Buffalo – Dhane Smith and Mark Steenhuis each scored four goals while backup goalie Davide DiRuscio came on in relief to make 43 saves as the Buffalo Bandits cruised to a 12-7 victory over the New England Black Wolves on Saturday night at the First Niagra Center.
As a result of the loss, the Black Wolves (10-7) are now locked in as the No. 2 seed in the East Division of the NLL playoffs and will host the Georgia Swarm at 7 p.m. on Friday, May 6th at Mohegan Sun Arena. The Swarm clinched the No. 3 seed in the East Division with a win over Vancouver Saturday night.
Buffalo (13-5) set a franchise record for wins and Smith (four goals, two assists) set an NLL single-season record for goals with 72. He scored four times in the first half and finished with six points. He added to his NLL scoring record, finishing the season with 137 points. New England forward Shawn Evans set the old record of 130 last year as a member of the Calgary Roughnecks.
The Black Wolves were down just 4-3 following an unassisted goal by Kyle Buchanan 3:54 into the second quarter. But the Bandits exploded with four unanswered goals – two by Steenhuis and one each from Smith and Ryan Benesch – in a span of just 7:12 to build an 8-3 lead at the half.
New England received a spark to start the second half when Brett Bucktooth scored 2:25 into the third quarter. But Benesch (three goals, four assists) answered for the Bandits less than two minutes later, and Steenhuis (four goals, three assists) followed up with two more goals later in the third quarter to make it 11-4.
DiRuscio – pressed into service nine minutes into the game after starter Anthony Cosmo was injured in a collision with New England forward Jordan Hall – gave up just two goals with 19 saves during the first half, turning away a number of good chances by the Black Wolves.
Hall finished with two goals and two assists to lead the Black Wolves in scoring. Shawn Evans added to his single-season career high with his 50th goal while NLL saves leader Evan Kirk surpassed 600 for the year.
The Black Wolves close out the regular season at Mohegan Sun Arena Sunday at 6 p.m. against Rochester.