Hat tricks from Dhane Smith and Chad Culp, and a six-goal 4th quarter helped the Buffalo Bandits (1-1) claw their way to victory over the Minnesota Swarm (0-1) in front of a home crowd of about 15,000 people at the First Niagara Center on Saturday night. The win means the Bandits are now 8-2 after losing the first game of the season, and 14-8 in home openers.
“We made it hard, but I’m really proud of the way the guys played and the way they buckled down in the second half,” Bandits head coach Darris Kilgour said. “I don’t know why we came out the way we did, but it was a good win overall.”
The Bandits began their home opener the same way they began their game the night before: trailing. Ryan Benesch added a goal 2 and a half minutes into play and another one eight minutes later to give the Swarm a 2-0 lead. Tyler Hass’s goal just 20 seconds later would chase starting goaltender Anthony Cosmo for the second straight night and put the Swarm up, 3-0.
Kurtis Wagar once again stepped in and played well. He stopped 22 of 31 shots in his second straight relief appearance, and made a big save in the final minute of the game to preserve the win for the Bandits.
“It’s good to get your feet wet and know you can handle the load,” Wagar said. “Being a backup goalie, I know my role. Cosmo is our guy but I have to do my job when I’m called upon.”
The Bandits got a bit of a spark from the goalie change, scoring two goals less than a minute apart to bring the score within one. Then, history appeared to be repeating itself, as Minnesota scored five of the next seven goals to give the Swarm an 8-4 lead.
It was once again penalty trouble that led to the Bandits’ big deficit. The Bandits took four penalties, including another five-minute major, called against John Harasym for cross checking. The Swarm went 3-4 on the powerplay.
“We’re not being very smart,” Kilgour said of the undisciplined play the last two nights. “Tonight, we started out the same way.”
The Bandits were able to come within one as Mark Steenhuis, John Tavares, and Jay Thrombert all scored to bring the score to 8-7.
The Swarm were able to pull away once more, with two straight shorthanded goals to make the score 10-7. What would follow can only be described as a see-saw fourth quarter. The Bandits answered the Swarm’s shorthanded goals with four straight goals in a span of five minutes from Dhane Smith, Steenhuis, and two goals from Shawn Williams to take an 11-10 lead.
Ryan Benesch would answer with two goals in less than a minute to give the Swarm another one goal lead, 12-11.
The Bandits then got their best opportunity of the game, and they took advantage of it. The Swarm took two penalties within a minute to give the Bandits a 5-on-3 advantage late in the 4th quarter. Chad Culp completed his hat trick with four and a half minutes left in the game.
Then, rookie Dhane Smith completed his hat trick 20 seconds later to give the Bandits the lead, 13-12, and net his first career game-winning goal.
“Honestly, I don’t even remember what happened on the winning goal,” Smith said after the game. “They gave me the chance to go one-on-one with the defender. I beat him, and I kind of closed my eyes and shot it, and it went in.”
The Bandits will have a week off before playing the Rochester Knighthawks (0-1) in Rochester at 7:30 PM (KB1520/The Lacrosse Network).