In a see-saw battle, the Buffalo Bandits earned a 12-11 overtime win against the Saskatchewan Rush in Saturday night action.
The Bandits improve to a league-best 11-3 record with the win, while the Rush (6-5) drop to second place in the West Division, behind the surprising expansion franchise San Diego Seals.
Buffalo opened the scoring with two quick goals in the first 3:37 of the game. Saskatchewan responded with two goals of their own and the two teams then exchanged goals for the rest of the first half, going to the locker rooms locked in a 5-5 tie.
The Bandits came out firing in the third quarter. Only two and a half minutes in, a hard, bouncing shot by Dhane Smith injured Rush starting goalie Evan Kirk, and Kirk didn’t return. Buffalo took full advantage of facing backup netminder Adam Shute by scoring four straight goals before the Rush could respond with one of their own.
In a wild fourth quarter, Saskatchewan’s Mark Matthews notched the first goal just 16 seconds in, sparking the comeback. The Rush would score four of the next five goals to take the lead for the first time with six minutes remaining on the clock. Buffalo’s Shawn Evans tied the game back up at 12:51 to force sudden death overtime.
Just under two minutes into the overtime period, Bandit Chris Cloutier took a low shot that went wide of the Rush net. Chase Fraser was able to scoop the loose ball behind the net and make a crease dive to tuck the ball home before Shute could react, giving Buffalo the win.
Evans (two goals, four assists) and Thomas Hoggarth (1 G, 5 A) both picked up six points apiece for the Bandits, while Saskatchewan was led by Matthews with four goals and three helpers for seven points.
Matt Vinc was his usual steady self in the Bandit’s net, stopping 48 shots for the victory. Kirk made 23 saves for the Rush before leaving the game. Shute had a shaky third quarter in relief of Kirk, but settled down nicely, stopping 21 shots and giving his team a chance late in the game with several big saves.
Next up for the Rush is a trip to San Diego to take on the Seals next Friday. The Bandits meanwhile host the Toronto Rock on Saturday.