On a night when the Buffalo Bandits had a variety of good reasons for wanting to win an indoor lacrosse game, it was the Calgary Roughnecks that came up with the victory.
The Roughnecks defeated the Bandits, 16-13, before 16,606 in the First Niagara Center on Saturday. The season’s largest crowd was hoping to see Buffalo end a three-game losing streak, celebrate a milestone for John Tavwares, clinch a home playoff game, and provide support for Tucker Williams, the 8-year-old son of Bandit Shawn Williams, on “Tucker Out Lymphoma Night” at the arena. Instead the fans filed out of the building feeling disappointed.
“It would have been great to win this one,” Jay Thorimbert of the Bandits said. “Tucker is trying to win his battle, and he’s doing that. We wanted to pull one out for him.”
They couldn’t, and it was easy to pick out where the game got away. The Bandits held a three-goal lead early in the fourth quarter. That’s when they were hit by a Calgary onslaught that came in waves. The Roughnecks scored six straight goals in a span of less than six minutes, and suddenly Calgary was the team up by three.
“Our defense was so tired at the end that for the first time all night they were losing assignments and things,” Bandits coach Troy Cordingley said. “That’s what happens when the defense plays a lot, especially when they are chasing numbers. You’re going to get out of it what you put into it. We have to go back to practice and go to work.”
Dane Dobbie had two of his four goals in that spurt, while Curtis Dickson had two other scores.
The Roughnecks weren’t supposed to come into the game with that sort of finishing kick. Calgary had played Friday night in Philadelphia, and won. For the first three quarters, the Roughnecks never led as the Bandits controlled the play.
“We showed up ready to go, and at halftime we felt good about things,” said Thorimbert, who had two goals on the night.
Buffalo couldn’t add to its three-goal lead in the third quarter, despite having an 18-7 edge in shots. That might have been a warning sign, but trading goals didn’t seem to be the worst idea under the circumstances. The Bandits’ third goal of the period was the 800th of Tavares’ career.
“It always takes me awhile to get a milestone, and it always seems to happen with a loss,” the 45-year-old star said. “It was a power-play goal. I just reached and bounced it in. It was a relief to get it more than anything. The nice thing is, there’s no pressure for the next 99 goals.”
Cordingley added, “JT used to play when we only played eight games in a season – then 10, then 12. Imagine how many goals he’d have if we always played 18 games in a season. He’s the best ever at this game.”
Tavares has scored his 800 goals in 293 games. Second on the National Lacrosse League’s career scoring list is Gary Gait with a “mere” 635.
The Tavares goal was Buffalo’s last for more than 14 minutes, while the Roughnecks were dominating play.
“Games are full of runs. The goals, like wins and losses, can come in bunches,” Thorimbert said.
“You could see the confidence when they had the ball. When we got the ball, we started to panic a bit,” Tavares added. “They had a good run when it counted.”
The Bandits still had a chance to clinch second place in the NLL East on Saturday night. Toronto needed to lose its game in Vancouver late Saturday night for that to happen; the game ended too late for this edition. Still, Buffalo has gone from 8-2 to 8-6 in short order.
“We’ve got to get back to sticking to the game plan for 60 minutes. We have to get back to having everyone accountable,” Cordingley said. “We’ve got to go back to the hunger. In training camp, guys were scared. They didn’t know if they’d make the team or not, so they battled. All of a sudden after our game against Colorado, we’ve basically mailed it in for the last couple of games. “
The Bandits will try again to rediscover their winning ways next Saturday in Minnesota.