In a game that featured three lead changes and nine ties, the Buffalo Bandits continue to showcase their ability to come out on top in a variety of ways making.
Saturday night on the road, they were outscored 3-2 in the fourth quarter as the Albany FireWolves forced overtime with a game-tying goal with 1:37 remaining in regulation at MVP Arena.
As the overtime period began, recently signed faceoff specialist Max Adler won the draw against Joe Nardella for the first possession. Nardella, who leads the NLL in faceoff percentage at 71.4 percent, had dominated the faceoff dot all night long, winning 18 to Adler’s nine.
As moved down the floor, Chase Fraser received a pass from Kyle Buchanan in the offensive zone, pump-faked his defender and headed to the slot to rip a shot on FireWolves goaltender Doug Jamieson. The low shot went off the post and directly into Buchanan’s stick.
Buchanan darted to the net to bury the rebound past the far shoulder of Jamieson, giving the Bandits a 12-11 victory.
The Bandits bench and the loyal Buffalo fans who attended the game erupted in cheers as Buchanan raised his arms in celebration.
“It was just a crazy ending and back and forth the whole game,” Buchanan said postgame. “I like to play close to the net anyway looking for rebounds like that one… I was just at the right spot at the right time.”
The Bandits continue their reign as the top team in the NLL with a 9-1 record, currently riding their best 10-game stretch dating all the way back to the 2003 season.
“We are both great teams. This game is going to come down to who executes the little things better down the stretch,” Dhane Smith said as the Bandits went into halftime with an 8-7 lead.
Albany responded in the second half, outsourcing Buffalo 4-3, forcing their first overtime game of the season. The FireWolves have had more experience in down-to-the-wire games, going 2-2 in one-goal contests, including their 13-12 win over the San Diego Seals last week.
Buffalo improves to 2-0 in overtime games this season. On January 30, Chris Cloutier scored the winner 1:11 into the Bandits’ 18-17 road victory against the New York Riptide.
Buffalo’s offense was versatile yet again on Saturday as Smith recorded a game-high eight points (3+5), remaining the league leader in assists with 47. Josh Byrne scored for the first time in three games, posting two goals and two assists.
Rookie Tehoka Nanticoke had his third-straight multi-goal game (2+1) and his University of Albany teammate Connor Fields scored the go-ahead goal late in the fourth quarter in a three-point night.
Matt Vinc picked up another victory while stopping 26 shots.
Albany relied heavily on their two-headed monster of Joe Resetarits and Ryan Benesch. The tandem recorded 83 points in the month of February during their six games and added another 13 against the Bandits.
Resetarits led all players with four goals, including the game-tying blow with 1:37 remaining in regulation, converting an alley-oop dunk for his 31st goal of the season. Benesch had four goals and three assists, elevating his point total to 62. Jamieson made 42 saves in the loss.
Special teams was the main factor in the victory for Buffalo, who went 3-3 with the man advantage. Byrne also added a shorthanded goal in the second quarter.
Nardella was awarded a five-minute major penalty for his high hit on Nanticoke just before halftime resulting in goals from Nanticoke and Smith just 26 seconds apart to regain their first lead since the Cloutier opened the scoring in 51 seconds into the game.
When Mike Byrne was sent to the box for an illegal substitution with seven minutes to go, Smith took advantage with a shot five-hole past Jamieson just 16 seconds later.
The first half had a combined 15 goals to the eight tallies the rest of the way. The FireWolves rattled off three straight goals in the first before Ian MacKay scored in transition and Byrne scored his 17th of the year.
Smith tied the game at four after a successful challenge by John Tavares overturning a call that Fraser stepped in the crease before the ball crossed the goal line.
Benesch completed his hat trick just four minutes into the second quarter, leading to four straight special teams goals from Byrne, Charlie Kitchen, Nanticoke, and Smith to end the half.
Nanticoke opened the scoring just 31 seconds into the second half, but it would be Buffalo’s only goal until 6:38 left in the fourth quarter. Kitchen scored his second of the day, jumping in the air to collect a loose ball and ripping a shot that caught Vinc off-guard.
Smith and Fields scored for Buffalo with answers from Benesch and Resetarits to force overtime where the Bandits came out on top.
Now riding a three-game win streak, Banditland will welcome the Philadelphia Wings to town for their first meeting of the season. The Wings have lost their last three games against Toronto and back-to-back to the Halifax Thunderbirds.
At 5-6, Philadelphia is tied with the Georgia Swarm for fourth place in the East. The top four teams in the East, three in the West, and the remaining team with the best record will advance to the 2022 NLL playoffs.
The game is slated for 7:30 p.m. a KeyBank Center. Tickets are on sale now. https://bandits.com/tickets/