In a week in which Buffalo’s professional sports teams have had major difficulties, the Bandits fit right in on Friday night.
Buffalo began its defense of the National Lacrosse League East Division title with a stinker of a performance on Opening Night. They dropped a 12-8 decision to the Colorado Mammoth before 14,268 in a game that wasn’t as close as the score indicated – which is saying something.
“That wasn’t very pretty, that’s for sure,” coach Troy Cordingley said. “It was bad. We talked about being honest to each other. We talked about an honest effort and that was the farthest thing from an honest effort.”
The Bandits’ defeat comes on the heels of the Bills’ elimination from the playoff picture and the Sabres’ disappointing loss to Boston. Buffalo’s sports fans have had little reason lately to use noisemakers and confetti as part of an early New Year’s celebration.
“It wasn’t a lack of effort, but it wasn’t a smart effort,” defenseman Billy Dee Smith said.
This was the 14th time that the Bandits had opened a season at home, and it tied a team record for the most one-sided loss in that situation. Buffalo lost to Philadelphia, 17-13, on Dec. 28, 2013, and were beaten by New York in their first-ever game by 21-17 on Jan. 4, 1992.
Just about everyone on the Bandits roster had to take some responsibility in this one, although Colorado certainly deserved plenty of credit for coming into the KeyBank Center and turning in an excellent performance.
On offense, the Bandits never did get going. Buffalo was in trouble from the start, falling behind by a 3-0 score after the first quarter.
“There were lots of times it looked like we were rusty,” forward Mark Steenhuis said. “We were excited about the opener, but maybe we were a bit too jittery. We didn’t play well until the second half. We played a sloppy first half. We were all over the floor.”
The Mammoth packed in their defense around goalie Dillon Ward, daring the Bandits to beat the netminder from the outside. The strategy worked well for most of the contest.
“We watched film, we talked about it, we had a gameplan for that,” Cordingley said. “We didn’t stick to the gameplan. We didn’t even go to the gameplan. That’s the frustrating thing. We forgot how hard it is to get where we got last year. It’s hard, and we didn’t want to put any effort into it.”
Ryan Benesch and Alex Kedoh Hill had three goals each, but Dhane Smith was held to three assists.
“There was one guy who came to play tonight, and that was Kehoh Hill,” Cordingley said. “He was the only guy that played with any sense of urgency, heart and passion.”
In the other direction, the Mammoth always seemed to have an answer for the Bandits. They broke down the Buffalo defense for odd-man rushes, and scored huge goals when the Bandits seemed to have a bit of momentum.
“Sometimes that’s the way it goes when you lose,” Steenhuis said. “You think you are crawling back – you get one, you get two, the game is starting to change. Then they squeak one through the 5-hole and it kind of deflates you on the bench.”
Zack Greer had three goals and two assists in his first game for Colorado, while Callum Crawford and Jacob Reust had two goals.
The Bandits have two weeks to work on their problems, starting with a practice on Tuesday. Buffalo hasn’t played a poor game like this in some time, but Smith knows that the next workout will be a tough one than usual.
“By about 1,000 percent,” he said. “I’m not looking forward to Tuesday. It’s going to be hard, but that’s what we need.”