BUFFALO – You couldn’t get any closer than the Buffalo Bandits and the defending NLL Championship Cup winning Saskatchewan Rush for most of Game #1 of the two-Game, home-and-home series.
The teams ran neck and neck for three quarters, but Saskatchewan nosed ahead, 11-9, at the finish line.
“Both teams are battling for the cup, you can’t get any tighter than that was tonight,” said Bandits coach Troy Cordingley. “Unfortunately they went on a run late and time ran out on us.”
The Rush got off to a 2-0 first quarter lead and 3-0 on an early second quarter powerplay. Anthony Malcom popped the bubble around Saskatchewan goalie Aaron Bold at 2:13. Dhane Smith breached the wall Bold had built opening the floodgate as Ryan Benesch, Mark Steenhuis, Malcom with his second, and Six Nations’ Alex Kedoh Hill contributed with a Bandits’ goal scored at 9:43 of the second quarter. The Rush had also been scoring between Bandit goals but the game was even at 6-6 at the half.
Each team scored twice in the third quarter to bring the score to 8-8 with 15 minutes left on the regulation time clock.
Benesch delivered Buffalo’s go ahead goal unassisted at 4:18. Once again, Saskatchewan wouldn’t let the Bandits break out and tied the score yet again, at 5:04.
The Rush took the lead back at 10:44 and added an insurance marker at 11:34 holding the Bandits off until the final buzzer sounded.
“Tonight was a battle for 60 minutes and we expect Game #2 to be a battle for 60 minutes. If there’s a Game #3, we expect the same thing.”
If Buffalo wins the series returns to Buffalo for an all-deciding Game #3.