Buffalo Tops Boston, Seizes Second Place
by Jeff Baker | NLL.com
The Buffalo Bandits (7-3) beat the Boston Blazers (6-5) by a
score of 12-10 in front of 16,347 fans at HSBC Arena on Saturday
night. Neither team led by more than two goals in what was a
competitive, back-and-forth affair.
"Can't say enough about the defense and John Tavares," said Bandits head coach Darris Kilgour. "Great all-around team effort."
Blazers head coach Matt Sawyer was proud of how his team battled, but wasn't happy about another loss at the hands of the Bandits.
"We showed some good character and every time Buffalo scored, we answered back," he said. "The games are so tight, especially in the East, the teams are so strong."
Buffalo's Tavares was named game MVP after scoring four goals and two assists, including the heroic game-winning goal with 2:12 left in the fourth quarter.
"I was actually tripping on the play, I stubbed my toe on the turf and made it look like I was diving," he admitted. "I saw the goalie falling with me, so I just put it back short-side."
After Tavares put them ahead late, the Bandits held on against Boston for a second straight week.
"[It is] pretty nerve-wracking when you get down to the last two minutes," said Bandits transition player Tom Montour. "When they got the ball, we figured we'd pack it in and hopefully one of us will block it."
The Bandits did just that, as Boston's shot attempt never made it to goaltender Mike Thompson. Defenseman Scott Self desperately cleared the ball to Montour, who ran down and found Chris Corbeil in front of Boston's empty-net to seal the deal with eight seconds left.
Montour was all over the field all night, intercepting passes and scooping a team-leading nine loose balls in what was a prototypical night for a transition player.
"He just works so hard, the guys love having him and they know he's going to bring the ball up the floor," said Kilgour. "He keeps going, pushing the ball and putting the pressure on the defense."
Mark Steenhuis, the Bandits star transition player, had a great night as well with two goals and five assists. After being limited with a lingering knee injury, Steenhuis looked healthier when making hard cuts and dashes toward the opposing net.
"He wasn't 100 percent [early in the season], it really restricted his movement, which affects his quickness and top-speed," Kilgour noted. "But the last few games, he's started to feel good again."
Thompson lived up to his NLL Player of the Week billing with another strong performance in net, making 40 saves on 50 shots to improve to an impressive 7-1 on the season.
The Blazers' "Big Three" of Dan Dawson, Casey Powell and Josh Sanderson were also as good as advertised, combining for five goals and 13 assists. Boston enjoyed exceptional play out of Jamie Rooney, who scored three goals to keep the Blazers in the game.
"It was nice to see Jamie have success tonight," Sawyer said. "[He was an] unsung hero, we have a real good supporting cast out there."
Sawyer was asked whether pulling goalie Anthony Cosmo in favor of backup Nick Rose was the result of Cosmo's play or if it was to try and send his team a message.
"[It was] a combination of both. It was something we did to change momentum," he replied. "When Nick came in and played as well as he did, we decided to roll with him."
The Bandits defended their second place position in the East with the win and won't play again until Sunday, March 27, when they hit the road for a 2pm ET matchup with the Minnesota Swarm (5-4). The game will be nationally televised on VERSUS.
Boston will try to turn things around when they take on the Washington Stealth (5-5) in Everett, Wash., on Friday, March 25 at 11 p.m. Eastern.