The Buffalo Bandits needed to show up for only 30 minutes Saturday night to soundly defeat New Jersey.
Such is the discrepancy between the have's and have-not's in the National Lacrosse League. Buffalo peppered New Jersey goalie Derek General with 50 shots on goal in the first half. Only the stellar play of General kept the game from becoming a laugher, as the Bandits held a 12-6 lead at halftime and cruised to a 19-12 victory before 7,967 fans at the HSBC Arena.
"I thought we played really well; we stuck to our game plan, played really good defense. Our defense was transitioning the ball well, and that gives us a lot of odd man opportunities," Bandits forward and game MVP Mike Accursi said. "We have a lot of guys that can put the ball in the net and we did that tonight."
"We played our systems and pressured them a lot and that caused a lot of turnovers and those turnovers turned into goals," Bandits defenseman Kyle Couling said.
The win kept Buffalo (12-3) on pace to capture the Central Division title and the No. 1 seed for the upcoming NLL playoffs. If Buffalo wins next weekend in Calgary, they will secure the division and the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.
The top seed in the playoffs enjoys a first round bye and home field advantage throughout. A loss at Calgary, coupled with a Rochester win against Philadelphia next weekend, would cost the Bandits the division and drop them down to the No. 4 seed.
Saturday's victory was an important win emotionally for a Buffalo team that was stung badly last week with a demoralizing blowout loss at Rochester.
"This was a big win for us, we wanted to set the tone," Accursi said. "We have some momentum from this and hopefully it will carry into next week in Calgary."
"After a weak effort in Rochester we wanted to come out and prove to ourselves that we still had it, show that we are contenders," Couling said. "We looked pretty good I thought."
Saturday's win also secured Buffalo its second undefeated home season in history, the first in a season where eight home games were played. The team last went undefeated at home in 1993, a championship season, when they played only four home games. The Bandits are the only team to go undefeated at home this season in the NLL.
Accursi led Buffalo with eight points (4 goals, 4 assists). John Tavares (5G, 2A) and Jonas Derks each had seven points (2G, 5A).
General went the distance for the Storm (3-11) and was able to take a breather in the second half as his team out-shot Buffalo 38-23. He made 54 saves in the game.
"I thought we rested on our laurels at halftime and it almost bit us in the butt in the second half," said Buffalo goalie Steve Dietrich, who made 45 saves in the win. "Luckily we had a pretty big lead at halftime."
Former Bandit Roy Colsey led New Jersey with six points (3G, 3A).