Lacrosse players often talk about how important it is to put in a performance for all 60 minutes of a game.
On Saturday night, the Buffalo Bandits played extremely well for 50 minutes. It turned out to be just enough for a victory.
The Bandits hung on for a 12-10 victory over the New England Black Wolves before 13,556 in First Niagara Center. Both teams’ records moved to 3-2 – good for a tie for first in the National Lacrosse League East Division – with this result in the books.
Buffalo seemed headed for a comfortable win with 10 minutes left. It was cruising with an 11-6 lead. Then the Black Wolves started eroding the advantage like a steady drip of water.
“They got on a late momentum run, and we stopped making things happen,” Bandits coach Troy Cordingley said. “We were kind of caught back on our heels. ... No excuses. We have to be better in that situation, but we found a way to win.”
Buffalo’s defense made two stops in the final minute of play, and Kevin Brownell sealed matters with an empty-netter in the final second. Only then could the Bandits and their fans exhale.
Until that point, Buffalo had turned in an extremely solid all-around performance against a team that had the upper hand when the squads met in New England last week. The Bandits’ improved play came even though they were missing two of their top players this time in forward Ryan Benesch and goalie Anthony Cosmo.
Benesch, out with a concussion, was replaced by a balanced offensive attack. Nine players scored.
“Ryan is such a threat out there, so we all definitely needed to kind of pick our games up,” forward Daryl Veltman said. “We needed to move our feet more, find those positions, find the guy in the middle. I think we all stepped up, and we were getting shots from all over the floor. It makes it hard to guard us.”
As usual, Dhane Smith – fresh off his selection as the National Lacrosse League’s player of the month for January – had another good night with three goals and three assists. But eight other Bandits scored goals, and Veltman chipped in with five points.
“We played well for the most part,” Smith said. “We got the win, and that’s what we wanted.”
Some of those contributions came from young players. Anthony Malcom had a nice goal, and Tyler Ferreira had a goal and two assists in his first NLL game.
“The last couple of weeks, we’ve put a lot of good work in practice with them,” Veltman said. “They’ve been getting over the top, getting into the middle, moving their feet. I thought they played great. They were doing what we had planned on in practice. It showed.
“Anthony got underneath on that goal - the guy’s quick. He can use that to his advantage. And Tyler’s got that rip from outside. He can use that when he finds that soft spot and lets it go.”
At the other end of the floor, Cosmo was suffering from a sore knee. He told backup Dave DiRuscio on Friday night that he probably couldn’t play on Saturday, and DiRuscio got the word during the morning shootaround that he’d be in goal.
“It went well,” DiRuscio said. “The D played really great. They gave me the shots I wanted, and that allowed me to really win the game.”
“You just love everything about Davey,” Cordingley said. “His work ethic, his attitude, he played really well. It’s a good thing. He’s a goalie, and he made some big saves.”
DiRuscio even took a roughing penalty in the third period that charged up the fans. When Shawn Evans of the Black Wolves entered the crease, DiRuscio gave him a hard shove on his way out.
“He doesn’t go in there. That’s my area,” he said. “That’s what is going to happen to anyone that goes in there.”
The Bandits have alternated wins and losses so far this season, going 3-0 at home and 0-2 on the road. Smith would like to see those road problems end in Georgia next week.
“We need to focus on that,” he said. “We need to win away from home and get on a streak.”