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Bandits fizzle in end, lose to Wings 10-9

Filed under: Sports

After demolishing the Philadelphia Wings on their own turf last weekend, perhaps the Buffalo Bandits thought that the rematch at HSBC Arena would be a walk in the park.

Wrong.

A spate of dumb penalties by Buffalo, timely power play goals by the Wings (they scored six on the night), generally sloppy play by both teams through the first three quarters, all combined to create the perfect storm for Philadelphia to steal a huge road game.

Drew Westervelt scored the game winner with 1:18 left on the clock, hitting the net from point blank in front of netminder Angus Goodleaf, shooting almost airborne as he flew across the crease.

The crowd of 15,344 was pretty pumped as the game got underway. The Bandits organization held a short and poignant ceremony prior to the opening faceoff, where John Tavares was honored with a framed jersey to commemorate his 700 career goal. His family was on the field with him to accept the honor, the fans were on their feet, and the roar just got louder when the Bandits scored the first goal of the game, and Tavares’ assist meant his 1500th career point.

But Buffalo would fall behind 3-1 by the end of the quarter. Steve Priolo’s instigating and five minute match penalty had the Bandits shorthanded for a full seven minutes, yet only surrendered one goal during that span.

The Bandits got scoring from all over in the second and managed to forge a halftime 5-5 tie. No goal was prettier than the first one of the frame, Tracey Kelusky on a breakaway.

Kelusky’s second goal of the game came at the 5:10 mark of the 4th quarter to tie the score at 9, and that was it for the scoring until the game winner. A minute after that goal, Ben McCullough went off with a five minute major for high sticking, yet incredibly the Bandits managed to kill off that shorthanded stint and even drew a couple scoring chances of their own during that time.

Did the penalties cost the team? “Sure did,” fumed Coach Darris Kilgour. “I don’t want to say anything about the refereeing because I’ll be fined.” Kilgour seemed especially animated throughout the game, and almost ran onto the field as the McCullough penalty was being assessed. “They got an extra man all the time, and we gave them the game. Great teams overcome that. I guess we’re just a good team right now.”

While both John Tavares and Mark Steenhuis met with the media afterwards to offer their boiler plate, scripted takes on the game, Tavares offered several very heartfelt reflections when asked about the meaning of his 700th goal and 1500th career point. “I must say I’m disappointed that there aren’t more teams and more games. If you had asked me ten years ago if we are going in the right direction and we are a lot closer to becoming a major league… Here we are still sitting with 10 teams and 16 games and still part time. That is disappointing but at least the league is still around. Some teams are doing well and others are still struggling. I think the biggest change is the guys take it a lot more serious. The guys are in better shape and more athletic.” Tavares admitted that he would have liked the week off to rest and heal, but will take part in the game next week as an All Star. “I think I will take one or two shifts, sit in the middle of the bench, and have a special water bottle,” Tavares quipped.

All teams are off next week, as the National Lacrosse League stages its annual All Star Game at the Turning Stone Casino east of Syracuse. Rochester comes to town in two weeks, Saturday, March 5 at 7:30pm. The Bandits have dropped to 4-3, sitting in the middle of a tightly wound eastern division race, while Toronto won its back to back games against Rochester, and have taken control of the division at 7-2.