The Buffalo Bandits seem to have no trouble working overtime as of late.
For the second game in a row, the Bandits found a way to win in an extra session and they had the same player step up for the second time in a week to be the hero with the game on the line in overtime.
Corey Small netted the overtime winner for Buffalo on the power play 1:53 into overtime as the Bandits outlasted a resilient Rochester Knighthawks team 16-15 Friday night at KeyBank Center.
It was the second overtime winner in as many games for Small, who scored twice in the contest. Small also netted the overtime winner at Colorado last Saturday.
“I feel like I thrive in those situations,” Small said. “I like having the ball in my hand with the game on the line. We have a lot of guys on our team that feel the same way. That’s a great option for us to have six or seven guys who have that ability. Two games in a row, yeah, it feels good.”
In addition to being the second-straight overtime win for Buffalo, Friday’s win was also the team’s fourth win in a row on the season. The Bandits have yet to lose in the 2020 calendar year and improved to 5-1 overall on the season.
The Bandits would not have had an opportunity to pick up their fourth-straight win without a last second rally. The Bandits trailed by two goals on three separate occasions in the fourth quarter but rallied to tie the game each time.
After former Bandit Shawn Evans put Rochester ahead 15-14 with 1:49 to play, it appeared Rochester was going to come away from KeyBank Center with an upset victory. But the Bandits were able to put together one last rally and sent the game to overtime in the dying seconds as Chris Cloutier scored his third goal of the quarter and fourth goal of the game with 7.1 seconds left to play.
“Good teams find a way to win,” Cloutier said. “We have to start making it so it’s not that close.”
Cloutier was back in the lineup after missing Saturday’s contest in Colorado with a hip injury. With four goals and eight points on the night, the hip gave Cloutier no trouble against Rochester.
Once again, it was Dhane Smith who led the Bandits in scoring on Friday as he put up 11 points, including four goals. He also assisted on both Small’s winning goal and Cloutier game-tying marker.
“We need to work on our game, but good teams find a way to win and we did that tonight,” Smith said. “We bared down, we stuck with the game plan, and we found a way to win.”
Cloutier’s eight points were second most on the night for Buffalo. Josh Byrne had a six-point night with two goals and four assists.
Holden Cattoni led Rochester with nine points (3+6) while Shawn Evans’ homecoming saw him tally seven points (4+3).
With 1:45 gone in the extra session, Dan Dawson was called for a holding penalty to give Buffalo a power play and a chance to end the game. Eight seconds into the power play, Smith hit Small with a pass across the crease and Small didn’t miss the open net, burying his second of the game and his second-consecutive overtime winner in as many games.
Small gave credit to Smith for giving him an easy look at a sure goal.
“That was about 80 percent Dhane Smith and 20 percent me,” Small said. “He made the call on the bench. Dhane does a great job drawing the goalie out of the net and opening up the backside for me.”
Rochester outshot Buffalo 66-50 on the night. Matt Vinc was busy in the Bandits crease, stopping 53 shots.
Cloutier got the scoring underway as he drove to the net and got the ball past Craig Wende 1:39 in. Rochester challenged and the goal stood up to review.
Byrne worked his magic again with a beautiful goal at 6:40 as he deked a defender and blew by him to the net for his 18th goal of the season to give Buffalo a 2-0 lead.
Rochester cut the deficit in half as Shawn Evans scored in his return to Buffalo with 7:32 to go in the quarter, but Smith gave Buffalo a two-goal lead again as he ripped a shot from just inside the zone to beat Wende with 5:28 left in the quarter.
Just 30 seconds later, a Rochester gaffe gave Buffalo a 4-1 lead as Byrne’s shot was stopped by Wende, but Chris Willman had trouble scooping up the rebound and accidently knocked the ball past Wende and into the net. Byrne was credited with his 19th goal of the season.
Buffalo went up 5-1 on Garrett Billings’ first goal as a Bandit with 1:52 left in the quarter.
Rochester got the first goal of the second quarter as Phil Caputo ripped a shot past Matt Vinc to make it 5-2 1:22 into the quarter. A short while later, Rochester went on the power play and cashed in as Dylan Evans was left all alone in front of the Buffalo net and beat Vinc to make it 5-3.
Buffalo went back up by three goals with 10:13 left in the quarter as Small ripped a shot past Wende from a similar spot to where he scored his overtime winner at Colorado a week ago.
After the Small goal, Rochester head coach Mike Hasen decided to make a goaltending change as Wende was replaced in goal by Steve Fryer.
Buffalo’s defense stood its ground for the rest of the second quarter. Vinc was stellar in goal, stopping 29 of 32 Rochester shots in the first half. Buffalo increased its lead to four with 42.3 seconds to go before halftime as Chase Fraser found the back of the net. Smith collected his fourth assist of the half on the goal.
With less than a second to go in the half, Bandits’ captain Steve Priolo was hit by a shot up high near his neck and dropped to the ground. He left the game and did not return.
The game swung early in the second half as Rochester scored five times in a row to take the lead.
