The Buffalo Bandits topped the visiting Halifax Thunderbirds 13-9 Saturday on the back of a huge first two quarters of play which saw Buffalo take a 8-2 lead into halftime. With the win, Buffalo moves to 7-3 on the season, making for a three-way tie for first in the North Division between Toronto, Buffalo, and Halifax as well.
The last time these two teams met, Buffalo took a beating and dropped 15-10. The Bandits more than avenged that loss from December, opening Saturday’s game up on a 6-0 run, which is a franchise first.
“I thought we had a pretty good offensive performance in that first half,” said Bandits Head Coach John Tavares. “I thought we didn’t get that many looks in the second half, so we had to rely on our transition.”
Josh Byrne led the way offensively for Buffalo, finishing the night with four goals and three assists. The lefty out of Hofstra University was mostly quiet since the Bandits have been without fellow forward Dhane Smith, but Byrne lit the lamp against Halifax early on by netting the first two goals to start Buffalo’s impeccable six goal run.
“Last couple games we haven’t really been playing the game we want to in terms of moving the ball and moving our feet,” said Byre. “So we knew if we came out and really focused on sharing the ball, moving our feet, cutting through the middle, and doing all the right things; we knew we’d have success.”
The Bandits first quarter saw them up 5-0, and Buffalo kept things rolling into the second quarter. As Mitch de Snoo (1g,1a) found the back of the net over T-Birds netminder Warren Hill. That would be the last shot Hill would face for the night, as he was pulled in favor of backup of Peter Dubenski. Hill made just 9 saves on the 15 shots he faced. Dubenski fared much, stopping 30 for 7, giving Halifax some much needed momentum down the stretch.
“With the last couple games, I thought we were off to great starts,” said Tavares. “And the first game against Halifax I think we were up to two to zero. But these guys, Halifax, have a lot of major comebacks this year, and they just kept coming and coming.”
The Thunderbirds started to show some signs of life midway through the third quarter. They capitalized on a powerplay opportunity after Bandits captain Steve Priolo took a slashing call. Once Austin Shanks (4g,2a) buried on that man up opportunity, Halifax went on to score six of the next seven goals of the game.
“Until that last five minutes […] I thought we were a little flat footed,” Tavares said. “But then Dan Lintner got a couple big goals for us, and that got the offense back on track.”
Lintner tallied two goals and two assists in his Bandits debut, this after being traded from the rival Rochester Knighthawks with Frank Brown just a few days prior. The Canadian out of Cornell worked well when paired on that righty side with Chase Fraser (3g), and was able to outwork his defenders to open up lanes and create scoring chances.
Halifax not only had a tough time finding the back of the net for most of the first half, but many of the guys they rely on for ticking up the scoreboard were quiet all night long. Buffalo was able to shutdown key pieces of the T-Birds offense, with Ryan Benesch, Mike Burke, and Stephen Keogh all combing for just two goals.
Ultimately the Bandits dominating first half play proved insurmountable for the late-blooming Halifax team, as they drop the game 13-9 and now sit tied with Buffalo and Toronto for first in the packed North Division standings. The Thunderbirds hit the road right after the game, as they head to New England to take on the Black Wolves in a Sunday match. Meanwhile, Buffalo will get another taste of the Birds as they fly out to Halifax for what should be an interesting rematch.