DENVER – After spotting the defending 2022-23 Buffalo Bandits a 6-0 lead, the Colorado Mammoth dropped a 12-8 decision in Banditland as the team fell to 1-3 on the season.
Taking advantage of an early 6-on-5 delayed penalty call, Buffalo forward Josh Byrne beat Mammoth goaltender Dillon Ward midway through the opening period to give the Bandits a 1-0 lead inside KeyBank Center.
Drawing another penalty late in the first quarter, Buffalo forward Chase Fraser finished a step-down shot on the power play, notching his fifth of the season en route to granting the home team a two-goal lead just before expiration of quarter one.
Passing the ball in more than 360 degrees around Ward, the Bandits finished a back-door quick stick effort two and a half minutes into the second quarter, as Brad McCulley finished the play to give Buffalo a 3-0 lead.
Finishing a slick play in transition just 78 seconds later, Byrne completed the two-man goal via a feed from Dhane Smith, now 4-0 in Banditland.
Making it five in a row, Fraser picked up his second on the night with a bit of a surprise shot, stutter-stepping his defender before eventually reaching around him and launching a shot on net to log his 100th career tally.
Notching his first of the night, Bandits’ forward Tehoka Nanticoke got free in the middle of the set and after accepting a pass from a teammate, immediately slammed an overhand shot past Ward, representing Buffalo’s first shorthanded goal of the season. 6-0 Bandits.
Finally stopping the bleeding, hometown hero Zed Williams quickly finished a 4-on-3 situation with an extra-man conversion, getting the Mammoth on the board with five and a half minutes to play in the opening half.
Attempting to feed a teammate, forward Dhane Smith’s pass somehow found its way into the back of the net less than a minute later, giving Buffalo a 7-1 lead.
Completing his hat trick just 22 second into the second half, Byrne finished a diving transition play, which was originally deemed no good for a crease violation, but later overturned via a Buffalo challenge. Buffalo held an 8-1 advantage.
Getting one back for the good guys, Mammoth forward Eli McLaughlin picked up his sixth goal of the year with an insane effort exactly one minute later to bring Colorado back within six.
Beating Ward with a spicy bouncing bid, Smith re-established the home team’s seven-goal advantage early in the third.
Sneaking in a shorthanded transition goal, Ward sent a long pass down field to defenseman Joey Cupido, who quickly connected with McLaughlin, who buried his second of the night.
Seconds later, the team completed another shorthanded conversion, as Tim Edwards finished a sick diving effort to beat Buffalo goaltender Matt Vinc, now 9-4 midway through the third.
Picking up a goal on the opposite side of the turf that he normally operates from, Mammoth forward Connor Kelly got on the board, recording the team’s third shorthanded goal of its five-minute penalty kill. Down four, momentum was in Colorado’s favor for the moment.
Ending Colorado’s three-goal lead and beginning a run of their own, McCulley picked up his second of the night with less than five minutes to play to extend the Bandits’ lead back to five.
Finishing his own hat trick, McLaughlin found some top cheddar, picking up a power play and his eighth marker on the season.
On a very similar play to his first goal of the night, Nanticoke gained the inside leverage and fired another nasty shot on net, beating Ward and granting the Bandits another five-goal lead midway through the final quarter.
Just 22 seconds later, Kelly picked up his second as well, bouncing around a screen from teammate Zed Williams and firing away, creating an 11-7 game courtesy of his seventh goal on the season. Completing his hat trick less than a minute later in transition, Kelly fired another spicy bid, finding twine and bringing the Mammoth back within three.
Collecting a rebound ricochet and instantly putting the rock back on net, Bandits’ forward Kyle Buchanan solidified a 12-8 final inside KeyBank Center Saturday night.
Eli McLaughlin (2g, 3a) paced Mammoth scorers with five points, while Connor Kelly (3g, 1a), Joey Cupido (0g, 2a), Tyson Gibson (0g, 2a) and Tim Edwards (1g, 1a) rounded out the multi-point club. Mammoth goaltender Dillon Ward stopped 45-of-57 on the night.
The Mammoth will return home next weekend to host the San Diego Seals during the organization’s Military Appreciation Night for the first of two consecutive games inside the LOUD HOUSE. Limited tickets for next Saturday, Jan. 13’s Military Appreciation matchup remain available, so be sure to lock yours in and get ready to TUSK UP!