NLL: Riptide lose heartbreaker to Bandits in OT

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The New York Riptide deserved better. Seventeen goals should be enough to win a lacrosse game. But not, it seems, if you’re playing the Buffalo Bandits. The Bandits took the game 18-17, and remain undefeated at 5-0 while the Riptide are still stuck at just one win and in last place.

After an amazing fourth quarter comeback that saw the Riptide score six goals in a row for a 17-14 lead, the Bandits roared back in the final minutes to force overtime. Chris Cloutier ended it 1:11 into the extra frame.

Callum Crawford scored his 400th career NLL goal, making him the 16th player in league history to reach that plateau. After the game, however, he didn’t much care to talk about the milestone.

“It just sucks when you lose, you know?” Crawford said. “Maybe when I’m done being a baby and a sore loser I’ll be able to enjoy it. Right now, that game was ours. We did enough to be able to win it and it just slipped away from us.”

The first 10 minutes of the game were even with the teams trading goals for a 3-3 tie. Tehoka Nanticoke and Jake Fox traded highlight reel goals to open the scoring, with Nanticoke going airborne and Fox sneakily dunking from behind the net to land in top spot on ESPN’s daily Top 10.

But the Bandits pulled away with Connor Fields, Kevin Brownell and Nanticoke all scoring in less than a minute to immediately double up on the Riptide. The period ended 7-4 for the Bandits.

With Buffalo leading 10-5 late in the second, Crawford scored his 400th goal, dodging a defender and firing a hard overhand past Matt Vinc. It was his first of three in the game.

“I got pulled aside because in the first half I was terrible, probably to a point that I was hindering our offensive production with the ball being stuck in my stick,” Crawford admitted post-game. “It was a great thing for coach (Dan Ladouceur) to pull me aside and tell me what he needed to me to do. I have the utmost respect for that man and I’m always going to listen, and I’m self-aware enough to know when I am struggling. To the point that he felt he had to say something, that was enough for me to get my shit together.”

In the second half, Crawford added two more goals and five more assists for a game total of 11 points.

The Riptide actually outscored the Bandits in the third, with the team’s big guns in Tyson Gibson, Jeff Teat, Jake Fox and Larson Sundown scoring in addition to Crawford, but still trailed 14-11 heading into the fourth quarter.

“It’s not that things were going terrible,” Crawford said, “it was just a lot of little things that we were beating ourselves on offensively like missed passes or catches; not shooting well; not holding onto the ball. You can see when we corrected that that good things happened.”

Scorekeepers almost had trouble keeping up with the pace the Riptide set in the fourth. In the span of four-and-a-half minutes they went on a 6-0 tear. Power plays helped; the last three goals they scored were all on the man-advantage as the Bandits ran into some penalty trouble. Sundown’s hat trick goal gave the Riptide their first lead of the game.

But their early-quarter pace caught up with them. Chase Fraser stopped the bleeding for the Bandits with his second of the game. Then the Riptide ran into penalty trouble of their own. Jay Thorimbert was handed a five-minute high-sticking penalty with 2:44 left. Damon Edwards followed him to the box 56 seconds later for holding the stick, giving the Bandits an extended five-on-three. With 1:19 left, Connor Fields brought the Bandits back within a goal. Josh Byrne, known for his heroic goals, tied it with 22 seconds left to play.

Unfortunately for New York, with Edwards in the box, those last two goals meant that Thorimbert wasn’t released and they were still shorthanded heading into overtime. At that  disadvantage in numbers and from the sheer emotion they’d expended over the 60-minute barnburner, momentum was on the powerhouse Bandits’ side.

Offensively, the Riptide had powerful performances from everyone they should have. Fox, Teat, Sundown and Crawford all had three goals each. Teat had nine assists; Crawford eight. Kieran McArdle had a pair of goals. Connor Kearnan had a multiple point game with a goal and four assists. Steven Orleman made 39 saves.

Connor Fields, Tehoka Nanticoke, Chase Fraser and Josh Byrne each had a hat trick for Buffalo. Dhane Smith scored twice and assisted on nine others. Matt Vinc made 32 saves.

It’s frustrating, for sure, but to score 17 against the top team in the league provides a bit of comfort for the Riptide as they head into a Friday evening matchup in Hamilton against the Halifax Thunderbirds. The Thunderbirds are also a strong team but fallible, as they fell to the Albany FireWolves on Saturday.

“We’re coached well, we buy into it and we buy into each other and I think that’s the key,” Crawford said. “We’re believers. We just need wins.”