NLL: Thunderbirds improve to 3-0 with win over Bandits

Mike Burke. Buffalo Bandits vs Halifax Thunderbirds at KeyBank Center, December 28, 2019. (Photo by Bill Wippert)

The Halifax Thunderbirds completely dominated the Buffalo Bandits for two quarters and tied one quarter to end up with the 15-10 win on Saturday night at Keybank Center. They move to a 3-0 record while Buffalo drops to 1-1 on the season.

Buffalo scored quickly to go up 2-0. However, the Thunderbirds found their footing and went on a 4-0 run before Buffalo recovered and replied with Ian MacKay and Nick Weiss scoring back-to-back transition goals 32 seconds apart to end the quarter tied at four.

The “birds” found some “thunder” at the end of the second quarter. They scored six unanswered goals in the quarter with Ryan Benesch and Mike Burke each scoring back-to-back goals in the onslaught. They continued the run into the third, making it nine in a row total for a 13-4 lead before Chris Cloutier plowed through the Halifax defense to find the back of the net.

Buffalo scored five times in the fourth quarter to Halifax’s one goal, but they could not recover from the already large deficit.

The game was quite chippy with 18 minor penalties for 36 minutes. Buffalo had 10 of those 18 penalties including three roughing penalties. This style of play seems to be standard with Buffalo. One has to wonder if the penalties that keep accumulating have impacted Buffalo’s record.

It was just not reigning goaltender of the year Matt Vinc’s night, and he earned the loss. Doug Buchan also saw time in the game in for his Buffalo debut as the Bandits’ tried to find a way to stop the bleeding. Vinc made 18 saves and Buchan 17. Warren Hill had 39 saves.

Mike Burke ended the night with two goals and six assists for Halifax. Josh Byrne had three goals and two assists while Dhane Smith had a pair of goals and three assists.

John Tavares gave credit to the Thunderbirds while recognizing that the Bandits need to work on improving their fundamentals.

“Halifax had a great game, they shot the ball really well,” he said.

Halifax has done a great job of filling in their gaps and using the strength of the various players on the team. It will be interesting to see whether or not they can continue their undefeated run when they take on Colorado on the 11th.  Buffalo will have their hands full with Georgia that same night.