By Alex Beilman - Bandits.com
The Buffalo Bandits (2-5) got an overtime winner from defenseman Mitch de Snoo to defeat the New England Black Wolves (3-5) at Mohegan Sun Arena on Sunday afternoon. A game that Buffalo considered a must-win early in the year was close from the start, and the Bandits were finally able to battle their way back from an early deficit to claim a 16-15 victory.
Rookie Blaze Riorden, who drew into the lineup for just the second time this season, helped provide some rookie magic of his own late in the fourth quarter, by scoring to put the Bandits ahead twice, to make it 14-13 and 15-14. Riorden was very noticeable all game, adding an assist as well and peppering seven shots on goal.
But, as with the last game against these clubs in Uncasville, Conn., New England got a late goal, this time from Kevin Buchanan to tie the game at 15-15.
However, de Snoo was apparently not too keen on keeping the bus driver waiting. Before the fans were able to double check the overtime rules, de Snoo was off on a breakaway in transition and found some daylight behind goaltender Evan Kirk to end the game just 25 seconds into the extra frame.
Mitch Jones led the Bandits with six points (1+5), while Mark Steenhuis (2+3), Brad Self (1+4) Dhane Smith (4+1) each had five-point days. Anthony Cosmo made 37 saves on 52 shots to earn his first win of the year.
The game was intense from start to finish, but looked to mirror New England’s win over the Bandits on Friday in Buffalo early on. Shawn Evans scored two goals of his six goals in 13 seconds to put the home team up 2-0 on Sunday just 3:14 into the game. Evans finished with a game-high 12 points. Buffalo’s Craig England was able to answer 44 seconds later to get it to 2-1.
However, another two New England goals by Pat Saunders and Kevin Buchanan put the hosts up 4-1. England then answered back with his second of the night and eight goal in five games to make it 4-2. Reilly O’Connor would add to his team’s lead before the end of the first frame, by making it 5-2 on his first goal of the night.
The second quarter turned into a goaltending duel. Cosmo shined in the second quarter, in what would end up being his first full game of the season.
A number of his 37 saves came in the face of odd-man rushes and dangerous opportunities for New England. Cosmo’s timely saves often prevented the game from getting out of hand.
Kirk also played well as both goalies combined to surrender just three goals total in the second. Kirk faced 63 shots and turned away 47 of them in the overtime loss.
Smith got his night started for the Bandits by scoring two of those goals. An Evans shorthanded goal was sandwiched between Smith’s tallies and the teams headed to the locker room with the Bandits trailing by a score of 6-4.
Jones opened the scoring in the second half, burying a feed from Smith just 46 seconds into the third quarter and getting his team within one goal. Kyle Buchanan and Evans scored after that to get it to 8-5 in favor of New England.
However, the Bandits offense was finally able to string together a timely run. Brad Self, who was filling in at forward after Ryan Benesch left the game early with concussion-like symptoms, scored the first of a 4-0 run. Smith would complete a hat trick just under two minutes later to get Buffalo within one goal.
Then, rookie Tim Edwards was able to notch his first NLL goal on a breakaway to tie the game up at 8-8. The Canisius College product and Jamesville, NY native was once again tasked with going toe-to-toe with Jay Thorimbert in the faceoff circle, and performed admirably, going 11 for 33 there.
Steenhuis capped off the run with a power play tally to put the Bandits up 9-8. The goal gave the Bandits their first lead on the afternoon and also marked their first lead since they held a 10-9 lead at the 2:44 mark of the fourth quarter in their last trip to New England.
O’Connor scored his second goal of the day with just 27 seconds gone in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 9-9. Steenhuis got the lead right back on a feed from Self, but Kevin Crowley would quickly get the game back even, scoring on a five-minute power play.
However, the Bandits got a spark from Smith. Smith got possession on the penalty kill, cut to the middle from the left side boards, broke through a double team, and rifled a shorthanded goal past a prone Kirk to put his team back in the lead. Smith once again looked like his old self, scoring four goals and adding an assist.
Defenseman Steve Priolo was apparently influenced by Smith’s effort, as he took the ball right off the ensuing faceoff, ran the floor, scooped up the rebound off his initial shot, and shoveled the ball behind Kirk.
The two shorthanded goals came in a span of just 12 seconds, and were critical to a team that had seen so many games slip away quickly in the early going of the season.
The teams continued another see-saw battle at Mohegan Sun Arena after the Bandits shorthanded outburst. Evans scored his sixth goal of the night on the power play after being held without a goal in Buffalo.
Alex-Kedoh Hill restored the Bandits two-goal lead briefly, before Crowley scored his second and third goal in quick succession to tie the game up once again, setting up Riorden’s heroics and de Snoo’s winner.
The Bandits will look to string together consecutive win for the first time this year when the Toronto Rock come to Buffalo on Feb. 25.
The game will be the third in a set of five games in 16 days for Buffalo.