The Buffalo Bandits opened up their 2022-2023 season with a disappointing 11-10 loss to the Albany FireWolves on Saturday at KeyBank Center.
The Bandits opened the scoring, but never held the lead again. They eventually tied the game 9-9 at the 3:30 mark of the fourth quarter, but Albany pulled away with a pair of goals.
Dhane Smith, Josh Byrne and Chris Cloutier led the Bandits with five points each. Smith posted a team-high five assists while Byrne and Cloutier each picked up two goals and three assists. Tehoka Nanticoke (3+1) led the team in goals.
For Albany, Tanner Thomson recorded a game-high seven points (2+5) and assisted on Kieran McArdle’s power-play goal with 7:44 left in the fourth quarter to put the FireWolves up for good.
Dough Jamieson stopped 44 Bandits shots, while Buffalo goaltender Matt Vinc made 28 saves.
At halftime, Albany held a 5-4 lead on the Bandits. The first half was a fiery back-and-forth bout, highlighted by a fight between Bandits forward Brandon Robinson and Albany’s Ty Logan in the second quarter.
The FireWolves led by as many as four goals in the third quarter, and the Bandits chipped away to eventually tie things up in the final frame. However, the go-ahead goal from McAdrle and another from Colton Watkinson with 4:46 to go proved to be enough to hold the lead.
Cloutier scored with 1:10 left to cut the lead to one, but Buffalo could not muster enough offense in the dying moments to tie the game again.
“We were playing catch up quite a bit,” head coach John Tavares said. “At the end of the day, you need to put the ball in the net, and they did that one more time than we did.”
Byrne talked about some of the new pieces that were added to the team and how they want to adjust as the season continues.
“There’s some new guys on both offense and defense. We’re still getting used to each other’s tendencies and we have to grow in that area, so that’ll be something we’ll be working on,” he said.
Nanticoke opened up the scoring 4:48 into the game. Albany quickly overtook the lead with a barrage of three-straight goals from Thomson, Connor Kelly and Ethan Walker.
Despite being down 3-1, Buffalo outshot Albany 12-6 at the end of the first quarter.
Albany opened the scoring in the second quarter, but goals from Ian MacKay and Byrne momentarily halted the FireWolves’ momentum. Buffalo outscored Albany 3-2 in the second and trailed 5-4 at halftime.
Buffalo opened the third quarter on a five-minute power play following a goaltender interference penalty, but Albany ended up with a shorthanded goal to go up by a pair.
Byrne’s second goal of the night was answered by three consecutive tallies from Albany, all scored in a span of 57 seconds.
At the end of the third, the Bandits trailed 9-7, but were outshooting the Firewolves 42-29, and had started to generate some offensive chances of their own, with two late-quarter scores coming off the sticks of Nanticoke and Cloutier.
Carrying their momentum from the third, the Bandits continued their surge into the final quarter with two more goals from Kyle Buchanan and Nanticoke.
Nanticoke then quickly got in a fight of his own after his goal, sparking a loud eruption from Banditland after he threw down Albany’s Patrick Kaschalk.
Nanticoke, however, was also charged with a goaltender interference penalty and McArdle scored the go-ahead goal on that power play.
For their next game, the Bandits will travel to Toronto to take on the Rock. Faceoff on Saturday, December 17 is set for 7 p.m.