The Buffalo Bandits (4-3) failed to gain ground before the All-Star break as they fell to the Philadelphia Wings (4-4) 10-9 at HSBC Arena on Saturday night.
Buffalo only held the lead twice, but were able to tie the game every time the Wings took the lead. The difference in the game was a goal by Drew Westervelt with 1:18 left in the fourth quarter that handed the Bandits their first home loss of the season. Philadelphia recorded six power play goals in nine opportunities.
“It’s tough when your special teams is coming in and out. It’s tough to get the flow in because guys like to come in the first ten minutes to work their legs in, but the guys who don’t find themselves on the power play or the man short sit on the bench and that doesn’t help anyone,” said Mark Steenhuis.
For a second straight game, John Tavares achieved another career milestone, as his assist on Buffalo’s first goal of the game was the 1,500th point in his illustrious career. The NLL’s all-time leading scorer finished the night with a goal and four assists in the loss.
Tracey Kelusky had a busy night for the Black and Orange as the forward scored two goals and added three assists in the losing effort. Goaltender Angus Goodleaf got his second start of the season for Buffalo as Bandits Head Coach Darris Kilgour elected to rest starter Mike Thompson. Goodleaf stopped 25 of Philadelphia’s 35 shots.
Prior to the game, Tavares was honored for scoring his 700th career goal in Buffalo’s win last weekend. The loyal Bandit fans gave Tavares and his family a standing ovation in recognition for his most recent accomplishment while the team presented him with a framed Bandits jersey with the number 700 on the back.
It didn’t take long for Tavares to record his milestone point as he set up Brenden Thenhaus to put Buffalo up 1-0 early in the first quarter. Philadelphia answered back with two consecutive goals from Dan Hardy and Bill McGlone to take a 2-1 lead.
The game got physical near the end of the first quarter as Steenhuis mixed it up with Wings’ defenseman Matt Alrich. Steve Priolo came to the aid of the Bandits’ All-Star and dropped Alrich to the turf. Priolo received five minutes for fighting, two-minutes for instigating and a game misconduct for the incident while Alrich and Steenhuis were assessed two-minute penalties for roughing. The Wings took advantage of their power play with a goal by Alex Turner just before the end of the first quarter.
Buffalo opened up the second quarter with a bang as Tom Montour scored short-handed when he beat Wings goaltender Brandon Miller on a breakaway goal. However, the long power play started to drain the Bandits leading to another goal by Hardy. Iannucci would add on to Philadelphia’s lead, but Buffalo got three more goals from Kelusky, Roger Vyse, and Tavares to make it a tie game going into halftime.
In the third, the Bandits had a short-lived lead after Steenhuis scored at the start of the quarter. However, the Wings regained the lead with three straight goals by Iannucci, Hardy, and Steve Holmes. Culp added another goal to put the Bandits within one score going into the fourth quarter.
At the start of the fourth quarter, Culp netted his second goal of the game to tie the match at eight. The score wasn’t tied for long, as Iannucci completed his hat trick to give the Wings a 9-8 lead early in the fourth. The Bandits responded with Kelusky’s second goal of the game after he deked out the goaltender to even the score at nine apiece. The Wings got the lead back when Westervelt dove across the Bandits’ crease and scored with only 1:18 left. Buffalo made a surge in the final seconds of the game, but they ran out of time.
“They got Toronto coming up twice, so they knew they needed to win this one, but we needed it more,” said Bandits Head Coach Darris Kilgour. “We should have won the game. We took stupid penalties. I don’t know how that happens, but it did tonight. Great teams overcome that, but I guess we’re just a good team right now.”
The loss drops Buffalo’s record to 4-3, which is good for third place in the East Division. Philadelphia improved its record to 4-4, but share the bottom of the division with the Rochester Knighthawks.
Buffalo won’t play for another two weeks due to the NLL All-Star Game, which will take place on Sunday, Feb. 27 at the Turning Stone Casino in Verona, New York. Four Bandits will be representing the East Division as Steenhuis, Chris White, Tavares and Brett Bucktooth will head to Turning Stone. You can watch the game on the Versus network with the faceoff set for 2 p.m.
After the All-Star break, the Bandits will return home to take on Rochester on Saturday, March 5 at 7:30 p.m.