It was a tough night for the Buffalo Bandits (10-5) as the team fell to the fourth-place Boston Blazers (8-8) by a score of 16-9 inside HSBC Arena on Saturday night.
No matter how many goals Buffalo scored, the Blazers would always answer back. The Bandits trailed Boston 7-5 going into halftime, but they couldn’t hold back Boston’s powerful offense, as they were out-scored 9-4 in the second half.
“Every game this year has been a battle for us to get scoring opportunities,” said Bandits Head Coach Darris Kilgour. “It was a quick fix, and we did it 10 games ago, but we have to go back to the drawing board to try to figure something out, and ride away.”
John Tavares (2-2-4) and Brett Bucktooth (4 assists) each had four point nights, while Brenden Thenhaus (2-1-3) and Tracey Kelusky (1-2-3) both notched three points in the loss. Roger Vyse made his return to the lineup, and had a tremendous night for the club with three goals.
Goaltender Mike Thompson was pulled following Boston’s ninth goal in the third quarter. Angus Goodleaf filled in for Thompson and stopped 12 out of Boston’s 18 shots. Thompson left the game after making 21 saves and adding an assist on Tavares’ first goal of the game.
Prior to the game, Buffalo’s longest-tenured captain and NLL Hall of Famer Rich Kilgour had his No. 16 banner raised to the rafters of HSBC Arena. An emotional Kilgour was joined by his family and was honored for his career accomplishments, which include four Bandits championships in 1992, 1993, 1996 and 2008. In his 18-year career, Kilgour scored 317 career points (94 goals, 223 assists). He is also the team’s all-time leader in faceoff wins (359) and ranks second in games played (200) and fifth in loose balls (824).
“Lacrosse players don’t get these kind of honors a lot so it wasn’t something I would’ve ever dreamed of or thought of,” Kilgour said. “When we finally got out there, and they unfurled it was a pretty special moment and seeing it hanging up there during the game it’s a great night. I just wish we could have got a win out of the night.”
The Blazers struck first when Jamie Rooney gave his club the early 1-0 lead. Thenhaus answered back when he walked in untouched and evened the score at one, but Boston regained the lead less than a minute later with a goal by Nick Cotter. Buffalo countered back when tough guy Brandon Francis notched his first goal since Jan 30, 2010. Boston retained the lead going into the second quarter when Kevin Buchanan beat Thompson high stick side to give Boston a 3-2 lead.
It was a back and forth second quarter, but Boston ended up with the 7-5 lead going into halftime. Buffalo was able to get tallies from Vyse, Tavares, and Kelusky, but Boston outscored them again with goals from Josh Sanderson, Dan Dawson and two from Buchanan.
Buffalo opened the scoring in the second half when Vyse scored his second goal of the game, but Boston ended the Bandits’ comeback attempt with three straight goals from Buchanan, Dawson and Cotter. Following Boston’s three-goal surge, Buffalo pulled Thompson in favor of back-up Goodleaf. The goaltender change paid immediate dividends for Buffalo, as Thenhaus netted his second of the game. The third quarter ended with the Blazers holding a 10-7 lead.
The Bandits hoped to swing the momentum their way after the goaltender change, but the Blazers just kept rolling in the fourth. Boston jumped on Buffalo early in the final quarter and got three straight goals from Rooney, Jack Reid and Sanderson to take a commanding 13-7 lead. Buffalo showed some life in the quarter when Tavares and Vyse scored back-to-back, but Boston put a dagger in the team’s hearts with goals from Rooney and Buchanan.
With their time running out, Buffalo wanted to make a statement. Francis, the Bandits’ enforcer, started a ruckus when he picked a fight with defenseman Mike Kirk on the Blazers’ bench. Kirk was assessed a five-minute major, while Francis received 19 minutes in penalties. Boston also earned a penalty shot due to an illegal substitution call on Francis, and Jason Duboe capitalized on the attempt to help the Blazers seal the deal with a 16-9 win.
“I don’t think my guys should’ve been involved in it. I’m pretty disappointed in the way they handled the loss,” Kilgour said. “I’m glad they’re upset about it, but at the same time we should’ve been upset in the second quarter, not in the last five seconds. You got to play with class.”
Despite the loss, Buffalo still has a chance to clinch first place in the East. If the Toronto Rock (10-5) lose their final game, or if Buffalo wins next week, the Bandits will earn the top spot in the division. The win keeps Boston in fourth place.
The Bandits return to action on Saturday, April 23 when they host the Rochester Knighthawks (8-6) at HSBC Arena. As an attempt to “pack the house” the team announced earlier in the week that all 300 level seats are marked 50% off for Buffalo’s final regular season game. The interstate battle is set for a 7:30 p.m. start