The pendulum of momentum swung back and forth during a St. Patrick’s Day clash between the Vancouver Stealth and visiting Buffalo Bandits at the Langley Events Centre.
But a mighty swing in the third quarter knocked the Stealth senseless, and they never recovered.
The Bandits completely dominated much of the second half, scoring eight unanswered goals to transform a one-goal halftime deficit into a lead that the Stealth just couldn’t overcome as they fell 15-11.
A late push by the Stealth that saw them score four straight goals in the fourth quarter wasn’t enough to dig them out of the hole in which they found themselves.
The win improved the Bandits’ National Lacrosse League record to 5-6 while the loss put an abrupt end to the Stealth’s two-game winning streak and dropped their record to 5-7.
Stealth forward Corey Small, who finished the night with three goals and three assists and continues to lead the NLL in scoring with 78 points, said Vancouver couldn’t slow down the Bandits’ momentum.
“Two penalties to start the first half and next thing you know, we’re down two goals,” Small said. “We lose a little bit of composure and we let the doubt kind of sink into our minds and that resulted in an eight-goal run by them. We can’t let that happen. We’ve got to find a way to break that, whether it’s a big play on defence or transition or offensively, we’ve got to find a way to get a goal and break up that run.”
Bandits coach Troy Cordingley said discipline was the key for his team in the second half.
“We stayed out of the penalty box,” Cordingley said. “I thought we had a real good start tonight, we were up 4-1, and then all of the sudden we want to get even with guys who were taking cheap shots or whatever happened — it’s the game of lacrosse. You have to control your emotions and we want our guys to be able to play with emotion but not emotional, and we were emotional in the first half.”
Cordingley sent a message to his troops at halftime: keep your cool.
“Do we want to kick the crap out of guys and get even or do we want to win the game? I thought the guys played a remarkable second half, a very, very disciplined second half. So I thought that was the difference, there.”
Both teams wanted to keep on the winning track.
After stumbling to a 1-5 start, the Bandits had won three of their last four outings going into the game.
After opening the season with two road wins, the Stealth dropped their next five. Since then, they, too, have come up on top in three of their last four outings.
The first half of Saturday’s game went back and forth and with 3.3 seconds to go before the break, Duch wired a shot past Bandits goalie Anthony Cosmo to put the Stealth ahead 7-6.
The Stealth crumbled in the third quarter.
Six unanswered Buffalo goals turned the home team’s one-goal lead into a five-goal deficit as Buffalo took a commanding 12-7 lead.
In the fourth quarter, Stealth goalie Tye Belanger was pulled from the net after the Bandits’ Craig England scored his team’s 14th goal on Buffalo’s 42nd shot.
But the Stealth never gave up and shockingly, considering how the third quarter went, rallied with four straight goals.
The bleeding finally stopped with 4:06 remaining when Small found a hole in Cosmo’s defence with a diving shot.
It was the first of two by Small, who completed his hat trick to make it 14-9.
A breakaway pass by Tyler Richards, who came into the net in relief of Belanger, found Peter McFettridge alone and he found the net.
Durston then tallied his hat trick goal, and those who stuck around in the LEC had the building buzzing.
Looking for a miracle, the Stealth pulled Richards for an extra attacker but that opened an opportunity for Anthony Malcolm to score an empty netter to close out the scoring.
Small said the four-goal run gave the Stealth some hope.
“You never know,” he said. “I’ve been part of teams that have scored four goals in under two (minutes). It’s possible, we’ve got the firepower to do it, but you can’t leave it to the last two minutes of the game to bring it back. There’s always that chance.”
Next up for the Bandits is a game in Rochester against the Nighthawks on March 25.
The Stealth head to Toronto’s Air Canada Centre to play the Rock on March 25.