The Buffalo Bandits got back to their winning ways on Saturday night with the help of the return of some familiar faces to the lineup.
The Bandits welcomed Chase Fraser back to the lineup for the first time in the 2019-20 season. He missed the first two games due to injury They also got captain Steve Priolo back into the lineup after he was sidelined last game with an injury.
The healthy Buffalo lineup made a difference in a huge way as the Bandits rebounded from their first loss of the season two weeks ago to roll the Georgia Storm 16-10 at Infinite Energy Arena in Duluth, Georgia on Saturday.
Fraser returned in a big way for Buffalo by notching a hat trick as well as three assists to help jumpstart a Bandits’ offense that has been looking for more firepower. Chris Cloutier also had a huge night for the Bandits with three goals and three assists. Josh Byrne recorded a hat trick and added two assists.
It was a major turnaround for Buffalo after falling at home against Halifax 15-10 back on Dec. 28. In that game, Buffalo was shut out in the second quarter and saw goaltender Matt Vinc chased from the net.
Against Georgia, the Bandits exploded for six goals in the first quarter and five more in the second quarter to own a comfortable 11-3 lead at halftime. Meanwhile, Vinc made 44 saves.
Newcomers to the Buffalo lineup delivered right away as JP Kealey, in the lineup for the first time this season, got Buffalo on the board first with his first goal of the season 57 seconds in. A short while later, the Bandits were awarded a power play and welcomed Fraser back to the lineup as he cashed in with his first goal of 2020 to give Buffalo a 2-0 lead.
After Miles Thompson got Georgia on the board with a goal at 4:29, the Bandits responded immediately with four straight goals before the end of the first. The run began with Cloutier and Nick Weiss scoring at 6:21 and 8:55 respectively. Byrne then snuck a shot through the five-hole of Georgia netminder Mike Poulin to make the score 5-1 at the 12:16 mark. Just 25 seconds later, Dhane Smith increased the Buffalo lead to 6-1 with his sixth goal of the season.
Miles Thompson ended the scoring run with his second goal of the game with 1:50 left in the quarter.
Fraser made his presence felt again in the second quarter with his second goal of the game in a four-on-four situation 1:56 into the quarter.
The Bandits weren’t done getting way ahead of the Swarm in the second quarter as Byrne scored his second of the game at 8:26 and Cloutier scored his second of the night on the power play at 10:10.
Late in the period, the Bandits scored twice in the final minute to go up 11-3 at halftime. Ian MacKay scored his third goal of the season with 48 seconds left in the quarter. After the faceoff, Kevin Brownell came in all alone on Poulin and ripped a shot by him for his first goal of the season.
The Bandits, one week after surrendering 10 goals in the second and third quarters against Halifax, tightened things up defensively in this one against Georgia. Buffalo held the Swarm to just one goal in the second quarter and only three goals in the first 30 minutes.
The Bandits kept rolling as the second half began as MacKay took a long pass from Vinc and raced in all alone on Poulin and scored to push the lead to 12-3, Buffalo’s largest lead of the night. Randy Staats ended the 6-0 Buffalo scoring run with his second and third goals of the season to make the score 12-5.
Georgia cut the lead to six as Jordan MacIntosh scored his first goal of the season after scooping up a long lead pass from Brendan Bomberry.
Buffalo ended the 3-0 Georgia scoring run with a highlight-reel goal by Cloutier, his third of the night. He was tripped up as he cut toward the crease but got his shot off just before he landed on the ground, beating Poulin to put Buffalo ahead 13-6.
Georgia got a goal back as Zed Williams scored his lone goal of the night, but Fraser struck once again to complete the hat trick as he flew through the crease and beat Poulin to make the score 14-7. The Swarm made things a bit interesting in the fourth quarter with three-straight goals to get the score to 14-10 with 9:32 to go.
But Buffalo went on the power play with nine minutes to go and cashed in as Corey Small scored his fourth goal of the season to make it a 15-10 game. Buffalo was 3 of 4 on the power play on Saturday night.
Just 30 seconds after Small’s goal, Matt Spanger made a critical mistake that could have let Georgia back into the game as he was called for a five-minute major for slashing. But it was Buffalo that capitalized, not only killing off the five-minute penalty without surrendering a goal, but also adding a goal of their own. Byrne completed the hat trick with a shorthanded goal to put the Bandits ahead 16-10 with 4:06 to play.
Cloutier was named the first star for his six-point performance, while Vinc earned third-star honors. Staats was the second star for Georgia as he and Shayne Jackson each had six-point nights (3+3) for the Swarm.
Georgia outshot Buffalo 54-48 on the night.
The Bandits (2-1) will welcome rival Toronto to KeyBank Center Saturday at 7 p.m. The Rock will come in with a 3-1 record, as they defeated Rochester on Saturday night, 13-12. Tickets for Saturday’s game are on sale now.