The Buffalo Bandits outscored the Colorado Mammoth 7-1 in the first half and never looked back as they topped the Mammoth 12-8 at KeyBank Center on Saturday.
The Bandits were led by their dynamic duo of Josh Byrne and Dhane Smith, who had seven points apiece. Brad McCulley recorded two goals and four assists for a six-point night in his return from an injury while Chase Fraser tallied four points (2+2), including his 100th career goal.
Bandits goaltender Matt Vinc finished with a season-high 49 saves, including 28 saves in the first half after limiting the Mammoth to just one goal in the second quarter.
Colorado forwards Connor Kelly and Eli McLaughlin each scored a hat trick and combined for nine points on the night. Goaltender Dillon Ward totaled 45 saves in between the pipes.
Vinc made a statement early in the game as Colorado was awarded a penalty shot due to an illegal substitution by the Bandits on a Mammoth breakaway attempt. The 41-year-old came up with the save on McLaughlin five minutes into the contest to keep the game scoreless.
“He’s our backbone,” Smith said. “Every night he seems to amaze us again and again. When he’s going, we’re all going.”
After neither team found the back of the net in the opening seven minutes, Buffalo went on a six-goal run featuring four different scorers.
Byrne opened the scoring during a delayed penalty, ripping a shot past Ward’s left shoulder. Fraser netted a power-play goal with 10 seconds remaining in the first before the Bandits scored four more times with tallies from McCulley, Byrne, Fraser, and Tehoka Nanticoke to take a 6-0 lead with under six minutes to go in the first half.
The Mammoth finally found the back of the net on a 5-on-3 opportunity with 5:19 left in the second as Matt Spanger and Byrne were in the penalty box. Zed Williams scored the power-play goal, but Buffalo had an answer less than a minute later. Smith scored on what was supposed to be a pass to Chris Cloutier, but the ball snuck past him and Ward to send Buffalo into the halftime break up 7-1.
Byrne once again opened the scoring in the second half, flying across the right side of the crease and sending the ball into the top corner 19 seconds into the third quarter.
The Mammoth put the Bandits on their heels from there, scoring three shorthanded goals to close the gap to four. However, Colorado was unable to complete its comeback effort as the two teams exchanged goals in the fourth. Nanticoke and Kyle Buchanan sealed the deal for the Bandits to send the group home with its second win of the season.
Here’s more from the win.
Smith scores at home
Smith previously went two games without finding the back of the net at KeyBank Center, recording 13 assists in his last two contests, but scored twice Saturday against Colorado.
His first goal of the game was completely accidental as he was looking for the assist to Cloutier.
“It’s funny how it works sometimes,” Smith said. “I was looking to pass the ball and it went in the back of the net and it was just a weight off my shoulder. I felt confident the whole time when I was shooting the ball tonight.”
His second tally was an outside bouncer into the top corner, which made it 9-2 Buffalo.
Through four games, Smith is averaging 6.75 points per game along with Byrne. The duo has combined for 54 points so far this season.
The Bandits were in the driver’s seat as they went into the second half up 8-1 after Byrne completed his hat trick. The momentum looked like it would be on their side as they earned a five-minute power play off an illegal cross-check by Paul Dawson but Colorado capitalized shorthanded to cut the deficit to 8-4. Just after the Bandits’ power play expired, Fraser was assessed a five-minute major to send Buffalo on the penalty kill.
The Bandits scored their own shorthanded goal on the five-minute penalty kill for the sixth shorthanded goal of the game.
“Ten minutes of absolute mayhem but we really didn’t lose our composure too much,” Byrne said. “Stuff like that happens where you feel the game start to slip a little bit. So very proud of our guys for staying calm, riding the ebs and flows of the game and ultimately coming out with the win.”
Buffalo will travel to Rochester on Saturday to take on the Knighthawks. Faceoff is set for 7:00 p.m. inside Blue Cross Arena.
“It’ll be nice to take a bus trip with the guys but there’s nothing like playing in Banditland,” Smith said. “I know our fans will travel really well in Rochester, so we’re looking forward to that.”
The Bandits split their regular-season series with Rochester last season, losing on the road and winning at home. Their third matchup came in the playoffs when Buffalo sent Rochester packing with a commanding 20-8 win.