“It was tough because they came out hot and got a few goals on us,” Smith said. “They were winning the loose ball battles. Our offense wasn’t out there much in the third quarter.”
Rochester opened the scoring to begin the second half as Cattoni found the back of the night for the first time on the night just 29 seconds into the third quarter. He beat Vinc with an overhand shot on the power play to make it 7-4. Just 14 seconds later, Cattoni beat Vinc again, this time with a shot from the outside to make it a two-goal game.
The Knighthawks closed the margin to one as Caputo scored on a shot from just inside the zone during a delayed penalty at 2:31. A while later, Buffalo had trouble exiting its own zone and Dylan Evans picked up a loose ball and walked in on Vinc, beating him to tie the game with 3:57 gone in the third quarter.
Rochester pulled ahead for the first time in the game as Curtis Knight found the back of the net for the first time on the evening. In just five minutes and 30 seconds of action in the third quarter, Rochester stormed all the way back to move in front.
To try and ignite the Bandits and the crowd, Ian MacKay dropped the gloves and fought with Willman 45 seconds after Rochester took the lead. The Bandits responded as Matt Gilray beat Fryer to stop the Rochester scoring run 37 seconds after the fight. Just 16 seconds later, Byrne found Smith open at the top of the crease for a goal to give Buffalo the lead again.
Smith was adamant that MacKay’s spirited effort inspired the Buffalo bench and helped to wake the Bandits up.
“We have to give him credit,” Smith said of MacKay. “He definitely slowed down the momentum for them and it got us going. We knew it was a wakeup call. I give him all the credit in the world It’s not easy to just step up like that and he did a great job doing that tonight.”
After Bryce Sweeting was called for a cross checking penalty that put the Knighthawks on the power play, Byrne appeared to give Buffalo a two-goal lead with a shorthanded tally, but the goal was waived off for a crease violation. Rochester went down the other way and scored to tie the game as Cory Highfield tallied with the man advantage.
The Knighthawks regained the lead with 2:18 left in the period as Shawn Evans fired a shot past Vinc. With 49.6 seconds left in the quarter, the Knighthawks took a two-goal lead for the first time on the night as Paul Dawson found Cattoni cutting to the net just above the crease. Cattoni buried his third goal of the quarter and the Bandits found themselves trailing by two heading into the final quarter.
In the final frame, Buffalo had a chance to get back in the game as they went on the power play 2:23 into the fourth. Smith found the back of the net 13 seconds into the penalty to bring Buffalo back within one. Nick Weiss then tied the game 30 seconds later with a beautiful goal as he weaved through the Rochester defense, came face-to-face with Fryer, and beat him for his first of the night.
With 8:15 to go, Rochester regained the lead as Knight walked in on Vinc and beat him for his second goal of the night. Knight completed the hat trick 48 seconds later as he picked up a loose ball in front of the Buffalo net and beat Vinc to give Rochester a 13-11 lead with 7:23 to play.
Buffalo got back within one with 6:41 to go on a pretty passing play. Smith hit Cloutier in front of the net and he scored to make it 13-12. But Shawn Evans answered for Rochester with a turnaround shot as he beat Vinc with 5:47 to go to complete the hat trick and give Rochester a two-goal lead again.
Cloutier answered right back with a spectacular goal as he leapt from behind the net and stuffed the ball past Fryer to complete his hat trick and bring Buffalo within one again with 4:32 to go.
Smith then took charge and scored the tying goal with 3:52 to go as he made a move to get by a Rochester defenseman and beat Fryer. It was his fourth goal and ninth point of the night.
With a chance to take the lead, Smith was denied on a shot by Fryer. Rochester went the other way and Shawn Evans beat Vinc to put Rochester in front with 1:49 to go.
The Bandits pulled Vinc with 36.7 to go. Small had a chance to tie it in front but hit the post with 27 seconds to go. With one final possession, Buffalo found the tying tally on Cloutier’s goal. The Bandits called a timeout shortly before the goal and set up a play for Cloutier. Expecting Rochester to key on Smith, the Bandits drew up a play to get Cloutier the ball in the middle with an open shot at the net.
“We have some set plays that we go over,” Bandits’ assistant coach Rusty Kruger said. “We figured that they would take away Dhane. [Cloutier] was able to walk right down there and get a great look. He obviously made a great shot.”
“It was a character win,” Kruger said. “It wasn’t pretty, but we have to give them full credit. That’s a good group over there. They pushed us hard tonight. It was good to have handled adversity. There was no lack of confidence.”
With the win, the Bandits improved to 5-1 on the 2019-20 season. The now find themselves within striking distance of the Halifax Thunderbirds in the North division standings. First-place Halifax lost for the first time on Friday night to Toronto, dropping them to 6-1 on the season.
Buffalo now gets set for a busy weekend as they travel to Vancouver on Friday night for a 10:30 p.m. faceoff against the Warriors before flying back east to take on the Toronto Rock on Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. at Scotiabank Arena.
The Bandits’ next home game will be Saturday, Feb. 15 against the Philadelphia Wings at 7 p.m. Tickets for that game are on sale now.