By Alex Pagliano - Bandits.com
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Just over three weeks removed from game action, concerns about rust proved to be accurate for the Buffalo Bandits early. But, the Bandits regained form, scoring three unanswered goals to end the fourth quarter to close out the victory.
Dhane Smith’s third goal of the game 11:12 into the fourth quarter proved to be the game-winning-goal, as the Buffalo Bandits defeated the Minnesota Swarm 12-9 on Saturday at First Niagara Center.
Chad Culp started the break that produced the game-winner. Culp lost the ball, but Smith found the ball and beat Higgins over the shoulder to give the Bandits the lead.
“(Culp) got held down, and I kept sprinting,” Smith said. “I kind of panicked, and did not know what I was going to do. I stuck with what I had and I put the ball into the net.”
Mark Steenhuis added four goals to lead Buffalo. Smith recorded his fourth hat trick of the season, while defenseman Steve Priolo chipped in a team-high four assists. Goaltender Anthony Cosmo held the Swarm to just three goals over the last three quarters to earn his seventh win of the season.
The (7-2) Bandits struggled to find consistency on both ends of the floor over the duration on the first quarter. The (2-8) Swarm started the opening quarter on a 2-0 run before John Tavares launched a shot past Swarm goaltender Zach Higgins on the power play to cut the lead at 7:46. Mark Steenhuis lofted a shot over the shoulder of Higgins at 12:39, but the Swarm closed the quarter on a 3-1 run to take a 5-2 lead.
“We definitely were not prepared for Minnesota’s speed,” Bandits head coach Troy Cordingley said. “Given three weeks off, you can practice as hard as you can, but when you get into game mode, it’s hard to replicate.”
Logan Schuss continued the momentum for Minnesota to start the second quarter, opening the scoring at 3:14. But, Joe Resetarits would answer 44 seconds later for Buffalo to swing the momentum. After the Resetarits goal, the Bandits ended the second quarter on a 3-0 run to even the score. Dhane Smith scored consecutive goals before Tavares converted on an excellent pass from Steve Priolo on the break at 11:55 to close the scoring. Priolo recorded four assists over the duration of the first half; one more than he recorded over 12 games over the 2012 season.
“I found a way to push the ball and help our offense,” Priolo said. “With Billy Dee (Smith) out of the lineup tonight, everyone had to step up, myself included.”
The Swarm opened the scoring to start the third quarter. Jordan MacIntosh secured the opening draw, and six seconds later, beat Bandits goaltender Anthony Cosmo to regain the lead. Resetarits lunged cross-crease to beat Higgins to even the game at 3:29, but the Swarm matched just over two minutes later. Steenhuis and Minnesota’s Tyler Hass traded goals to end the quarter.
Just 1:24 into the fourth quarter, Jay Thorimbert scored to even the game. Higgins stopped the Thorimbert shot, but could not gather possession before the ball had found the back of the net.
As the teams went scoreless for an extended period of time, Priolo looked to swing the momentum at 9:22. Priolo and Minnesota tough guy Andrew Suitor dropped the gloves and energized the crowd.
“The team kind of feeds off of that,” Priolo said. “If I have to do that to get the team going, then so be it.”
After the spat, Buffalo seized the momentum. Smith added the game-winning-goal, and Steenhuis added consecutive goals over the final 3:23 to close the game on a 4-0 run.
“We cleared things up (over the last three quarters),” Cordingley said. “Minnesota is a good team. We were fortunate to add some late goals to put a spread on the score.”
The Bandits look for their third consecutive victory next weekend, as they host the Colorado Mammoth next Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at First Niagara Center.