By Alex Pagliano -- Bandits.com
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A year removed from missing the postseason, the 2014 Buffalo Bandits have learned from past miscues. For the second consecutive week, the Bandits demonstrated the ever-important skill of closing out games at home.
The Bandits placed together another strong fourth quarter to close out their sixth consecutive home victory on Saturday, defeating the Colorado Mammoth 12-9 in front of 15,445 fans at First Niagara Center.
“To me, it looks like we know how to win,” Bandits captain John Tavares said. “This year, we’re finding ways to win, not lose.”
Ryan Benesch opened the scoring for Buffalo just 42 seconds into the fourth quarter. Colorado would cut the lead back to one at 3:28, but Buffalo used a 3-1 run to close out the game. Mark Steenhuis scored twice, while teammate Shawn Williams scored for the first time since February 15.
“In the third quarter, I did not think we were very good,” Bandits head coach Troy Cordingley said. “But, in that fourth quarter, we turned it around.”
Steenhuis led the Bandits with a hat trick. Joe Resetarits also added two goals for (8-2) Buffalo.
Chad Culp opened the scoring for Buffalo at 1:01. Culp secured the loose ball in the defensive end and went end-to-end for his 400th career NLL point. Tavares added the other goal of the quarter at 9:46. Colorado goaltender Dillon Ward had made the original save on the shot from the right of the crease, but the shot trickled through his equipment and into the net.
The momentum continued for Buffalo to start the second quarter, as Dhane Smith found an open Resetarits on the edge of the crease for the goal just 26 seconds into the quarter. Just under a minute later, Steve Priolo secured a loose ball, spun free from two Colorado defenders and went end-to-end for the highlight-reel goal.
The team added another highlight-reel goal just under four minutes later. Smith found Resetarits on the doorstep as the shot clock dwindled down. Resetarits then lunged cross-crease as the shot clock expired for his second goal of the game.
“I’ve been popping off and getting open,” he said. “Dhane found me twice in a row. He gave me two great looks.”
Colorado scored three consecutive goals before Benesch beat Ward over the shoulder at 14:28 to end the run.
Defensively, the Bandits held the (5-8) Mammoth without a goal for the opening 24:40 of action. The defense allowed just one even-strength goal over the duration of the half; a statistic that Cordingley attributed to his team’s pressure-intensive defense.
“I thought we were outstanding defensively in the first half,” he said. “I thought we did an amazing job trying to make them play faster.”
Just 33 seconds into the third quarter, Mark Steenhuis bounced a shot past Ward to continue the momentum accrued from the Benesch goal at the end of the half. John Grant, Jr. would interrupt the momentum, matching the goal for Colorado just under a minute later.
Dhane Smith took a boarding major at 11:50 and Colorado took advantage. The Mammoth added three goals on the advantage and evened the score.
"That's the right call," added Cordingley.
Tavares ended the run at 14:58, beating Ward shorthanded from the slot to regain the lead headed into the fourth quarter. Yet again, the 46-year-old legend scored a clutch goal at an opportune time.
“John’s been doing this his entire career,” Cordingley said. “That’s why he’s a legend. It was just another big goal from (Tavares) to slow the momentum (of the game down).”
Benesch continued the momentum into the fourth quarter, scoring quickly. Colorado answered, but Williams responded for Buffalo at 7:07, beating Ward five-hole. Steenhuis added two late goals to complete his hat trick.
Colorado had a chance to get back into the game at 11:40. Grant, Jr. found himself alone on the doorstep but Bandits goaltender Anthony Cosmo turned the shot aside. Cosmo stopped 45-of-54 shots for his eighth victory of the season.
“He’s been real good for us,” Cordingley said. “The save against Grant, Jr. was huge. But, he’s been that good for us all year.”
The Bandits remain a half-game ahead of Rochester atop the NLL East Division after Saturday. The Bandits return to action next week for arguably their biggest test of the season: a trip to undefeated Edmonton on Friday at 9:30 p.m.
“I know they’re real good,” added Cordingley.