Maybe the answer to the Buffalo Bandits' offensive woes is out there on the road. Because playing in HSBC Arena the past two games has yielded hard times. The five-time National Lacrosse League champion Toronto Rock kept the Bandits in their scoring funk Saturday night and left town with a 10-8 victory before 14,064 unhappy fans.
"I'm not mad at their effort," said Bandits coach Darris Kilgour, whose team was held to single digits two games in a row for the first time since he took over in 2003.
"It's not a matter that we're getting outworked, it's just a matter that we can't score," said Kilgour, whose team lost, 11-8, to the Minnesota Swarm a week earlier. "It's disheartening, and if I knew the answer I'd fix it right now. It's something we're just going to have to work through."
The Rock (7-5) won for the seventh time in eight outings, erasing the memory of an 0-4 start that included two losses to Buffalo. The Bandits, who play four of their next five away from home, dropped to 4-4.
"I think we need a road game to kind of find ourselves a bit," said Bandits forward John Tavares, held to just two points for the second straight game after receiving a plaque and crystal trophy in a pregame ceremony recognizing his becoming the NLL career scoring leader last week against the Swarm.
"Maybe we're a little complacent at home right now," said Tavares, who had a goal and an assist. "At the beginning of the season we tried to raise the bar, but here we are again, two straight home losses. I think the road is going to help us out."
The Bandits will get a chance to test that theory Saturday in the Blue Cross Arena at the Rochester War Memorial against the Knighthawks (7-4), who lead the East.
"Right now we're a .500 club, but we know we're better than that," said Bandits captain Rich Kilgour, who gave his team its last lead at 5-4 when he scored midway through the third quarter. "Hopefully, we'll get our stuff together on the road."
The game was tied six times before Toronto took the lead for good with 9:48 remaining, when Blaine Manning beat Bandits goalie Steve Dietrich to make it 7-6. Just 35 seconds later, Aaron Wilson scored the last of his two goals to make it 8-6.
Jon Harasym's second goal of the season, on a power play with 6:26 left, gave the Bandits hope, but back-to-backers by Josh Sanderson and Jim Veltman in the final four minutes clinched it for the Rock. Veltman's came with Dietrich pulled for an extra attacker and just 1:48 remaining.
"This was one of those games," said Veltman, the Rock captain who had two goals, two assists and a game-high eight loose balls. "We didn't want to go back to .500 and be one of the bottom feeders. We wanted to be a top feeder, and I thought we proved that tonight."
The Bandits wasted a superb effort by Dietrich, who made 39 saves. But the Rock's Bob Watson, who ranks third among foes with nine career victories over Buffalo, was even better with 49 stops.
"I think we hit some hit posts, especially in the third and fourth quarters," said Dan Teat, who was the only Bandit to score twice. "Take nothing away from Watson, but we did hit the inside of the pipe a time or two. But we're gonna break out sooner or later and get a pit full one game, where there's 15 or 20 on the board for us."
The Bandits did a great job limiting the Rock's elite scorers. Colin Doyle was the fourth Toronto player with two goals, and his score on a power play with 2:12 left in the third quarter gave the Rock its first lead of the game at 6-5.
With that goal, Doyle became just the fourth player in history to score 100 career points against the Bandits. Gary Gait (140), Tom Marechek (127) and Paul Gait (114), who are all retired, are the others, with Doyle sitting at 101.
Rookie Roger Vyse tallied his first score in a Buffalo uniform. The Bandits traded up to select Vyse with the 12th overall pick in last September's draft. Vyse, who set an NCAA Division II single-season record with 71 goals for Limestone (S.C.) College last spring, had missed the first seven games because of a preseason knee injury but buried a shot late in the second quarter to give the Bandits a 3-2 lead.
"When you have chance after chance and you don't score, it gets harder on Chugger [Dietrich] and the defense," lamented Darris Kilgour. "It's a huge concern."