For the second-consecutive week, a fourth-quarter offensive outburst saw the Buffalo Bandits (9-4) overcome an opponent.
After a Lyle Thompson goal with 3.8 seconds left in the third quarter gave the Georgia Swarm (4-9) a 10-9 lead, the Bandits ripped off a five-goal run to start the fourth and they never looked back in an 18-14 win.
In a physical game that saw the teams rack up a combined 50 penalty minutes, Dhane Smith once again led the way offensively for the Bandits. Although the 24-year-old forward was fairly quiet by his standards for the first three quarters, Smith finished the night strong with a fourth-quarter hat trick. He finished the evening with seven points (5+2) in total.
In addition to Smith’s contributions, Ryan Benesch led Buffalo with a nine-point (3+6) night. Chad Culp had his best offensive output of the season, which included a pair of vital fourth-quarter tallies, with a five-point (2+3) game. Mark Steenhuis (2+2) and Alex Kedoh (2+2) also had four points apiece. Anthony Cosmo made 43 saves on 57 shots for his fourth-consecutive victory in net.
In the defeat for Georgia, Randy Staats had seven points (2+5), Johnny Powless had six points (1+5), and Shayne Jackson had four goals. Brodie MacDonald and Zach Higgins split time in net for the Swarm. MacDonald made 34 saves on 44 shots, and Higgins made 7 saves on 15 shots.
Buffalo opened the scoring in the first quarter through their league-leading forward. With 1:23 played, Smith easily maneuvered inside a Georgia defender and ripped a sidearm shot past MacDonald to make it 1-0.
The Swarm tied things up 44 seconds later. A one-handed pass from King found Jackson all alone in front of Cosmo, and Jackson finished from in tight.
The Bandits briefly opened up a two-goal cushion over five minutes later. Anthony Malcom scored first on the power play after he was gifted a clear path to the net to MacDonald’s right. Benesch then took advantage of more sloppy defense when a quick transition opportunity allowed the forward to break in all alone and score.
The Swarm responded with two goals of their own to wrap up the first quarter scoring. With 2:02 remaining, Lyle Thompson scored to make it 3-2, and 40 seconds later Jesse King ripped a point shot high over Cosmo’s left shoulder on the power play to tie it up.
The second quarter saw the teams play to a stalemate once again.
The Bandits opened up the scoring with 1:32 played when Kedoh scored after being left unmarked in front of the Georgia net. However, the Swarm answered with two special teams tallies to take their first lead of the game.
Staats notched the Swarm’s second power-play goal of the night when he ripped a point shot past Cosmo to tie the game. Jordan MacIntosh then beat the Buffalo goaltender shortside while on the penalty kill to give Georgia a 5-4 lead.
Buffalo tied things up less than two minutes later through a power-play goal of their own. Kedoh found Steenhuis, and the veteran forward swiftly fired a shot past MacDonald.
The teams exchanged goals once more following some strong transition play from both sides.
Swarm transition player Ethan O’Connor fed a cutting Jackson, who then converted for his second goal of the night.
Buffalo answered just a minute later when Cosmo stopped a shot, flung a long pass to Mitch Jones, and Jones found an onrushing Steenhuis who would convert his breakaway chance.
The Bandits opened the scoring for the third-consecutive quarter to retake the lead. With 1:36 played, Smith scored his second of the night to make it 7-6.
Over four minutes after Smith’s goal, Nick Weiss pushed the lead to two with a great individual effort. Weiss, who was playing in his first game since January 30, made a hard-charging run to the net and finished with a leaping effort. Weiss’ goal also resulted in a goaltending change for Georgia as Higgins replaced MacDonald in net.
The Swarm trimmed the lead to one through Staats’ second of the night, and Kedoh responded with his second less than two minutes later to make it 9-7.
However, Georgia had the final say on the scoresheet in the third. Chad Tutton scored just five seconds after Kedoh to make it 9-8, and the Thompson brothers, first Miles and then Lyle, scored nearly identical goals to make it 10-9 in favor of the Swarm heading into the fourth.
The fourth quarter proved to be all Bandits.
Smith finished off his hat trick just 51 seconds into the quarter, and the goal also kicked off a decisive five-goal run for Buffalo.
With 2:35 played, Benesch’s second of the night gave Buffalo an 11-10 lead. Malcom scored his second with 3:51 played to push the lead to two. Smith scored his fourth of the night over four minutes later to give Buffalo their largest lead of the game to date, and Culp scored his first of the night to finish off the Bandits run.
Jackson’s third goal would finally put an end to the run with 9:17 played in the fourth, but Culp quickly answered with his second to push the lead back to 15-11.
Powless scored his lone goal of the night 49 seconds later to cut the deficit to three, but Benesch and Smith answered with a goal each under a minute apart to make it 17-12.
Georgia would wrap up the scoring for the night with a pair of consolatory goals from MacIntosh and Jackson.
Three Stars of the Game:
1) Dhane Smith
2) Ryan Benesch
3) Shayne Jackson
By Zac Hirschbeck for Bandits.com. Photo by Paul Sasso.