UNCASVILLE, Conn. - Alex Kedoh Hill appears to have regained his scoring touch for the Buffalo Bandits at exactly the right time.
Hill, who fills a variety of roles for the team, hadn’t been much of a factor on offense in recent weeks. But with the playoffs underway, Hill had a huge game in helping the Bandits take a 15-10 win from the New England Black Wolves. The game was played before 3,697 in Mohegan Sun Arena, and it gave the Bandits a 1-0 lead in the National Lacrosse League East final.
Hill finished the game with four goals on six shots - pretty good for someone who had 15 goals during the entire regular season, and only two in the last five games.
“Just the fact that we’re in the playoffs got me going,” Hill said. “I found out pretty quickly that things were working for me.”
Hill’s goals all came at important times, too. He had three in the first 17 minutes of play, when Buffalo crawled out of an early 3-0 hole to take the lead for good. Then when New England was showing a few signs of life in the fourth quarter, Hill scored No. 4 to help keep his team in control.
“Scoring early definitely helps building confidence that you can help the team,” Hill said. “It was just one of those nights. I got one and kept going.”
“Kedoh this morning was really picking the corners,” coach Troy Cordingley said. “His stick was really on. We even moved things around to get him on the power play. He scored two beauties. This guy logs a lot of minutes for us.”
Hill had plenty of help, naturally, as the league’s top-scoring offense had another excellent night of work. The ringleaders, as usual, were Ryan Benesch and Dhane Smith. Benesch had three goals and six assists for nine points. Smith, the league’s scoring champion, had five goals and two assists for seven points.
“We just stuck to the game plan that John Tavares had for us,” Benesch said. “We were moving the ball well, and we were working hard away from the ball.”
Most of the doubt about this one from a Bandits’ point of view took place in the first few minutes. New England jumped out to a 3-0 lead with less than six minutes gone. It wasn’t a case of the Buffalo offense playing badly; it couldn’t even get out on the floor as the Black Wolves dominated possession time.
“What impressed me the most was how calm and collected we were,” defenseman Billy Dee Smith said. “For a Buffalo Bandits team to do that used to be pretty unusual. They had a 3-0 lead, but our offense only had about two shifts in that time.
“The offense didn’t get mad. They just went to work. It was a matter of belief.”
While New England was not likely to continue to dominate in that manner, Buffalo did catch a break when Derek Suddons of the Black Wolves was called for a delayed penalty. Benesch scored before the penalty was assessed to make it a 3-1 game, and Suddons left on a five-minute major call.
The Bandits got a power-play goal from Hill soon after that, and Mitch Jones later chipped in with a score. That tied it. Buffalo scored eight of the game’s next 10 goals to go from 3-3 to 11-5.
The win in the game was helpful for the Bandits, but it actually doesn’t mean that much in a best-of-two series. They must win either the regulation game on Saturday night in First Niagara Center, or the 10-minute “mini-game,” which would immediately follow.
Plenty of work remains for the Bandits to earn their first trip to the NLL finals since 2008.
“The guys know that one bad night can end the season,” Smith said. “We hopefully got into some good habits in this one. We’ll look at what we can do next time, and try to get better.”