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Quick hits: Rush 17, Bandits 14

The rematch of last year's National Lacrosse League finals on Saturday night looked a little like the 2016 playoff games between the teams.

That is to say, Saskatchewan was just a little better.

The Rush held off the Buffalo Bandits,  17-14, at KeyBank Center. The Bandits fell to 5-8, while Saskatchewan moved to 9-4.

Buffalo fought out of an early hole to get close in the final quarter, but the Rush had enough to score some timely goals to stay ahead. Dhane Smith led the Bandits with three goals and four assists.

THE FIRST HALF: Everything looked good for Buffalo at the start of the game. Smith and Benesch had goals in the first two minutes to put the Bandits ahead, 2-0.

The good feelings didn't last long. The Rush scored seven of the next eight goals to take a substantial lead. What's more, it was tough to know where the Saskatchewan offense would come from next. Seven different players scored for the Rush during that stretch.

Anthony Cosmo was pulled from the game as the Buffalo goalie, and Dave DiRuscio replaced him. It was the fifth time that the Bandits have changed goalies in the middle of a game this season.

GOAL OF THE NIGHT: Nick Weiss fought off a check from behind the net, jumped in the air and stuffed the ball into the net from behind for a fourth-quarter goal. John Tavares, now a Bandits' assistant coach, surely was proud.

THE WEEKLY MOVES: Buffalo completed a few roster changes before the game. Blaze Riorden was activated for the contest. Meanwhile, Justin Martin was assigned to the practice squad, and Anthony Malcom went on the Physically Unable to Perform List.

COACHING TREE: The list of all-time leaders in coaching wins in the National Lacrosse League is quite interesting. Darris Kilgour is the all-time leader at 121, but Saskatchewan coach Derek Keenan is coming up fast in second place. He entered Saturday's game with 119, so he could take over the top spot this season. Troy Cordingley of the Bandits is third at 94.

All three played together for the Bandits at the start of the franchise. Who was the coach of those teams? Les Bartley, who is in fourth place at 89. Bartley's winning percentage is .710, tops among those with at least eight career wins.

PACKING THEM IN: There's a new leader in the attendance derby in the NLL. It's Saskatchewan, with close to 15,000 per game. That's impressive, considering the size of the city and the fact that it's not a big building.

"It's been amazing," Keenan said about the fan support for the Rush. "It's a smaller town, and we obviously went there with a good team and caught on quickly. Now we're recognized everywhere. Every flight we get on, there are people who recognize us. It's fantastic."

The NLL has been looking at some big cities as future expansion targets. The example set by Saskatoon - in which indoor lacrosse is the only pro game in town - might change some thinking.

"We were fortunate to take a championship team in there," Keenan said. "An expansion team can take longer to build. ... People are excited about us. They pack the place every night, and they are loud and crazy - it's a lot like here."


SHOOT THE BALL: The Bandits are coming off a game in which they tied a franchise record for fewest shots in a game: 33. That didn't help in the disappointing loss to Rochester. Cordingley certainly wasn't happy about it.

"Early on, we were playing too cute, making too many passes instead of taking opportunities to shoot. Then we were throwing the ball away," he said. "Rochester is known for its defense. Playing against them, you have to earn your opportunities. We had a lot of quality shots, but that doesn't show up in the stats."

NEXT UP: The Bandits play three more games on the road, including a stop in Calgary next Saturday. The contest with the Rush was their lone home game out of seven. Buffalo will host Georgia on April 22.

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