Artvoice: Buffalo's #1 Newsweekly
Home Blogs Web Features Calendar Listings Artvoice TV Real Estate Classifieds Contact

Epic Bandits Comeback Ends In Heartbreak

Filed under: Sports

Those of the 16,951 fans who left HSBC Arena with three minutes left and their team down by four goals and looking lifeless couldn’t be blamed.

But those who did stay witnessed an incredible Buffalo Bandits comeback, where the team scored four straight goals in the last minute and a half against the visiting Colorado Mammoth, three of them courtesy of Brett Bucktooth, to tie the score at 11 and send this game into overtime.

On the second possession of the overtime, it was Colorado who scored the sudden death goal, on a two on none breakaway scored by Nick Carlson at 1:25 of the extra frame, and just like that the Bandits’ hope for a highlight reel comeback was over. Final score: Colorado 12, Buffalo 11.

Head coach Darris Kilgour was honored in a poignant pregame ceremony, where he was presented a framed “94” jersey in honor of his franchise leading 94th career win as a head coach. And after two electrifying overtime wins on the road which put the Bandits in the thick of things in the league’s East, tonight the team came up small. Shaky goaltending early and a lack of focus and energy late cost the Bandits dearly as the huge comeback was simply not enough.

This one started out ugly for the Bandits, who never led in this game. Mike Thompson looked particularly bad in net, allowing three goals on the first six shots. After letting in an especially soft goal stuffed on the short side by Mammoth forward Alex Gajic, Coach Darris Kilgour had seen enough, and pulled Thompson in favor of backup Angus Goodleaf. “They had 5 (goals) on 12 (shots)” said Kilgour. “It was an easy decision Mikey’s not the type of guy that settles down. When he starts shaky he stays shaky we should have pulled him a goal or two earlier.”

Colorado, coming into this game as the league’s last place team, would then up the score to 6-1, but the Bandits did come back late in the second quarter, with back to back goals by John Tavares and Mark Steenhuis to narrow the deficit to three at the half.

The third quarter became the Kevin Dostie Show. Buffalo’s Dostie tallied three goals in the quarter, none prettier than his airborne wraparound to narrow the score to 8-6 Colorado. “Two them were power play goals. Anyone on this team can score, this just happened to be my turn tonight. I helped out. Brett helped out late,” said Dostie.

Buffalo got the first goal of the 4th quarter to bring the deficit down to one and seemed to be taking control of the flow of the game. Mark Steenhuis accepted a long feed pass from Clay Hill, put on the brakes, then fired a rocket behind Mammoth netminder Chris Levis. But Colorado would answer with three straight goals to silence the crowd and build a four goal cushion, thanks in part to former Bandit Derek Malawsky, who tallied Colorado’s 9th of the game.

Then the Bandits took over.

First it was Bucktooth on a shot in close, then Mark Steenhuis on a laser with a minute to go to bring the deficit down to two. The Bandits pulled their goaltender, and again Bucktooth scored from within close. On the ensuing possession, a six man scramble along the boards resulted with ball being awarded to Buffalo. After a quick timeout with 26 seconds left, the Bandits again swarmed the net, and Bucktooth buried the tying goal right in front of the goal crease with just 7.3 seconds remaining on the clock and the team, and the crowd, was electrified. “We’re all lacrosse players,” said Dostie. “We’ve all seen this sort of thing happen in our careers. The effort was there and it nice to see that we never give up.”

Buffalo won the first possession of overtime without making any threat, as did Colorado on their first possession. On the second possession the Bandits again tried to crash the net, but the resulting giveaway, partly happening off of an errant pass missed by Tavares, then had the breakaway going the other way. Colorado buried the ball behind Goodleaf and just like that the game was over.

Coach Kilgour had choice words for his players in the locker room after the game and it wasn’t pretty. Kilgour yanked Kevin Dostie from the corridor, where he was addressing the media, literally pulled him into the locker room and shut the door, where he then unleashed a profanity laced tirade which had a red faced front office official scrambling to move the media out of that area, and then sequestered the reporters in an interview room down the hall. Once Kilgour emerged, he refused to comment on anything that was said. “I don’t want to share anything that’s locker room stuff” said a sullen Kilgour. Dostie added, “Obviously he’s not happy with four losses at home, he’s not happy about seven losses, he’s not happy about losing to a team that’s 2-9, he’s not happy abut losing to Philly a couple of weeks ago.”

Kilgour didn’t expect anything out of his team until the score was actually tied. “I didn’t have a lot of confidence in this team. We pulled the goalie and it worked out.” Kilgour added, “We made their goalie look like an all star. We didn’t have floor balance and it cost us the game. I’m glad we didn’t quit but why did we have to get there. We came out nonchalant like they were going to roll over and instead we got what we deserved.”

Next week it is the high flying Toronto Rock who come to HSBC Arena along with a smattering of their crazy yet always colorful fans. Toronto won two games this weekend to solidify their place in the division standings, but Boston and Rochester both lost, so Buffalo is still very much in the thick of things with nothing but divisional opponents remaining on the Bandits schedule. Game time is 7:30PM and with three games left, this next game should go a long way to determine whether the Bandits will see the postseason in 2010.