2/2/2019 11:25:00 PM / Chris Ryndak
Whenever the Buffalo Bandits extended their lead Saturday night, the Colorado Mammoth kept coming back. While they never trailed in the game, the Bandits had to hold on until the end in their 15-12 win at KeyBank Center.
Dhane Smith, coming off an 11-point performance last week in New England, led the Bandits with eight points (3+5) in a balanced attack.
Shawn Evans opened the scoring with two goals in the first quarter and finished with a hat trick. Chase Fraser also scored three times. Jordan Durston (1+4), Corey Small (0+4), Ethan O’Connor (1+2), Ian MacKay (0+2), Steve Priolo (0+2) and Matt Gilray (2+0) all recorded multi-point efforts.
“I feel like everyone’s getting points out there. We’re not looking for me to shoot. It’s not like how it used to be,” Smith said. “Everybody’s working for each other and whoever shoots is a great shot. I feel like we’re getting those great shots and we’re putting the ball in the back of the net this year. It’s different and fun.”
Head coach Rich Kilgour credited Smith’s ability to attract defenders to him as a key to why the Bandits offense has opened up. Buffalo leads the league with 115 goals and 177 assists.
“It makes them start focusing on him and then that makes other guys get that other step,” Kilgour said. “We always say one step in this league is a big deal. If they have to take an extra step toward Dhane, that gives all the other guys on the O end an extra step. Again, a great all-around game.”
The Bandits dominated the first quarter as they outshot the Mammoth 15-13, but more importantly, they held a 4-0 lead. Evans’ first goal 49 seconds in helped set the tone. But Colorado battled back in the second, going on a four-goal run of their own to tie the game.
Buffalo’s offense awakened again with 2:57 left in the half, scoring three times before halftime to enter the break with a 7-4 advantage.
“I feel like we weren’t having fun and [head coach John Tavares] preached, ‘Let’s have some fun out there,’” Smith said. “As soon as we started doing that, I think we were putting the ball in the back of the net.”
The Mammoth scored the first goal of the second half and started the third quarter on a 4-1 run to tie the game 8-8.
Buffalo responded with a 5-1 run in the final five minutes to close out the third and extend their lead to 13-9. Mitch de Snoo opened up that run, and Fraser and Gilray finished it with Fraser’s goal – his second in that 5-1 stretch – coming with 17.3 second remaining and Gilray scoring with 2.0 seconds left.
“We were just playing our game,” Fraser said. “We had to push it and just go with the flow, put the ball in the back of the net. We had the opportunities to just grind. Everyone did their part and we came out on top.”
Fraser, in his second season, has already set career highs for games played (eight), goals (12) and points (17).
Colorado outscored Buffalo 4-2 in the fourth quarter and made a strong push late before O’Connor iced it with an empty netter with 24.7 seconds remaining.
"The D did a great job in the fourth and we answered the bell," Kilgour said.
Matt Vinc made 43 saves between the pipes for Buffalo.
Buffalo improves to 6-2 on the season – and 4-1 at home – while Colorado falls to 1-5.
The Bandits hosted the sixth annual Tucker Out Lymphoma Night, honoring the memory of Tucker Williams.
Tucker, the son of former Bandits player Shawn Williams, lost his battle with Burkitt lymphoma in 2014.
In a message shown at halftime, Shawn Williams thanked Bandits fans and the Bandits organization for their support.
Tucker’s sister, Dylana Williams, sang the Canadian national anthem prior to the game. During the game, both Bandits and Mammoth players wore special “Braver Than Brave” jerseys designed by Tucker’s brother, Dyson Williams. Those jerseys are up for auction here.
The team’s “lacrosse ball surprise” also gave fans the opportunity to purchase individually signed lacrosse balls. Six hundred lacrosse balls were available, 51 of which were limited edition “Tucker Out” balls.
Smith played with Shawn Williams in each of his first two professional seasons, and as he’s gotten older, Smith has come to better understand the importance of the annual event. He relayed that message to his teammates before the game.
“I told them, ‘There’s going to be emotions out there tonight. We’ve just got to keep them in check,’” he said. “And I think we did a good job of that.”
Smith’s specially designed cleats that he wore during the game are up for auction here.
Part of the proceeds from ticket sales, auctions, “Braver Than Brave” jerseys and Tucker T-shirts will be donated to pediatric cancer care. Click here to see what is up for bid.
The Bandits will travel to Georgia for their next game when they’ll take on the Swarm on Feb. 9 at 7:05 p.m. Fans can watch with a subscription to B/R Live or listen to John Gurtler’s call of the game on WGR 550.