By Chris Ryndak - Bandits.com
For a moment, it looked like the Buffalo Bandits would be able to flip the script on the Philadelphia Wings and snap their three-game losing streak.
When the Wings came into Buffalo two weeks ago, they overcame a fourth quarter deficit en route to a three-goal victory. On Sunday in Philadelphia, the Bandits entered the fourth quarter down three goals and eventually tied the game with 6:07 to play.
There would be no fairy tale ending for Buffalo, however, as Drew Westervelt of the Wings scored two late goals in the fourth quarter to set Philadelphia up for a 14-13 win.
The Bandits (2-4) suffered their fourth consecutive loss and will not play again until March 3 when they host undefeated Colorado. The Wings improved to 3-2 on the year and overtook first place in the East. Philadelphia (3-2), having beaten Buffalo twice this year now, also holds a playoff tiebreaker over the Bandits. The two clubs will play again on April 7 in Buffalo.
The four-game losing streak is Buffalo's longest since the start of the 2010 season when they opened the year 0-4. They finished in a tie for third in the East that season and lost in the first round of the playoffs.
Wings rookie forward Kevin Crowley scored four goals and Dan Dawson contributed a goal and nine assists. Forwards Mat Giles (3+2), John Tavares (3+2) and Chad Culp (2+3) each had five points for Buffalo. Luke Wiles led the team with six points (1+5).
Sunday's game was a tight back-and-forth affair through the first half. Brendan Mundorf of the Wings opened the scoring 36 seconds into the game, beating Bandits goaltender Mike Thompson. Buffalo tied the game on Giles' first goal four minutes later and that started a stretch of interchanging goals until Buffalo broke a 4-4 tie on a power play goal from Tavares with 4:17 left in the first half.
Philadelphia then went on a 3-0 run to close out the second quarter and went into halftime a 7-5 lead. Wings captain Brodie Merrill closed out the first half scoring with two late goals.
The Wings strong play continued into the second half and the Bandits gave up another Crowley goal 1:01 into the third quarter. Culp would get the Bandits back within two at the 6:15 mark, but on the ensuing face off, like has happened so many other times this season, the opposition controlled the ball and scored on the next possession.
That Wings goal kicked off another 3-0 run that would force Bandits head coach Darris Kilgour to replace Thompson with backup Angus Goodleaf.
Thompson's day ended with 25 saves on 36 shots in 39:06. Goodleaf went on to stop 15 of 18 shots and was charged with the loss.
Buffalo was finally able to get on a run late in the third quarter on Giles' power play goal with 5:02 to play. The Bandits power play was effective, going 5-for-7 on the evening.
Buffalo stormed back in the fourth quarter, four of the first five goals of the final frame. Transition player Mark Steenhuis cut the Wings' lead to one with 6:29 left. Culp tied the game, 12-12, just 22 seconds later. Westervelt would then score his pair of goals and the Bandits would look at a two-goal deficit with exactly 2:00 left.
Tavares was awarded a penalty shot with 1:09 to play when Philadelphia was caught with too many men on the floor. Tavares scored on his opportunity and the Bandits trailed, 14-13 with that little time left.
Buffalo had a chance to tie it on their last possession of the game, but Wings goaltender Brandon Miller stood tall. He made 48 saves on 61 shots to earn the victory.
The Bandits have a bye week coming up but five players (Tavares, Wiles, Thompson and defensemen Billy Dee Smith and Chris White) will participate in the NLL All-Star Game on Saturday, Feb. 25. The game will be played at First Niagara Center at 7:30 p.m.