The Buffalo Bandits had nothing at stake as a team during Sunday night’s game against the New England Black Wolves. After all, they had clinched the third and final playoff spot in the National Lacrosse League East on Saturday night with their win against Vancouver.
Therefore, the Bandits could rest a couple of veterans (John Tavares and Billy Dee Smith), and have some fun. It certainly showed, as Buffalo earned a 20-9 win in Uncasville, Conn. – the Bandits’ first victory of the season over the Black Wolves in three tries. Along the way, one of the team’s major individual records was shattered.
Ryan Benesch had four goals to run his total to 52 on the season. That broke the record previously held by John Tavares (2001 and 2009) and Mark Steenhuis (2009). Benesch did have a longer season to reach the number, since Buffalo (10-7) now plays an 18-game schedule. The 2001 Bandits team played 14 games, while the ’09 edition played 16.
Benesch finished with four assists to go with his four goals. That brought his season total to 101 points. He led the team last season in scoring with 78 points. Buffalo hasn’t had a 100-point scorer since Steenhuis also tallied 101 points in 2009.
Benesch hasn’t wrapped up the team scoring title despite those numbers. Dhane Smith, in his first season as a full-time forward, added two goals and five assists on Sunday. He has 98 points with one game left on the season.
Steenhuis had his second big game in as many days. The forward, who had seven goals against Vancouver on Saturday, had five goals and six assists for 11 points.
Buffalo received other offensive support from a couple of other players in hitting the 20-goal mark for the first time since March 16, 2012. Alex Kedoh Hill had three goals and four assists, and Mitch Jones added a hat trick.
Buffalo will conclude its regular season on Saturday night at home against New England. The Bandits will play either Toronto or Rochester the following weekend on the road in their first-round playoff series.