The Buffalo Bandits (6-9) outscored the Washington Stealth (8-7) by an 8-4 margin in the final quarter, and kept their playoff hopes with a 15-10 victory. The win snapped a six-game losing streak that dated back to March 1st.
Bandits transition player Mark Steenhuis led all runners with seven points (two goals, five assists) and backup goaltender Kurtis Wagar stopped 33 of the 43 shots he faced as starting goaltender Anthony Cosmo was forced to sit out due to an injury sustained in the previous game.
The Stealth opened the scoring just 51 seconds in the game, when Dean Hill was able to finish off a play from Brett Bucktooth to give the Stealth a 1-0 lead. Aaron Wilson was able to answer for the Bandits a little over a minute later to tie the game at 1-1. The two teams traded two more goals, as Lewis Ratcliff and Bob Snider scored for the Stealth and Shawn Williams and Dhane Smith scored for the Bandits and the period ended tied 3-3. Smith added two assists in addition to his one goal in his return from injury.
The Bandits had their first of two big quarters in the second, as they outscored their opponent 4-1. Steve Priolo scored 3:45 into the quarter, and Wilson scored his second three minutes later to put the Bandits up 5-3. Rhys Duch, the Stealth’s leading scorer, scored a goal to bring his squad within one. However, John Tavares and Steenhuis scored after that to extend the Bandits lead to 7-4.
The third quarter was relatively quiet. The Stealth got goals from Dean Hill and Curtis Hodgson to make the score 7-6 and give their team an opportunity to come back. Wilson and Duch traded goals in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter to make the score 8-7 Bandits.
The Bandits were able to begin running away, scoring three unanswered goals from Jordan Critch, Wilson, and Mike Hominuck to make the score 11-7. Dean Hill stopped the Bandits run momentarily, but Hominuck scored his second of the game and Kevin Brownell got his first of the game to inch the Bandits lead to five, 13-8.
Duch did his best to put his team on his back and lead a comeback, as he scored two goals in the final seven minutes. The Bandits offense proved too much, however, as they were able to answer both goals, and cap off the 15-10 victory.
The Bandits were able to keep their very faint playoff hopes alive. They would have been eliminated from playoff contention, as the Knighthawks won tonight as well. Now, their season finale matchup with the same Knighthawks next week may be the biggest game of the season, as they continue to fight for their playoff lives.
Faceoff for that game is set for 7:30 PM at the First Niagara Center. Fans can purchase tickets at the First Niagara Center box office or via tickets.com.