By Chris Ryndak —Bandits.com
In a game that had a big effect on the playoff picture, two goals in the second half wasn’t going to cut it for the Buffalo Bandits.
However, that’s all the production the team received from their offense in an 11-8 loss to the Edmonton Rush on Saturday at Rexall Place. Heading into the third quarter in a 6-6 tie, the Rush (5-8) scored three early second half goals to separate themselves from the Bandits.
With the loss, the Bandits fell to 5-9 and guaranteed their first losing season since 1999. Head coach Darris Kilgour had never had a losing season in his 10 years behind the Bandits bench.
Historical significance aside, the loss also put the Bandits in a bit of a quagmire when it comes to this year’s playoff picture. By winning on Saturday, the Rush jumped the Bandits due to the new crossover format for the playoffs in which the top eight teams in the nine-team NLL qualify for the postseason.
The Bandits currently sit in seventh overall and two games out of first place in the East Division with two games to play in the regular season. Washington, at 4-10, is currently on the outside looking in and host the Bandits in the final week of the season.
If the Bandits lose to Rochester next weekend and Washington beats Toronto, the last game of the season would serve as a one-game, win-and-get-in playoff scenario. It’s a scenario the Bandits would likely rather avoid.
The Buffalo offense went stagnant in the later stages of the game, but they were moving the ball around well enough early on. Luke Wiles scored twice in the first 5:05 to give the Bandits a 2-1 lead.
Last weekend, when it seemed like the Bandits were getting production from everyone in a 17-7 victory, they seemed to be out of sorts against an Edmonton defense that had given up a league-low 135 goals heading into the game.
Wiles finished with three goals, forward John Tavares scored twice and added two assists and transition player Mark Steenhuis had three points (1+2). Kevin Buchanan had Buffalo’s lone third-quarter goal but it came with 1:26 to go.
Wiles’ hat trick goal came on the power play with 16 seconds left in regulation, long after the tilt had already been decided.
Zack Greer had three goals and an assist for Edmonton while Corey Small scored twice in the third quarter to give the Rush a three-goal lead. Small also recorded two assists. Shawn Williams led the Rush with five points (1+5) and Ryan Ward also put together a good game (1+4).
Rush goaltender Aaron Bold made 32 saves on 40 shots to earn the victory in net.
Edmonton outshot Buffalo 51-40 overall and held the Bandits to seven shots on goal in the third quarter.
Buffalo lost starting goaltender Mike Thompson with 5:19 to play in the first quarter to an apparent left leg injury. Thompson collided with Edmonton’s Tom Johnson in the crease and after receiving some treatment from the training staff, limped off to the locker room. Anthony Cosmo, the reigning NLL Defensive Player of the Week, replaced him in goal.
Bandits defenseman Darryl Gibson rolled an ankle in the first quarter and while he stayed on the bench, he did not return to the field. Those injuries come as forward Tracey Kelusky was scratched for his third straight game with an Achilles injury.
Buffalo struggled mightily in the face off circle in the first half. Edmonton’s Jarrett Toll won 12 of 14 draws in the first two quarters against Jay Thorimbert (1 of 7) and Brandon Francis (1 of 5).
The numbers balanced themselves out a bit as Thorimbert had a strong second half, finishing 8 of 15. Toll’s first half winning percentage of 86 dropped to 57 by the time the final horn sounded.
The final minutes were overshadowed by an incident with 3:33 left in regulation in which Francis was called for a high-sticking major against Rush captain Jim Quinlan. Edmonton’s Chris Corbeil took offense to the high cross-check behind the play and dropped the gloves with Francis.
Corbeil received a five-minute fighting major while the penalties to Francis were much more severe. Francis was called for the initial high-sticking major, a fighting major and was slapped with two 10-minute game-misconduct penalties. Francis already has two separate game misconduct penalties from prior incidents this season.
The Bandits host Rochester on Saturday, April 21 at 7:30 p.m. for their final home game of the year. It’s also Fan Appreciation Night at First Niagara Center with several contests and giveaways set to take place during the game.