The Buffalo Bandits (8-4) lost a heartbreaker on home soil as they fell to the Washington Stealth (7-7), 10-9 in overtime in front of a sold-out crowd at HSBC Arena on Saturday night.
Buffalo dominated in the first quarter, but the Bandits combined for just four goals in the last three quarters. Buffalo had a one-goal lead in the final minutes of the game, but Rhys Duch scored with just nine seconds left to send the game into overtime. Washington then added insult to injury when Cam Sedgwick scored 5:14 into O.T. to stun the 18,690 fans in attendance. Goaltender Angus Goodleaf started in goal for Buffalo, and he made 46 saves in the losing effort.
“Our Offense didn’t do anything for the last three quarters,” said Bandits Head Coach Darris Kilgour. “I feel bad for [Goodleaf] because he plays his heart out, and we just give games away when he’s in net. In three games now he has given up 10 or less goals and we can’t score more then nine. It’s unbelievable.”
John Tavares quietly put together a solid offensive performance with a goal and five assists, while Brenden Thenhaus had his most productive game of the season with three goals in the loss.
Washington was the first to strike when Duch beat Goodleaf glove-side at the start of the game. Buffalo responded with four unanswered goals from Kyle Clancy, Tavares, and two from Thenhaus to give the Bandits a commanding 4-1 lead. The Stealth halted Buffalo’s scoring surge when Lewis Ratcliff scored to cut Washington’s deficit in half. Tracey Kelusky regained Buffalo’s three-goal lead when he scored off of a diving shot. The Bandits went into the second quarter with a 5-2 lead.
The second quarter was very quiet until the 6:26 mark when Craig Conn scored to bring the Stealth within two goals of tying it up. Goodleaf left the game after Washington’s third goal, due to an equipment issue. He was temporarily relieved by Mike Thompson, but he returned late in the quarter.
Washington took advantage of Buffalo’s goaltender change with two consecutive goals from Ratcliff and Cliff Smith to tie the game at five. Tensions started to flare late in the quarter, as both teams started to get physical with one another. The Stealth had 10 minutes worth of penalties, while Buffalo served a total of eight minutes in just the second quarter. The first half ended with both teams tied at five goals apiece.
Kelusky got things going early in the second half when he scooped up a Mark Steenhuis rebound and put it in Washington’s net to give Buffalo a 6-5 lead. The Stealth answered back with goals by Ratcliff and Duch to take the lead for the first time in nearly three quarters. Buffalo stormed back late in the third when Thenhaus capped off the hat trick to tie the game at seven going into the final quarter.
The Bandits were to regain the lead early in the fourth when Chad Culp lit the lamp off of a diving shot. Steenhuis extended Buffalo’s lead halfway through the fourth quarter to give the Bandits a two-goal lead. However, it would be the last time Buffalo would score.
Luke Wiles narrowed the gap within a minute of the Steenhuis goal to make it a one-goal game with six minutes left in the final quarter. The Bandits still had the one-goal lead in the final minutes of the game, but they couldn’t hold on to it in the final seconds of the game. Duch charged towards Buffalo’s zone and beat the goaltender clean to the tie game, 9-9, with nine seconds left in regulation to send the game into sudden death overtime.
It was a back-and-forth battle in the overtime quarter, but Sedgwick became the hero for the defending NLL champions when he beat Goodleaf through his five-hole and gave Washington the victory on Saturday night.
“We thought we could take them for granted tonight after them playing last night, but they seemed to take it to us I guess,” said Bandits captain Chris White. “When we were in control we made some critical mistakes. It’s our fault that we lost the game. You got to credit [Goodleaf] there because he played one hell of a game again, and we seem to find a way to lose it for him.”
The loss drops Buffalo to an 8-4 record and drops them back a whole game behind first place Toronto Rock (10-4). In addition, the third place Rochester Knighthawks (6-5) gained ground in the East division standings after they trounced the Boston Blazers 19-8. Rochester is now just two and a half games behind first place.
The Bandits will return to action next weekend with back-to-back games against two important opponents in the East. Buffalo will head to Toronto to take on the first place Rock on Friday night, and then they will cross the boarder to battle the third place Rochester Knighthawks inside Blue Cross Arena. Both games face off at 7:30 p.m. and can be seen on Time Warner Cable channel 13 and heard on WWKB 1520 AM.