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Wheels come off, Bandits falter in Washington 13-11

EVERETT, Washington…Tonight at Comcast Arena in Everett, the Buffalo Bandits opened their two game road trip against the Washington Stealth, before a crowd of 2879. This one went to the Stealth over the Bandits by a score of 13-11, to improve Washington’s record to a perfect 3-0. The Bandits, meanwhile, fall to 0-3, one of the worst starts in the franchise’s history. “The effort was there, but the heads certainly weren’t,” said an angry and frustrated coach Darris Kilgour after the game.

Fans in this sleepy suburb 25 miles north of Seattle are still getting used to the newest game in town. The Stealth relocated from San Jose, California since last season, and now play in this 8500 seat arena in downtown Everett, which is also the home venue for the Western Hockey League Everett Silvertips.

The team’s public address announcer used the timeouts to explain the various rules and nuances of the sport. It didn’t take long for the first lesson. During the first quarter the two teams traded goals which resulted in coach’s challenges. (Both goals ended up counting). And while the referee was on the phone sorting it all out, fans were getting the tutorial on the goings on down on the field.

Buffalo got on the board first, on a breakaway by Ian Llord 31 seconds into the game. Both teams exchanged goals and then the Stealth would take the lead 4-2 by the end of the first quarter.

Buffalo tied it at four early in the second, but then Washington ripped three straight goals midway, and that would send starting goalie Ken Montour to the bench in favor of back up netminder Angus Goodleaf. Montour finished allowing 7 goals on 24 shots. “We needed to give the team a shakeup. It’s frustrating to watch Kenny carry this team for two years and then leaving him out to dry,” Kilgour fumed.

The change gave new life to the Bandits, who then scored two late goals to bring it within one, courtesy of Brett Buckbooth and Mark Steenhuis. Goodleaf provided an assist on the Steenhuis goal.

In the third quarter, Steenhuis added a power play goal to tie the score at seven. But then the wheels came off for the Buffalo Bandits. “It’s the same story. The mistakes and the mental errors cost us time and time again. We’ve talked about this at practice but these guys do not respond. These are professionals. They know better than that,” said Kilgour.

Washington would score the next four goals to take a commanding 11-7 lead. The Bandits stopped the bleeding as time expired, with Mike Accursi scoring from in close to make it a three goal deficit.

Buffalo’s Chris Corbell netted the first goal of the 4th quarter on a breakaway at the 5:10 mark, but the Stealth answered immediately to once again make it a three goal cushion.

The Bandits pulled their goaltender with 1:56 left to play and down 13-10. On the first possession, Kevin Dostie had nothing but net to bring the deficit down to two. Buffalo then had possession for almost the entire final minute, with Steenhuis playing on one shoe, his other trademark orange sneaker laying in the faceoff circle. Said Steenhuis, “Yeah it sure got a bit slippery out there, but at the moment you can’t think about anything other than crashing the net and trying to get that next goal. Fortunately I didn’t get hurt that really doesn’t happen too often.”

But Buffalo could not get it any closer, and Washington killed off the final few seconds to seal the win.

Steenhuis finished with a team leading five goals. “None of us are very happy with the start. We are making a few changes offensively and defensively. But we’re moving in the right direction yet not putting it together as fast as we want to. I take a bit of the blame. I have to make more of my shots.”

The Bandits will have little time to think about this one… they fly to Edmonton on Saturday to face the Rush at Rexall Place. “We have to let this one soak in for a while, “ said Steenhuis. “We want to hold on to this and then we forget about this. We can’t go 0-4 that’s a quarter of our season. Coach Kilgour added, “I still think we’re a good team I think we can turn this around but right now we aren’t playing good enough.”

If the Bandits hope to win their next game, they will have to do it without their superstar John Tavares. Tavares did not participate in pregame practice and sullenly reported after the game that he probably will be unavailable for the team in Edmonton. “That’s a big blow to us. Losing him and Roger Vyse, who pulled a calf this week in practice, certainly hurts us. But it is up for others to step it up. We’ll see how these guys respond tomorrow.”