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Rock-bottom for Bandits after loss to Toronto

Photo courtesy of Dave Marino from TOronto game

blog by Ben Tsujimoto  • 

When defending NLL champion Toronto started the season 4-6, there was certainly cause for concern, but the problems were fixable. A lack of continuity, untimely injuries and shaky goalkeeping kept the team fighting for .500, but after two straight wins—the most recent a 15-9 thumping of the Buffalo Bandits Saturday night—it’s clear the Rock’s problems are being addressed. Not so for the Bandits.

Mental meltdowns have been the story for Buffalo, who drop to 4-8 after conceding six unanswered goals in the final quarter. The Rock’s Garrett Billings led the way with a hand in every Toronto goal—four goals and 11 assists—and goalie Nick Rose, acquired at the trade deadline to replace released Matt Roik, kept Buffalo at bay with 35 saves on 44 shots.

“Shift to shift this [Buffalo] team is up and down. I can’t describe it anymore. I’ve put enough emotion into this team, and it’s time for them to buck up, man up and do what the team needs them to do and not what they want to do,” head coach Darris Kilgour said with exasperation.

“We’re too stupid. Start the fourth, we take a five-minute penalty, we false start on that five minute penalty three times on the faceoff and just say here, you’re on fire on the power play, just start with it. It’s absolutely stupid—it’s unbelievable how we have no game sense,” he continued.

After consecutive goals by John Tavares and Tom Montour brought Buffalo to within one goal at 9-8, Darryl Gibson committed an illegal crosscheck penalty to the neck of Dan Carey, who ducked coming across the offensive zone. In man-down for the next five minutes, Billings, Doyle and Stephan Leblanc solved Bandits’ goalie Mike Thompson in a clinical power play that boasted fast ball movement, crisp passes and adept finishing. Buffalo’s defensive slides to adjust were repeatedly too late.

Trailing by five after another Billings goal, the Bandits removed Thompson and replaced him with Anthony Cosmo, who allowed goals on the first two shots he faced.

Even from the start, the game looked promising for Troy Cordingley’s club, now winners of two straight. A five-minute high-sticking penalty to Buffalo rookie Jeremy Thompson, who was trying to send a message to Rock captain Colin Doyle three minutes into the game, immediately put the Bandits on their heels, as Billings, Dan Carey and Stephan Leblanc all beat Thompson.

The Rock proceeded to hit five posts in the second quarter alone, as Thompson was continually bailed out by his woodwork. In the end, Toronto out-shot Kilgour’s club 60-44.

“The first time we were down here, we actually played really well but we didn’t get the ‘W.’ We had the same game-plan—we always try to get about 60 shots, and this time the bounces went our way, a little more than the first time around,” Billings said following the game.

“I’ve been saying all year that I’ve had a tough time putting the ball in the net. I’ve had a ton of shots, but the balls weren’t jumping in. Tonight, four squeak in and I’m pretty happy about that, and Steph [Leblanc] had a good night, and he’s the main guy I’m passing to most of the time—and Kasey Beirnes—so if they’re scoring, I’m going to get some assists,” Billings explained.

John Tavares’ four goals and one assist paced Buffalo, while Tom Montour (one goal, three assists) and Mat Giles (one goal, two assists) were the only other Bandits to record more than two points.

The Bandits welcome Dan Dawson, Kevin Crowley and first-place Philadelphia to town next Saturday night, looking to rise from the cellar of the East Division. Buffalo sits three games back of first in the East—a hefty margin with only four regular season games remaining—and maintain a half-game advantage over Washington for the final playoff spot.

With the team in complete disarray, a helpless, dejected Kilgour was a man without answers in the post-game scrum.

“We’ll play the season out—dump seven or eight players—and then move on next year if I’m lucky enough to be here,” Kilgour lamented.

TAGGED: buffalo bandits, colin doyle, darris kilgour, garrett billings, john tavares, nll, nll lacrosse, toronto rock

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