An improbable comeback by the Buffalo Bandits resulted in a 16-15 overtime win over the Saskatchewan Rush on Friday night at SaskTel Centre. It was an important moral victory for the club which has struggled this season.
The Bandits fell behind 6-0 after the first quarter and lagged 12-5 in the third, but fought hard to tie the game at 15 in the final seconds of the game. Pat Saunders scored the game winner 1:46 into sudden death.
Saskatchewan started strong, scoring four times in the first 3:47. It was their fourth goal that chased Alex Buque after he made only two saves. On the power play, Ryan Keenan threw a couple of fakes and just waited for Buque to move first. Zach Higgins took over and made 34 saves on 45 shots.
Nothing went right for the Bandits – they took four penalties in the quarter, were bad on face-offs and couldn’t hold possession. Mitch Jones hit the crossbar on a power play but Evan Kirk looked like he was ready to lead the Rush to their fifth win in a row.
Rush captain Chris Corbeil whipped the ball over Higgins’ shoulder on a fast-break with two seconds left in the period for the Rush’s third-straight power play goal.
Dhane Smith, with his first of four on the night, finally got the Bandits on the board, going five-hole on Kirk at 3:56 of the second quarter. Twenty-seven seconds later Jones scored from behind the net, wrapping the ball around the net and in.
Saskatchewan led 9-3 at the half.
With the score 12-5 in the third, Buffalo turned the heat up and scored six straight goals. Jordan Durston twisted around Tor Reinholdt to get open on Kirk to cut the Rush lead in half. Their next four goals were scored in a span of 4:42.
The Bandits thought they had tied the game after Nick Weiss picked up a rebound and beat Kirk, but the call of a crease violation stood due to inconclusive evidence. The Rush fans and bench thought the goal was good but video didn’t conclusively show if Weiss’ toe was on the line.
Mike Messenger stopped the run at 6:42 but a pair from Smith finally tied the game at 13.
Corbeil put the Rush back up 14-13, scoring on a shorthanded fast-break at 10:45. Jeff Shattler put them up by two two minutes later.
But the game was far from over. Craig England scored while being tackled by two defender. He lost his glove but scooped up the ball and shot underhand, scoring under Kirk’s pads.
Rookie Josh Byrne tied the game with 19 seconds left with a hard shot through traffic.
The Rush fall to 4-1, suffering their first loss of the season, but they retain first place in the league. Mark Matthews led with two goals and six assists while Ryan Keenan scored three goals and two assists. Ben McIntosh recorded a hat-trick. Kirk made 42 saves.
Jones’ 10 points (3G/7A) led the Bandits. Smith had nine points (4G/5A) and Durston contributed eight (2G/6A).
The Rush next visit the Roughnecks on January 27th, while the Bandits are off until February 3rd when they visit the Black Wolves.