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Bandits make it two straight wins by beating Rock

The Buffalo Bandits find themselves in an unfamiliar position by 2017 standards: They are on a winning streak.

The Bandits won their second straight game, a 15-12 win over the Toronto Rock, in the KeyBank Center on Saturday. That’s a relatively modest accomplishment eight games into the season, but it’s still a welcome one. A 3-5 record sounds much better than 1-5.

“It’s huge,” Bandits’ goalie Anthony Cosmo said about the back-to-back wins. “It helps us get right back in this thing. Now we have a little momentum going. It’s always good to get a couple of wins when any team in this league can beat any other team.”

For once this season, the Bandits put together a good team effort. The offense, defense and goaltending all made good-sized contributions to the victory.

Start with the offense, which kept up with a Toronto attack by using a diversified offense in which several players contributed. That was crucial for a team that didn’t have the services of Ryan Benesch, who is out because of injury.

“When a guy like that goes down, everyone has to step up,” said Brad Self, who moved up to forward for the night. “It’s a team game.”

The scoresheet indicated that Dhane Smith had a goal and nine assists, but he blended in so well with his teammates that the statistic even surprised Bandits coach Troy Cordingley.

“That’s why he is a great player,” he said about Smith. “He hadn’t been shooting the ball well, and he changed his game.”

Mitch Jones finished with four goals, while Self had three. But a couple of rookies made contributions too, as Blaze Riorden and Craig England had two goals each. That sort of balanced attack can put a smile on a coach’s face.

“It’s important to get goals from five, six or seven players,” Cordingley said. “It was our best game of the season for ball movement.”

The good offensive work was important, because Toronto was keeping up with the Bandits’ output for most of the night. Part of the reason was that the Rock went 5 for 6 on the power play - four of those goals coming in the first half.

“Discipline still seems to be an issue,” Cordingley said. “We made some dumb plays, and we can’t continue to do that. We can’t give that extra whack.”

“Adjustments are part of the game, and we’ve been a little slow on the uptake about adjusting to the officiating,” Jones said. “But we’ll figure it out. We have to play it smarter.”

The rate of scoring did go down in the second half, as the Bandits’ defense picked up its play.

“Full credit to them - we stuck to the gameplan and played physical,” Cordingley said about his defense. “We took away a lot of their shots.”

“It’s our best defensive effort by far - and it’s about time,” Cosmo said. “It’s a change in the right direction.”

The Bandits goaltender helped out with his best game of the season. Toronto finished the game with a 60-42 edge n shots on goal, but Cosmo stopped 48 of those Rock shots.

“That was huge,” Self said. “We haven’t helped him much this season, but obviously it’s good to see him back.”

“Cozzy is our goalie, and like the rest of us he got off to a slow start,” Jones said. “Now he’s turned things around.”

Add all of those factors, and the Bandits were in position to win in the fourth quarter, a welcome change from some other game this season. But they still had to get the winning goal, as the game was tied, 12-12, with less than three minutes to go. Then Alex Kedoh Hill gave the Bandits the lead for good with 2:09 left, and England added some breathing room only 36 seconds later.

A loss on Saturday would have dropped the Bandits to 2-6, tying the team record for worst eight-game start ever. But now Buffalo has a little confidence going into next weekend’s home-and-home set with the Rochester Knighthawks; the Bandits serve as the host on Friday night.

“It’s a big one; it’s good to win at home,” Cordingley said. “But we’re still at the bottom of the mountain.”

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