By Tom Gallagher
Niagara Gazette — BUFFALO — Winning hasn’t come easy for the Buffalo Bandits in their past four games.
In fact, it hasn’t come at all.
The Bandits dropped their fourth consecutive game and third straight at home Saturday in a 14-6 loss to the Edmonton Rush at the First Niagara Center.
“We just didn’t play very well in pretty much every aspect of the game,” Bandits’ head coach Darris Kilgour said. “Getting outworked at home is getting real old.”
The Bandits (5-7) started the season with five wins in their first eight games. Their last win – over East Division-leading Toronto in February – had the team in contention for first place. Instead, they’re flirting with the division’s final seed.
“It’s frustrating. I’m sure the players are just as frustrated as I am,” Kilgour said. “I’m pretty sure there’s not a happy camper in our camp today.”
The Bandits scored the game’s first goal, which proved to be their only lead. They surrendered the next four and trailed 6-2 after the first quarter, which resulted in Kilgour pulling goalie Anthony Cosmo in favor of backup Kurtis Wagar.
Wagar gave up just three goals in the second quarter, but the Bandits still trailed 9-4 at the half. Wagar played the third quarter and allowed four goals before the team turned to Cosmo again.
Kilgour didn’t lay blame entirely on either of his goalies.
“There were saves I hoped they would have made,” he said. “But at the same time, I don’t think we did a good job of keeping (Edmonton) to the angles and giving our goalies an opportunity to make easy saves.”
Buffalo lost the loose-ball battle 96-76 and turned it over 36 times. Several giveaways led directly to goals. John Tavares and Jay Thorimbert led the team with four turnovers apiece.
“In this league when you can’t pass and catch and you can’t execute a game plan you’re going to be in trouble,” Kilgour said. “And we were in trouble from the first minute to the last minute.”
Kilgour did find a silver lining in the loss. Alex-Kedoh Hill had three goals in his first game as a member of the Bandits. The forward was acquired from Rochester at the March 13 trade deadline in exchange for defenseman Scott Self.
“He was awesome. He played great,” Kilgour said of Hill, who also had a team-high seven shots. “Best player on the floor for us.”
Dhane Smith scored twice and added an assist for Buffalo. Aaron Wilson contributed a goal and two assists. Leading scorer Shawn Williams was limited to just one assist and one shot.
Edmonton (7-5) outshot the Bandits 63-42. The Rush is tied with Washington atop the West Division. St. Catherines, Ont. native Corey Small paced the team’s offense with four goals and three assists.
“He’s been a really consistent guy for us this year,” Rush coach Derek Keenan said of Small. “He’s been a real committed player. It was great for him to perform that well here. I’m sure he had lots of friends and family here and he was really good for us.”
The Bandits next game is against Toronto at 7 p.m. Friday at the Air Canada Centre. Though the ultimate goal is to win the game, Kilgour noted that the team has to start smaller if it wishes to salvage its playoff seed.
“Win a shift. Win a loose-ball battle,” he said. “Start with the little things and build on that.”