By Alex Pagliano - Bandits.com
After a disappointing road loss to Rochester last weekend, the Buffalo Bandits looked to respond Saturday night. The response proved to be Buffalo’s most complete game of the 2014 season.
The Bandits never trailed over the duration of the game, defeating the Philadelphia Wings 13-7 in front of 13,980 fans at First Niagara Center.
Mark Steenhuis recorded a hat trick, rookie Mitch Wilde scored a goal in his first career NLL game and captain John Tavares picked up the 900th assist of his illustrious career.
“I thought we played a full 60 minutes tonight,” Bandits head coach Troy Cordingley said. “I thought we were good in all areas of the game.”
Buffalo (6-2) outscored Philadelphia (3-6) 2-0 over the first quarter. Ryan Benesch opened the scoring for Buffalo at 10:40, placing a shot past Philadelphia goalie Evan Kirk stick-side. Shawn Williams found the back of the net just over two minutes later from the right of Kirk to close the quarter scoring.
Anthony Cosmo rejected all 11 Philadelphia shots of the quarter to hold the Wings scoreless. Cosmo made several point-blank saves, but none matched the quality of the save on Philadelphia’s Jordan Hall at 4:14. Hall obtained the loose ball and was alone at the top of the crease, but Cosmo turned the shot away with his shoulder.
Cosmo finished the game stopping 45 of 52 shots to earn his NLL-best sixth victory of the season.
“You have to credit my defense,” Cosmo said. “Our defense is keeping them out [towards the restraining area] and allowing me to see shots.”
Tavares expanded the Bandits lead to three goals just 16 seconds into the second quarter, driving the crease and beating Kirk short-side. Philadelphia would finally get on the board 1:36 later, but Joe Resetarits answered to maintain the lead. Philadelphia scored once more before the end of the half, but Buffalo answered: a trend that occurred often throughout the night.
“We answered seemingly after each time Philadelphia scored,” Bandits captain John Tavares said. “Our defense challenged them.”
Cosmo stopped 29 shots in the first half.
Just eight seconds into the third quarter, Jay Thorimbert secured the faceoff and beat Kirk five-hole. After former Bandit Tracy Kelusky tallied, Wilde recorded his first career goal. Wilde, Buffalo’s second selection of the 2013 NLL Draft (No. 15 overall), beat Kirk stick-side on the break.
“I knew the open lane was there, so I went full tilt,” Wilde said. “I found the open lane and went short-side and then far-side for the goal.”
After another Philadelphia goal, Steenhuis matched with his second of the game to end the third quarter.
Kyle Buchanan scored seven seconds into the fourth quarter for Philadelphia, but Buffalo scored five unanswered goals to eradicate any comeback attempt. Aaron Wilson returned from injury to score two goals over the streak. John Tavares recorded the primary assist on the second Wilson goal, the 900th of his career.
“It’s nice to get those out of the way,” Tavares joked after the game. “I’d rather not know of them, but it’s nice to get them out of the way.”
Resetarits and Williams each added their second goal of the game over the stretch. Steenhuis completed his second hat trick of the season at 1:25 to expand the run.
Garrett Thul added consecutive goals to close the game, but the game was decided before each shot found their way into the back of the net.
“I am here for the long haul,” Cosmo said. “I am here to win a championship. And if I have to take this team there on my shoulders, then I definitely will.”
Just eight weeks into the 2014 NLL season, the Bandits have six victories: the same amount from all of the 2013 season. Tavares credits the turnaround to the team believing in themselves.
“It’s just a different mentality all-around,” Tavares said. “We are going out and expecting to win. We have a little more swagger, I guess.”
The Bandits return to First Niagara Center on Saturday, March 8 to host the Minnesota Swarm at 7:30 p.m.