January 22, 2011

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Self an Unlikely Her in Bandits' OT Win

by Jeff Baker | NLL.com

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bandits (2-1) beat the previously undefeated Toronto Rock (3-1) in overtime by a score of 15-14 in front of 16,685 fans at HSBC Arena on Saturday night.

Bandits veteran forward John Tavares led the team with three goals and two assists, but it was Bandits defenseman Scott Self who played the role of unlikely hero, scoring the game-winner just over four minutes into overtime on a breakaway pass from Chris White.

"I was worried about them catching me," said Self. "Sometimes I'm better when I don't have a lot of time. So, if I just pick a spot and shoot it, that's the best thing for me."

Self didn't have to do it all by himself, as Buffalo generated an overall balanced attack. Five Bandits scored multiple goals and thirteen players registered at least a point. Buffalo got two goals each from Brett Bucktooth, Tom Montour, Brenden Thenhaus and Roger Vyse. Mark Steenhuis registered four assists while Tracey Kelusky added three more.

Bandits head coach Darris Kilgour was certainly pleased with that type of offensive balance.

"The biggest stat that I look at is how many players had a point on your team," Kilgour said. "That means the ball was moving, the team was transitioning and you had a lot of goals."

Aside from a few shoving matches, there was no sequel to the preseason bench-clearing brawl between the two teams. Still, emotions ran high throughout the game. When referees waived off what would have been a Buffalo goal, the Bandits bench was assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after someone launched a white towel onto the field in protest.

The Rock refused to throw in the towel, coming back from multiple goal deficits several times throughout the game. The Rock rebounded from an early deficit to tie the game at four at the end of the first quarter and also scored five unanswered goals to tie the game at 13-13 late in the second half.

With three minutes left in the fourth, Tavares scored a pretty goal from behind the net to regain the lead for the Bandits. Tavares was relieved that his feet were not in the crease, a touchy subject in Buffalo.

"Well when you get old, you get desperate," said Tavares. "I was behind the net and working on kind of like a 'dunk' play. Luckily, I wasn't in the crease, you're always kind of unsure where your feet are."

The Bandits put their best foot forward tonight. They scored nine goals in each of their first two games, but tonight needed only 30 minutes to match that output, taking a 9-8 lead into half. The Bandits scored three straight goals to start both halves, which forced the Rock to play from behind most of the game.

Bandits starting goaltender Mike Thompson shut out the Rock in the third quarter and made several key stops later in the game en route to a 55-save night. Kilgour hinted that backup Angus Goodleaf might see some action to give Thompson some rest next weekend, but he still fully endorsed his starter by reminding everyone that the Bandits did win a championship in 2008 with Thompson in net.

Rock forward Stephan Leblanc scored with 10 seconds left in regulation to force overtime. He finished with eight points on three goals and five assists, while Colin Doyle scored four goals and two assists. Garrett Billings (3g, 3a) and Blaine Manning (2g, 8a) also helped contribute for the Rock.

Toronto Rock head coach Troy Cordingley refused comment after the game, but NLL.com managed to catch up with the Rock's Leblanc outside the locker room,

"We expected them to come out hard. It's their home-opener in front of the home fans, things can get pretty rowdy in this rink," said Leblanc.

"We tried to weather the storm as much as possible."

As did thousands of Bandits fans, with an announced crowd of 16,685 battling wintry conditions and the bitter cold to come out to the Arena and support their team. The Rock played their second overtime game in as many nights, as they beat the Boston Blazers in OT Friday night by a score of 15-14.

The teams will play again next weekend on Saturday, January 29 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.


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