+2), and Mark Steenhuis finished with another four point effort (2+2) in the loss. Steenhuis continues to lead the team in points with 97, with Tavares at 87 and Mike Accursi in third with 53 points. Steenhuis and Tavares are also 1-2 in goals in the league, with Steenhuis tied for second in overall points.
Buffalo’s struggles against New York are cause for concern, as the two teams appear destined to meet in the postseason this spring. The victory for New York locks up their postseason bid, and their confidence can’t be much higher after sweeping the season series against the defending world champions.
Ken Montour took the loss for Buffalo, but only played 46:25 of 60 minutes. He allowed 10 goals on 40 shots while his relief, Mike Thompson, gave up two goals on six shots late in the fourth quarter. Former Canisus College goaltender Matt Vinc allowed nine goals on 50 shots to pick up the win.
Buffalo’s final game of the regular season is Saturday at home against Boston.