Although their goals came at a pinball pace at the beginning and end of Saturday night’s Major Indoor Lacrosse League opener, the Buffalo Bandits got stuck in a mid-game scoring slump and it cost them a 21-17 loss to the New York Saints before an enthusiastic Memorial Auditorium crowd of 9,052.

In a sport in which goals are scored in the blink of an eye, the Bandits went 17 minutes between net-pops while New York was rolling the tally from an 8-8 tie late in the second quarter a 13-8 advantage after almost three periods.

Despite the unfamiliarity with the game by many in the Opening Night crowd, they greeted the all-rookie Bandits like old friends, singing “We Will Rock You,” “Wooly Bully” and other team-stirring tunes heard at Sabres hockey games.

“That happens in lacrosse,” said Bandits coach Buff McCready when asked about the 17-minute gap.

“There’s some times you just can’t buy a goal. It’s not as though we don’t have the shooters to do it. It’s just that that will happen,” said McCready, a 52-year-old St. Catharines, Ont., resident and former goalie with five pro teams.

“We should have been pulling our goalie, I guess, like we did at the end,” quipped McCready, referring to Buffalo’s final two goals, which came when the Bandits’ goaltender left the floor in favor of a sixth attacker.

New York’s Seth Tierney and Buffalo’s Darris Kilgour — who scored the last two goals as well as the first one and added three assists — led all scorers with four goals. The Saints’ Rob Codignotto and Mike Cummings each had three goals each and John Tavares had two goals and five assists for the Bandits. A total of 11 Saints and 10 Bandits put the ball in the net.

Buffalo entered the fourth quarter trailing, 15-11, and each team scored six times in the final 15 minutes. Kilgour’s scores cut the margin to three goals (20-17) with 2:28 left but Buffalo but could come no closer.

New York took 81 shots on Buffalo goalies Bill Gerrie and Ross Cowie. The Bandits fired 63 times on Sal LoCascio, who was named the game’s most valuable player.

Four of Buffalo’s goals — by John Zulberti, Jim Veltman, Mike Mooradian and Kilgour — came while the Bandits were short-handed. In all, Buffalo was penalized nine times for 18 minutes. New York drew four penalties for 11 minutes.

Buffalo’s Darris Kilgour scored just 10 seconds after the opening faceoff. The Bandits quickly opened a 4-1 advantage after 2:19 on scores by Rich Kilgour, Tavares and Gerry Hiltz.

But New York bounced back after a timeout and scored four unanswered goals to take a 5-4 lead after 6:10.

New York’s fifth goal, a low shot from the top of the zone by Cummings, prompted McCready to pull Gerrie and replace him with Cowie.

“I thought with any kind of luck we could have had six or seven goals,” McCready said. “They got right back into the game and pulled ahead of us. We just wanted to try to change the momentum of the game.”

Cowie, a 6-foot-2, 195-pounder from Hamilton, Ont., gave up a quick power-play goal to Cummings, but then came up with some spectacular saves to keep the Bandits in the game. His cause also was greatly helped by short-handed goals by Zulberti and Mooradian during the four two-minute penalties assessed the Bandits in the first half. At one point, the Bandits were short-handed, five forwards to three, but escaped with just one New York score.

“I wasn’t expecting to get in that early,” Cowie said. “I didn’t have time to get nervous at all.” “I had nothing to lose. I came in. I just had to play my own game like I know how to play,” Cowie said.

Buffalo tied the game at 8-8 with 5:25 remaining in the half on a Zulberti breakaway, fed by Tom O’Hanlon.

But New York notched the last two scores of the period — by Tim McIntee and Rodney Dumpson — to take a 10-8 lead at halftime.

Mooradian’s goal turned out to be the last Buffalo score for 17 minutes until Tavares put the ball past LoCascio on a power play with 3:14 remaining in the third quarter.

“I was very impressed with the (Buffalo) team,” said New York coach Bob Engelke.

The Bandits play New York again in their next game, at the Nassau Coliseum on Jan. 18. They return to The Aud on Jan. 25 against the defending champion Detroit Turbos.

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