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Bandits solid in exterminating Swarm

Filed under: Sports

When the Bandits locker room door is wide open to the hallway, and the sounds of laughter and applause are emanating into the corridor, you know it had to be a good night.

Offense, defense, special teams, clutch goaltending, sprinkled with a few fights all combined for the best outing of the season, as the Buffalo Bandits defeated the Minnesota Swarm 15-12 last night, before a paid crowd of 15,000 plus 1 at HSBC Arena.

Plenty of stars in this game. John Tavares had eight points on the night, including two goals, but his 700th career goal eluded him as he finished the night with 699. Chad Culp and Mark Steenhuis each had hat tricks. Goalie Mike Thompson didn’t face a lot of shots, but came through time and again with an epic save to keep his team comfortably ahead.

Minnesota came into the game as the Western Division leader. But Chad Culp, a new Bandit acqusition who spent five seasons playing for Minnesota, did most of the damage to his former team, with back to back goals early in the second quarter. Mark Steenhuis added his own pair of goals in the third, when the Swarm’s goaltending change after the half gave their team new life. “Last week in Toronto it wasn’t for a lack of opportunity,” said Culp. “We just weren’t hitting the spots and this time we’re finishing. It kind of goes this way.” Steenhuis was pretty happy with his play and his team’s. “I think it was the best game this year. There are a couple goals we want back but the best thing is we can always improve and that’s what we’ll do.”

Buffalo never trailed in this one, and held an 8-4 lead at halftime, and padded that to a five goal margin by the end of the third quarter.

The team’s traded goals in the fourth quarter, but the Bandit’s too oft late meltdown did not happen. Steenhuis and Brett Bucktooth answered Swarm goals, a Minnesota goal with the extra attacker late brought it to within three, but that would be all the scoring.

Coach Darris Kilgour agreed with Culp’s assessment of his teams scoring chances. “I thought the chances we created tonight were a lot better than the chances we had last week. Tonight we had a ton of good chances. They came through with the game plan.”

Kilgour explained that the paucity of shots by the Swarm may have actually hurt Thompson’s performance in net. “We held them to nine (shots) in the third quarter. When you’re facing that little amount of shots it’s hard to keep your concentration, and there’s probably three goals that he would want back. I don’t think it was his strongest performance but he did make some key saves and he looked pretty solid in the last seven minutes.”

Next week the Bandits head to Philadelphia to play the Wings at the Well Fargo Center. In recent years the Toronto Rock has supplanted Philadelphia as the Bandits’ top rival, but don’t count out John Tavares and the monumental accomplishments he has had against the Wings, none more memorable than his championship winner in overtime back in 1992. Look for Tavares to get #700 on the Philadelphia floor. Game time next Saturday is at 7:00pm, before the boys return home the following Saturday to play these same Wings.