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Bandits beat New England Black Wolves to move into first in East Division

The Buffalo Bandits won a third straight game, surviving a comeback effort by the New England Black Wolves to win 18-13.

With the win, the Bandits passed New England and the Toronto Rock to move into first place in the East Division entering tonight’s home game at KeyBank Center with the Georgia Swarm (7:30 p.m., Radio 1520).

Buffalo’s Josh Byrne, who scored a career-high five goals last week against Rochester, had another excellent performance. He had three goals and two assists. Mitch Jones had a goal and six assists, Dhane Smith had four goals and an assist and Callum Crawford notched two goals and three assists.

The victory is the 100th in the regular season for Bandits head coach Troy Cordingley in his career.

Shawn Evans and Kevin Crowley were the heavy lifters for New England. Crowley had a game-high eight points on four goals and four assists. Evans had five goals and two assists.

The Bandits got out to a quick start, as Crawford scored 13 seconds into the game. Buffalo held a 4-2 lead after the first quarter thanks to a pair of goals by Byrne and one each from Craig England and Crawford.

Byrne’s second goal was one of the nicest of the rookie’s young career, a dunk shot over New England goalie Aaron Bold’s right shoulder while leaping into the crease.

The Bandits pulled away at the start of the second, scoring three straight to open the frame. Crawford scored through Bold’s legs to push the lead to 7-2 with 9:38 left in the quarter.

New England didn’t back down. Evans scored a pair of goals, one shorthanded, and Crowley scored once to cut the Buffalo lead to 7-5 with just over three minutes remaining before the half.

The teams traded goals to end the frame, as the Bandits went into the break with an 8-6 lead.

New England’s run in the second wasn’t an anomaly, as the Black Wolves goals kept coming at the start of the third.

New England scored the first four goals of the second half, one each for Crowley, Evans, Stephan LeBlanc and Kyle Buchanan, to take a 10-8 lead in the first four minutes of the third frame.

The Bandits did their part in the seesaw game, ending the third on a five-goal run of their own to make it 13-10 after 45 minutes.

New England got as close as one goal twice in the fourth quarter, but the Bandits never allowed an equalizer. Buffalo ended the game on a four-goal run, including an empty-netter from Kevin Brownell, to seal it.

Defenseman Thomas Hoggarth played his first game as a Bandit after being acquired in a trade with the Vancouver Stealth on Monday. He scored the first goal of the game-ending fourth-quarter run.

The Bandits are back in action Saturday at home against Georgia, as Buffalo faces a back-to-back situation for the first time this season. The Swarm haven't played since Jan. 27.

Georgia, the reigning National Lacrosse League champion, has won two straight to move to 3-3. The Swarm have last year’s Most Valuable Player, Lyle Thompson, and Defensive Player of the Year, Jason Noble.

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