Bandits on a three game winning streak? Yeppers!
by Andrew Kulyk (@akulykUSRT) - posted 11:36 am, March 13, 2011
Looking at the standings a few weeks ago, with the Toronto Rock running away with the division, Buffalo was setting its sights on just competing and snagging one of the other playoff slots in the tough East. But now that’s all out the window. The guys are all talking again about claiming the East, and the bullseye is squarely on the Buffalo/Toronto rematch at the Air Canada Centre on April 8.
This all comes about following the Buffalo Bandits’ dramatic victory Saturday night, 12-10 over the Boston Blazers. 16,347 full-throated, clapping fans filled the stands at HSBC Arena, and they were rewarded watching their team play solid defense, goalie Mikey Thompson getting into championship form, and their three star players, John Tavares, Mark Steenhuis and Roger Vyse do the necessary damage.
Both teams played a tenuous game throughout much of the first half. Buffalo fell behind 4-2 after one quarter of play, then came storming back in the second. Vyse and Tavares netted goals from long shots which found the back of the net, then Tavares tied it at 5 with a beautiful wraparound from behind the net. Once Steenhuis gave Buffalo the lead for the second time in the game, Boston goaltender Anthony Cosmo was chased from the goal and replaced by backup Nick Rose. Steenhuis has been somewhat limited with his up and down the field movement this year, still shaking off a nagging knee injury, but for the first time this season looked like he was at his full speed. “Total health, he’s really starting to feel well again, I hope to see him fully healed up and love to see him at a 100% if this ins’t 100%,” said Coach Darris Kilgour.
The Bandits held a 7-6 game going into the half and the teams were tied at 9 as the fourth quarter began. That’s when Brendan Thenhaus got open in the slot right in front of the goaltender, burying his chance to give Buffalo a 10-9 lead. The fourth quarter continued with both teams hunkered down and limited scoring chances, until Boston tied it at 10 with a power play goal with just under 4 minutes remaining. From there it was anybody’s game.
Enter John Tavares. The Bandits’ “ageless wonder” crashed the net with just over two minutes to go, and gave the Bandits the lead back. But was he in the crease? Early replays seemed to show he was fine, and after an official video review, that ruling was confirmed, and the Bandits had an 11-10 lead. Tavares had four goals on the night, and talked about his timely goals. On the winner: “I kind of tripped on the play and stubbed my toe in the turf and it looked like I was falling, and the goalie went with me, so I just put it behind his back on the short side and kind of lobbed it in there. I was just trying to stay out of the crease before the ball went in.” The behind the net goal earlier in the game was a thing of beauty, but Tavares admitted that they really don’t practice this move too much. “The play was totally set up by Roger Vyse. When he gave the pass over to one side and I was on the other side, Cosmo had no clue as to what was going on, so all credit to Roger. The dunking part is the easy part.”
From there Buffalo played keepaway, winning the next possession, then calling a timely timeout to earn a fresh clock, and piling into scrums to fight for loose balls. Boston was unable to get control of the ball for almost a minute and a half. When they finally got control with 36.5 seconds left, their one shot attempt sailed wide, from there it was Mark Montour off to the races, sending Chris Corbeil to an empty netter in the closing seconds. Final score, Buffalo 12, Boston 10. “Yeah that’s how we roll. We always like to keep it interesting,” Thompson joked as he recalled the last two minutes of the game. “They just keep coming hard, they are are a regular team.” Thompson said that in the closing seconds, the ball never got to him. “It just got scooped, my defense and the offense played well.”
Summing up the game, Kilgour said, “The boys played well. Again Mikey Thompson was solid in net, there are a couple he’d like back. He had some huge saves for us, and can’t say enough about the defense, and John Tavares what a big goal he had. I told him I loved watching him for the last 20 years and I’ll love watching for at least the next 3 or 4 more. So yeah, great team play and all around total team effort.” Kilgour would like to think that his team’s growing confidence is making a statement to the rest of the league, yet more. “It’s not so much a statement to the league, as it is a statement to ourselves. We haven’t had a three game win streak in two years, so it feels real good to get that feeling. These guys are starting to have a lot of confidence in each other, confidence is a dangerous thing when you have it.”
Now at 7-3, the Bandits will have next week off before traveling to Minnesota to take on the Swarm on Sunday, March 27. The team returns home on Saturday, April 2 to face the Washington Stealth.