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Bandits sink to 1-4 with one-sided loss in Toronto

TORONTO - The Buffalo Bandits' problems are not merely starting to mount up. They have started to multiply.

In a season that turned surprisingly sour right from the start, the Bandits played their worst game to date on Friday night. They dropped an 18-10 decision to the Toronto Rock in the Air Canada Centre to fall to 1-4.

The loss was Buffalo's worst in almost two years, at least statistically. The Bandits lost in Edmonton, 14-5, in 2015. As could be expected, Buffalo coach Troy Cordingley didn't like anything about his team's performance.

"We're a selfish team right now," he said. "We're not even a team. We're as far from a team as we can be. We're the farthest thing from what we were last year.

"That game was embarrassing."

The list of problems was a long one. Perhaps the first one is that the team began another game badly, something that took place in the Buffalo's first two losses. The Bandits were down, 8-2, early in the second quarter. Even in a sport where goals can come in bunches, that's a big hole.

"For some reason that's been happening," Alex Kedoh Hill said. "We've got to come out and keep playing hard. We play Bandits lacrosse for a couple of minutes at a time. Then something happens, we have a couple of bad shifts, and it ends up in the back of our net."

The Bandits were a step behind the Rock throughout the night. It showed up in a couple of important areas. Toronto had a 92-72 edge in loose balls, and it seemed like the Rock got to most of the balls that were 50-50.

"They outworked us in every facet of the game," Cordingley said. "Whether it was faceoffs or loose balls, our ball retrieval was the poorest I've ever seen. It comes down to work. It comes down to effort. We didn't have that."

Then on the defense, the Bandits allowed far too many opportunities for the Rock to score from close range. Sometimes good Toronto passing caused good chances, while at other times it was a case of individual effort. Buffalo was a step behind much of the night.

Tom Schreiber had three goals and seven assists for the Rock, while Stephen Leblanc finished with nine points and Brett Hickey had seven.

The Buffalo offense received a bit of a lift from the return of Dhane Smith, who missed two full games and most of a third with an ankle injury. Smith and Hill, who also came off the injured list this week, had two goals each.

"I'm a little beat up," Smith said after the game after showing a slight limp in coming out of the locker room. "It feels like I'm out of shape after a few weeks off. I need to get my rhythm back. I found out Thursday I'd be playing. I may have rushed back a little too soon, but I felt pretty good out there."

Cordingley added, "He was anxious to play. He puts pressure on himself. That why he's such a special player."

A look at the standings reveal something about the team's situation. Buffalo is in last place in the National Lacrosse League's East Division, and are 3.5 games behind the first-place Georgia Swarm with more than a quarter of the season over.

It's a stunning reversal for a team that went 13-5 last season to win the East and went to the NLL finals. It's still early, but the situation is serious.

"It's not where we want to be, but it's where we are," Hill said.

"We're going to do what we have to do to get out of this funk and turn things around," Cordingley said. "This is not good. We've got to fix it."

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