The Buffalo Bandits (6-9) snapped a six-game losing streak and stayed alive in the playoff race with a critical 15-10 road win over the Washington Stealth (8-7) at Comcast Arena on Saturday night.
“We’ve been working to get more production from our offense while the defense and goaltending has really been holding us in games," said Stealth head coach Chris Hall. "Tonight, it wasn’t there.”
The Bandits avoided elimination from postseason contention with the victory in what became a must-win game after the Rochester Knighthawks won earlier in the night.
Aaron Wilson scored a team-high four goals for the Bandits, Mark Steenhuis had seven points (2+5), rookies Kevin Brownell and Jordan Critch combined for nine points while backup goalie Kurtis Wagar, starting in place of an injured Anthony Cosmo, had 33 saves on 43 shots.
“I thought we did a great job with ball movement, seeing the open guys and guys hitting the open shots as well,” Steenhuis said. “We had a good overall effort. I think everybody (on offense) got on the scoresheet. Wagar played awesome with Cosmo being out. All the weight was on his shoulders and he really rose to the occasion."
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.
Duch led the way for the Stealth with six points (4+2) while Hill scored a hat trick. Tyler Richards and Matt Roik combined to make 37 stops on 52 shots.
Bandits.com contributed to this report.