With a chance to put some distance between themselves and the Halifax Thunderbirds in the North Division standings, the Buffalo Bandits couldn’t quite pull away from the Thunderbirds on Sunday. The Bandits found themselves on the wrong end of a 11-9 decision after Halifax scored three times in the final 1:39 to snatch the victory away at Scotiabank Centre.
Halifax held the lead for nearly the entire game, but never led by more than two at any point. The Bandits hung with a desperate Halifax team and took the lead for the first time with 1:59 to play.
But Cody Jamieson and Clarke Petterson scored just 30 seconds apart to put the Thunderbirds back on top with 1:09 to go. Graeme Hossack then sealed the win for Halifax with an empty-net goal in the final seconds.
The loss dropped Buffalo to 7-4 on the season and moved Halifax to 8-4, vaulting them ahead of the Bandits and back into first place in the North Division by half a game. With the win, Halifax took the season series against Buffalo 2-1.
Jamieson was the scoring leader for both teams with a nine-point afternoon (3+6). His third goal tied the game and his sixth assist put Halifax back ahead, both with under two minutes to play. Petterson had a five-point night (2+3), including the game-winning goal.
Josh Byrne was the scoring leader for Buffalo with five points, four of them assists. Byrne added just a lone goal to his team-high total of 28 entering the game. Meanwhile, Chase Fraser and Chris Cloutier each had two goal, two assist afternoons for the Bandits.
Both teams also enjoyed stellar goaltending in this contest. Warren Hill picked up the win for Halifax by stopping 45 of 54 shots on goal. It was a strong bounce back for Hill after being pulled in the second quarter of Buffalo’s 13-9 win over Halifax last Saturday at KeyBank Center.
Meanwhile, Matt Vinc stopped 44 of the 54 shots he faced, including 15 saves in the second quarter for Buffalo.
As Sunday’s game got underway, each team came up empty on their respective opening possessions, but the second possession for Halifax resulted in a goal as Stephen Keogh scored at the top of the crease to get the Thunderbirds off to a much better start than the beginning to last Saturday’s game, when they fell behind 6-0.
The Bandits got the equalizer on the power play with 8:22 left in the quarter as Byrne fed Cloutier at the top of the crease as Cloutier snuck in behind the Halifax defense. Cloutier received the pass and buried a quick shot to tie the game at 1.
With Nick Weiss in the box for Buffalo for cross checking, Kyle Jackson scored the 100th goal of his National Lacrosse League career, ripping a shot over the left shoulder of Vinc to give Halifax the lead at 10:43. Immediately following the faceoff, Jamieson got some room to unleash a shot from the right side and beat Vinc to put the Thunderbirds ahead by two just 22 seconds later.
With just five seconds left in the quarter, Byrne struck on the power play for his first goal of the afternoon on a shot from the top of the key. The shot deflected off a Halifax stick and eluded Hill to his left.
Halifax struck first in the second quarter on a delayed penalty as Jamieson hit Keogh with a pass in front of the net. After a couple of fakes, Keogh’s shot hit the back of the net to make it 4-2.
With 7:46 to go in the quarter, the Bandits got a shorthanded goal to get within one as Vinc hit Matt Gilray on the run with a long lead pass. Gilray fed Ian MacKay with a pass across the crease. MacKay scored as he dove across the crease to his left.
Halifax responded 2:14 later as Jamieson snuck a low shot by Vinc to his left just inside the post to give the Thunderbirds a two-goal lead again. But just eight seconds later, Buffalo responded as MacKay lofted a long pass to Justin Martin, who made an acrobatic catch at the top of the crease, spun, and beat Hill with a low shot.
It didn’t take long for Halifax to go back up by two as Jamieson found Hossack open at the top of the crease and Hossack finished with 4:38 left in the quarter.
Play settled down for the final four and a half minutes of the half and the Thunderbirds took a 6-4 lead into halftime.
Both teams’ penalty kills were busy during the first half as eight penalties were called during the opening two frames. This would be a theme that would continue throughout the second half, in which 11 penalties were called.
Early in the second half, the Bandits went on another power play and, after several opportunities, Cloutier finally beat Hill to bring Buffalo within one. Hill had made a flurry of saves during the sequence, but the ball made its way to Cloutier, who was face to face with Hill to his left, and finally beat him after a few fakes.
The Bandits once again had trouble staying out of the penalty box in the third quarter. Fraser and Mitch de Snoo were both called for slashing 57 seconds apart. That gave Halifax a 5 on 3 and they capitalized as Petterson beat Vinc to give the Thunderbirds a two-goal lead again with 4:45 left in the third.
With 1:05 left in the quarter, MacKay got a breakaway thanks to a long pass from the corner by de Snoo. MacKay walked in all alone on Hill and beat him low by the left foot to bring Buffalo within one, 7-6.
As the fourth quarter began, the Bandits found themselves a man up and Fraser ripped home the equalizer from the outside, beating Hill to tie the game on the power play just 41 seconds into the final frame.
Halifax went back ahead though 1:26 later as Jackson cut to the middle and beat Vinc for his second goal of the afternoon.
With 8:09 to play in regulation, Scott Campbell was called for cross checking, giving Buffalo another power play. Again, it was Fraser who converted with another rifle from outside that found its way past Hill. With 7:58 to go, these two division rivals were tied again, this time at 8.
Once again, the Thunderbirds were undisciplined and took an untimely penalty as Colton Armstrong slashed MacKay across the helmet with 5:07 to play, giving Buffalo another power play opportunity. But this time, Halifax’s penalty kill was up to the challenge and killed off the penalty without yielding a dangerous opportunity to the Buffalo offense.
But Buffalo would go on the power play again as Halifax was called for a bench minor for an illegal substitution with just over two minutes to play. Just nine seconds into the power play, Corey Small took a behind-the-back pass from Byrne and beat Hill to put Buffalo ahead for the first time on the afternoon.
The lead was short-lived, however, as Jamieson completed the hat trick with a rocket past Vinc with 1:39 to go to tie the game at 9.
With 1:09 to play, Petterson got free to the right of Vinc and just snuck a shot inside the post as the net was coming dislodged, giving Halifax a 10-9 lead. Jamieson fed Petterson on the back door to set up the goal. The goal was reviewed since the net came off, but the call on the field stood.
Bandits coach John Tavares also threw the challenge flag in an attempt to get a review for a pick that was not called as Jon Harnett was knocked to the ground to free up Jamieson for the pass to Petterson. However, the initial review already confirmed a good goal and could not be overturned.
The Bandits called timeout with 54.1 seconds to play to try to draw up an equalizer. Vinc was pulled from the goal for the extra attacker. Dan Lintner had a great chance down low in close on Hill, but the shot was stopped. After another save by Hill, Hossack got a runout in transition and found the empty net to put the Thunderbirds up two with 14.2 seconds to play.
A busy weekend now awaits the Bandits coming up next as Buffalo will travel to Toronto for a huge matchup with the rival Rock at 7:30 p.m. Friday night before coming home the next night to host the New England Black Wolves Saturday at 7 p.m. at KeyBank Center.
Tickets for Saturday’s home game against New England are on sale now. The Bandits will be celebrating Native American Night on Saturday against the Black Wolves.