The Halifax Thunderbirds picked up their third win and remain undefeated after beating the Buffalo Bandits 15-10 in dominating fashion. What was a neck-and-neck game with both teams tied up at four after the first quarter, quickly came under the Thunderbirds control.
“Halifax had a great game, they shot the ball really well and capitalized on pretty much all their opportunities,” said Bandits head coach John Tavares. “We just didn’t shoot all that well. I don’t think it was because of a lack of effort, it was because a lack of skill.”
Buffalo came out swinging to start, with Josh Byrne (3g,2a) and Dhane Smith (2g,3a) notching two goals thanks to well-placed shots from the outside. Halifax answered back with a four-goal run, with Cody Jamieson (3g,2a) bookending that surge before two quick transition goals by Ian MacKay (1g,1a) and Nick Weiss (1g) tied things up before the first quarter buzzer rang.
When the second quarter came around, the Bandits collapsed, and Halifax capitalized.
“At times our offense looked a little bit rough,” said Bandits forward Dhane Smith. “Having two weeks off doesn’t make it easy. But we need to do things outside the floortime we have together to get better. At the end of the day, we just need to be better as a team and luckily it’s only the second game of the season.”
Mike Burke’s (2g,6a) back to back goals within twenty seconds of each other to open the second definitely lit a fire inside of the Thunderbirds, and it wouldn’t be extinguished for quite some time. Halifax went on an unanswered nine goal run across a quarter and a half, with Ryan Benesch (3g,3a) notching his hattrick almost continuously. The Bandits had just ten shots on goal during the second quarter, all stuffed by netminder Warren Hill who went on to make 39 saves by the end of the night.
Possession problems plagued the Bandits throughout the game, much of it starting at the faceoff dot.
“Withers is one of the best faceoff guys in the world,” Tavares said of the drawman for the T-Birds. “Unfortunately, we don’t have a guy that can match his skill at the circle. We just don’t want to get scored on off the faceoff, so we pretty much concede the possession to them.”
Withers went 22-28 at the dot, while Buffalo went just 7-29 with four different players trying their hand at the draw.
“They obviously had a lot more possessions than us because of that,” said Tavares. “And to me when you’re trying to make a comeback, it’s tough to do that when you can’t win a faceoff.”
In what has become a rare occurrence at this stage in his career, former Goaltender of the Year Matt Vinc was pulled in favor of Dave Buchan twice throughout the game. Vinc saw a total of 46:52 in net time, while Buchan saw around 13 minutes of action. On the night Vinc made 27 saves and allowed 13 goals, while Buchan stopped 8 of 10.
With Buffalo on the losing end of a 13-4 game halfway through the third quarter, Chris Cloutier (2g,2a) finally found the back of the net for Buffalo, snapping Halifax’s impressive nine goal run. In the final minutes of the fourth quarter, the Bandits strung together a four-goal run of their own.
“You can see the resiliency of this team at the end of the game,” said Bandits transitionman Ian MacKay. “We could have just folded up shop and gave up, but until the last buzzer goes you fight no matter which way the game’s going”
Buffalo’s run would prove too little, too late as the Thunderbirds walked away from the Key Bank Center with a 15-10 win to remain a perfect 3-0 on the season. They’re back in action after New Year’s on January 11th when they welcome the Mammoth to Halifax.
The Bandits drop to 1-1 and have yet another bye week coming up before they head to Georgia on January 11th to face the Swarm. Surely the Bandits hope that captain and defenseman Steve Priolo will be back in the lineup by then, as the NLL veteran was moved to first level injured reserve on gameday and his presence was visibly missed on the floor.