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Steenhuis, Montour lead Buffalo Bandits to huge win

It was clearly the most emotional game of the season. And the most physical. With the season on the line, the Buffalo Bandits dug deep inside of themselves tonight at HSBC Arena, taking on the Orlando Titans, one of the league leading teams. When it was all over, the Bandits had themselves a 12-10 win, before 16,194 very happy fans.

This one was all Bandits early on, and Mark Steenhuis opened the scoring early. In fact, his natural hat trick to make it 3-0 had the fans on their feet in the first quarter, Steenhuis would end up with 10 points on 6 goals and 4 assists to lead all scoring.

Buffalo continued to pour it on in the second quarter. Power play goals on a 5 minute major by Steenhuis and Kyle Clancy gave Buffalo a 6-2 lead. It was 8-2 before Orlando answered, and the Bandits went to the dressing room at halftime with a five goal cushion.

But this game would turn out to be a costly one in terms of injuries. Early in the second quarter Orlando’s Chet Konecny and Buffalo’s Kyle Schmelzle traded punches, with Schmelze ending up with a broken nose. He was taken to the hospital for further observation. Then later in the quarter, Rory Smith gave Buffalo’s Steve Priolo the business with yet another fight, and Priolo suffered a concussion and would not return. Chris Corbeil also left the game with an injury, and the Bandits were three men short on the bench as the second half began.

That’s when Orlando made it interesting. With Buffalo working with a short bench, the Titans scored three straight goals in the third to make it an 8-6 game. But just like Buffalo had watched their opponents score timely goals just when they were making a run in recent games, this time it was the Bandits’ turn. Steenhuis scored his 6th of the night late in the third quarter.

In the 4th quarter Orlando’s Pat Maddelena scored what was one of the more unusual goals one would ever want to see. The Bandits net was off its moorings and laying at least 6 feet from its position, leaving goaltender Ken Montour to defend the space where the goal mouth was. Maddelena snuck the ball past Montour and into the goal area, and the referees arms went up to signal goal. “It’s an antiquated rule,” explained Coach Darris Kilgour. “Now once the net comes off the moorings they should blow the whistle, and I’m sure that’s a rule they will revisit real soon.”

A minute later John Tavares answered to give the Bandits another three goal cushion. Orlando scored a minute later, but then Kevin Dostie snuck behind the defenders and scored to give the Bandits their three goal lead again. Orlando’s potent attack would not let up, with Casy Powell scoring on the power play with 5 minutes to go to bring it within two.

Then Mike Accursi scored a huge goal off a rebound, and after video review it was shown that Accursi did not penetrate the crease and the goal stood. Orlando pulled the goalie with two minutes left but could only manage one goal. The Bandits won two huge possessions in the closing minute to seal this very big win.

Mark Steenhuis gave all the credit to his short staffed defense, as well as to Ken Montour, who made save after spectacular save to keep the Bandits in this one. “He made three or four miraculous saves in the fourth quarter alone,” said Steenhuis. “It was one of those wins that feels real good when its over.”

Coach Kilgour, who notched his 93rd win as Bandits coach, tying the record held by Les Bartley, was quick to pass out raise for his players. “It’s a really big win for us, and we held our composure and pulled it out. Ken was unbelievable, we were only running six defensemen, and when there were breakdowns Kenny made some huge saves for us. John (Tavares) and Brett (Bucktooth) played back door for us and they too deserve honorable mentions.”

Kyle Clancy was back in the lineup and Kilgour was happy with his play as well. “He makes great plays and makes everyone else look better. He’s very young and he’s got learning to do but he is doing a great job for us.

With all the injuries, Kilgour said the team will have to go out and get some new players. “Right now we’re looking to sign two or three players and figure out what we’re going to do next week. Right now I just want just savor this win and have a good time with the boys tonight.”

The Bandits will play three straight on the road, starting next Friday at the Air Canada Centre against the Toronto Rock. Buffalo is now at 3-6, while Toronto leads the division at 6-4. Game time is 7:30PM.