The Buffalo Bandits dropped a heartbreaker on the road against the Colorado Mammoth Saturday night on the last leg of their three-game road trip. The 15-14 setback marked Buffalo’s first loss since February 12, which also came on the road.
A fresh Colorado squad used an energized house full of Mammoth fans inside Ball Arena to their advantage as Buffalo wrapped up a stretch of four games in eight days. They played in Philadelphia on Thursday night and had a grueling back-to-back with Halifax last weekend.
Both teams exchanged blows all night long, resulting in 12 ties and 12 lead changes throughout the game. The battle got the attention of the entire NLL community due to a combined five players scoring hat tricks, and highlight-reel goals in crucial spots.
No moment was more significant than the eventual game-winner off the stick of first star Connor Robinson with just a minute remaining in regulation.
Robinson’s fourth of the night came off a pick from Chris Wardle rolling left into the slot to beat Bandits goaltender Matt Vinc stick side.
Dhane Smith (3+9), Josh Byrne (3+5), and Chase Fraser (4+1) carried the load offensively for Buffalo that fell just a bit short down the stretch. Kyle Buchanan chipped in with five points (1+4), and Connor Fields raised his goal-scoring streak to nine games with a power-play snipe in the second quarter.
Vinc had a solid night with 34 saves for Buffalo but couldn’t find his groove late in the game that has been on display all season long.
A Colorado offense that has been struggling to find the back of the night saw production from eight different players.
Zed Williams completed his hat trick late in the fourth quarter, Ryan Lee netted eight points (1+7), and Tyson Gibson scored the first goal with his new team after being acquired at the deadline from New York in a four-point performance (2+2).
The Mammoth had masterful play in net from Dillon Ward, stopping 46 shots and slowing down the Bandits offense in his seventh win of the season.
In a game full of offense, it was a lackluster first quarter with just two combined goals, both for the Bandits.
First blood came 6:18 into regulation for Buffalo as Smith crashed the net slipping past defender Warren Jeffrey for his 36th of the season. Chris Cloutier scored what would be the first of four power-play goals for the Bandits in their five attempts.
In the second quarter, Chaos ensued as Robinson tied it up on the man advantage just 26 seconds into the Kevin Brownell penalty. Buffalo and Colorado would trade goals until the Mammoth grasped their first lead of the game Joey Cupido running the floor in transition after Ward made a save on Tehoka Nanticoke from close range.
Lee and Robinson would tack on two more Colorado goals to end the first half up 7-5, just the fourth time all season that Buffalo was down heading into intermission.
John Tavares’ team came out with second-half adjustments, quickly scoring three-straight to regain the 8-7 lead after Fraser’s second bounce shot goal with 8:38 left.
Robinson and Colorado faceoff man Alex Woodwall both scored in six seconds before Scott Carnegie received a five-minute major penalty for his hit on Fraser. Smith and Byrne would convert on the costly penalty, as it appeared Buffalo regained momentum of the game.
Following the faceoff, Woodall would respond to tie the game at 10 with his second unlikely goal of the evening that erupted the crowd at the “loud house.”
With just one quarter remaining, Wardle put the Mammoth back on top 2:14 into the frame before both teams swapped goals as they were knotted up at 12 with less than 10 minutes remaining.
Tehoka Nanticoke was a menace around the restricted area, burying a timely goal for his first in two games for the Bandits second straight tally. With time winding down, Williams and Gibson continued the back-and-forth drama for their sixth lead of the evening.
With 1:53 left on the clock, Fraser received a blistering pass from Byrne cross-crease to Fraser for the full extension goal past the shoulder of Ward to keep Buffalo’s hopes alive.
Robinson would deliver the dagger as it appeared that Buffalo didn’t have anything left in the tank after leaving it out on the floor for four games in eight days.
The Bandits will get a much-deserved few days of rest before the New York Riptide come to town for the first time in franchise history on Saturday, April 9. Faceoff is scheduled for 5 p.m.
New York (4-9) will have a stretch similar to the one Buffalo just endured. The Riptide lost to Philadelphia at home on Saturday 11-5 and will travel to Denver for a game on Monday before Saturday’s game at KeyBank Center.