The Buffalo Bandits turned out to be a cure for whatever ailed the Colorado Mammoth on Saturday night.
The Mammoth came to Buffalo a tired, wounded team. They had lost five straight games, including a contest in Toronto on Friday night. Their 2-7 record was the worst in the National Lacrosse League.
Yet it was the Bandits who came up with the clunker of a performance. They gave up the final eight goals to drop a 12-6 decision before 16,428 in the First Niagara Center.
“We were probably flat from start to finish,” Buffalo defenseman Scott Self said.
“We had no energy, no desire, no will to compete,” Bandits coach Darris Kilgour added.
This was a somewhat strange game from start to finish, with Buffalo’s poor play serving as the only constant. Yet this was a game that was up for grabs until the midpoint of the fourth quarter.
The Bandits’ woes started with a strange looking first quarter. Buffalo had only five shots in the opening 15 minutes to Colorado’s 13, yet it was the Bandits who had a 3-0 lead.
Buffalo had a couple of power plays in the second period, and a goal or two there might have caused a theoretically tired Colorado team to let down. But the Bandits couldn’t connect.
“Our power play was brutal,” Kilgour said.
“We killed some penalties; our PK had been struggling,” Colorado coach Bob Hamley said.
The Mammoth climbed back into the game by scoring three straight goals. At halftime, the teams were tied, 4-4, even though the shots were in Colorado’s favor by a 32-14 margin. Buffalo came within a shot of tying a team record for fewest shots in a half.
“At halftime, we knew we weren’t playing that well, but we had at least put ourselves in position so that we needed to play 30 good minutes to win,” Self said.
Buffalo had about 10 of those minutes, taking a 6-4 lead late in the third quarter. Then came a complete collapse. Jordan McBride gave Colorado its first lead early in the fourth quarter, and the Mammoth never looked back.
Colorado did an excellent job of keeping Buffalo’s big guns off the scoreboard. Shawn Williams, Luke Wiles and Aaron Wilson were blanked in the goal-scoring department.
“It was just an off game for us,” said rookie Dhane Smith, who had two goals. “That’s going to happen once or twice a year.”
The Bandits’ frustration over a long night bubbled over in the final minute. With about 30 seconds left, the Mammoth called timeout. When play resumed, all 10 runners on the field paired off in a series of fights.
“Our guy was in trouble along the board with three guys on him,” Hamley said. “I wanted to save him from getting beaten.”
“That happened to us against Rochester,” Self said. “We were a little bit frustrated. It was a hard-fought game, and it was pretty spontaneous.”
The altercations didn’t change the fact that Colorado had earned a badly needed win under difficult circumstances.
“We’ve struggled on the game sheets. I thought we played well in the last three or four games, but they just weren’t dropping for us,” Hamley said. “Tonight we got some timely goals in the second half.”
As for the Bandits, who fell to 5-5 after a second straight loss, Kilgour hopes his team can rebound after an all-around poor performance.
“It was frustrating standing behind the bench,” he said. “We let the fans down. We should be disappointed in our play.”
The same teams play next Saturday night in Denver.