By Chris Ryndak – Bandits.com
As Friday night showed the Buffalo Bandits, any team in the NLL can win on any night.
The Washington Stealth came into First Niagara Center 0-3 and walked out with their first victory of the season with an 11-10 overtime win over the Bandits. The Stealth's triumph also set up the Bandits' first three-game losing streak since the start of the 2010 season.
Stealth forward Rhys Duch scored four times in the game, including the overtime winner. He also had four assists and 13 shots on goal. Lewis Ratcliff had a strong game for Washington as well with three goals and three assists.
“We know what they can do,” said Bandits assistant coach Rich Kilgour. “As a coach it's hard because they're mentioned in all the pregame speeches; they're mentioned in the timeout speeches; they're mentioned in the halftime speech and that's what makes them great players: They still able to come out and find a way to get it done. We got to quit letting some guys get five goals against us.”
The night was mostly a back-and-forth affair with neither team able to pull ahead on the scoreboard for very long. If the Bandits (2-3) came back to tie the game, the Stealth would come right back to take the lead again.
It happened late in the third quarter when Bandits forward Mat Giles tied the game, 8-8 with 1:56 left. The goal capped off a three-goal rally from the Bandits. But 18 seconds later, former Bandit Brett Bucktooth scored his second goal of the night to give Washington the lead heading into the fourth quarter.
It happened again at the start of the fourth quarter. Buffalo's Luke Wiles had a big goal 1:10 in to tie the game, 9-9, but Duch scored again to put the Stealth back on top just nine seconds later.
“It's disappointing. We go out and work there so hard. I think even the fans notice. We go out there, play, play, play, get it tied and we give up a goal in the next 30 seconds,” Kilgour said. “That's happened this year numerous times. We get a goal and we give up a goal in the next minute. That's not good.”
Wiles finished the night with four goals and an assist against his former team. Forwards John Tavares (2+3), Mat Giles (2+2) and Kevin Buchanan (0+2) and transition player Tom Montour (0+2) also had multi-point performances for Buffalo.
Buffalo tied the game, 10-10, with 7:17 left in the fourth quarter on Mark Steenhuis' individual effort. The game almost didn't make it to overtime, however, as Bandits' goaltender Mike Thompson had to come up huge to stop Duch with 33.7 seconds left in regulation. Thompson made 41 saves on 52 shots.
The Bandits won the first possession of the overtime but failed to convert. The Stealth came up the floor and Duch beat Thompson for the game-winning goal.
Kilgour thought the Bandits stole a little momentum after killing a five-minute penalty later in the first half. With 1:17 to play, Giles took a high-sticking major after a collision with Stealth defender Kyle Sorenson.
Washington scored one goal on that power play to take a 7-6 lead, but Giles got it right back as he scored running out of the penalty box. The Bandits went into halftime down two goals. Even with their strong play down a man at the end, Kilgour felt that Buffalo didn't play a strong enough first half.
“We're shooting ourselves in the foot with that first half. We came out flat and let Washington take it to us,” Kilgour said. “That right there is what we need to correct. With the last couple game, we've been down three or four goals to start and we've been playing catch-up. It takes a lot out of you.”
The Bandits go into Philadelphia on Sunday, Feb. 12 for a 4 p.m. matinee against the Wings (2-2).
“Now our backs are kind of coming up against the wall so we need to dig deep and go into Philly, who gave us our first loss at home and we owe them one,” Wiles said. “We can't keep doing this to ourselves but we'll get back on track next weekend. I believe in that.”
Kilgour echoed that frustration and emphasized that it's going to take a lot of effort to right the ship.
“The Bandits have a strong tradition and history and 2-3 is not it. The coaches are frustrated, the players are frustrated and it's do or die time. It really is,” Kilgour said. “With the league this year with the way it is and how close it's going to be, we need to get back to .500 and then get on the right side of .500. We've got a lot of work cut out."