By Alex Beilman - Bandits.com
The Buffalo Bandits (5-6) rode perhaps their best half of the season, and survived a late push by the Vancouver Stealth (5-7) to leave British Columbia with a 15-11 win.
The Bandits scored eight unanswered goals in the second half at Langley Events Centre and held the home side without a goal for just over 25 minutes in the process.
Anthony Cosmo held down the fort, stopping 41 of the 52 shots he faced. Tye Belanger made 28 saves for Vancouver, but was pulled after surrendering 14 goals in 50 minutes of floor time. Tyler Richards stopped all five of the shots he faced in relief.
Mitch Jones paced Buffalo offensively with eight points (2+6), while Dhane Smith added seven points of his own (2+5). The newest Bandit, Pat Saunders, continued his impressive start in orange and black with a hat trick and an assist. Saunders now has seven goals in three games as a Bandit.
The win marks Buffalo’s fourth victory in their last five games and also earns them a sweep of the season series between the two sides.
Corey Small (3+3) got the game started by burying a quick stick goal off a feed from Rhys Duch (1+5). The early deficit did not deter the Bandits, however. Smith answered with a goal of his own two minutes later to tie the game at one.
Then, less than a minute later, Adam Will found Tim Edwards with a perfect breakaway pass, and the rookie made no mistake burying his chance over the left shoulder of Belanger it give his team a 2-1 advantage.
Mark Steenhuis and Smith added power play goals to complete a four-goal run and give the visitors a 4-1 lead. Durston ended the Bandits’ run and closed out the first quarter scoring to make it 4-2 to Buffalo.
Logan Schuss and Pat Saunders traded early second-quarter goals to make it 5-3 Buffalo. Cosmo earned an assist on Saunders’ goal, as he launched an accurate breakout pass down the floor to send Saunders in alone on Belanger.
Vancouver responded with a three-goal run on goals from Durston, Joel McCready and rookie James Rahe. The score sat at 6-5 until Mitch Jones notched a tying goal of a feed from Anthony Malcolm, who was playing in his first game back from a lower-body injury.
The game appeared to be headed to halftime tied at 6-6. However, the Stealth took advantage of a late penalty call on the Bandits. With just seconds remaining, the Stealth set up their play out of a timeout. With 3.5 seconds left on the clock, Schuss found Duch, who buried a shot from in close on the left side.
Once again undeterred by a deficit, Buffalo came out firing to start the third quarter. The Bandits made quick work of two early power plays. First was Steenhuis, who scored on a shot from the high slot as Schuss sat for holding.
Then, 57 seconds later, Alex-Kedoh Hill, who made his return from a concussion, notched a goal after Small was called for cross checking. The Bandits went 3-for-3 on the power play, including two goals on a five-minute major in the first period.
The goals by Steenhuis and Hill provided the spark for one of the best all-around halves of lacrosse the team has put together this season. They would pour in six more goals to put together an eight-goal run that spanned the 2:03 mark of the third quarter all the way to the 5:31 mark of the fourth.
The highlight of the game was undoubtedly Jones’ second of the night. Early in the fourth, Jones took a feed from Smith. As he cut through the middle, he was turned around by the Vancouver defense. Thinking quickly, Jones took a quick peek behind him, and launched a shot over his right shoulder while facing away from goal. Belanger never expected the shot and got beat over his left shoulder.
Small finally broke through for the home side, after almost 25 minutes of game time without a goal. The goal sparked a small run, as the Stealth amassed four goals in a span of a little over two-and-a-half minutes. However, Malcolm would cap the night off with a shorthanded, empty net goal to secure the Buffalo victory.
The next game for the Bandits will see a much shorter trip, as they head back to BlueCross Arena to take on the Rochester Knighthawks for the third and final time this season. Faceoff is slated for 7:30 p.m. next Saturday, March 25. As always, stay tuned to Bandits.com for coverage throughout the week.