Never-say-die Wings nip Bandits in overtime
blog by Ben Tsujimoto • March 02, 2013 @ 9:30am
The Buffalo Bandits found themselves in a game of “role reversal” Friday night in their 11-10 overtime loss to the Philadelphia Wings.
In Thursday night’s resilient comeback from three goals down entering the fourth quarter, the Bandits scrapped, clawed and transitioned their way back into the contest, eventually outlasting the Rock 15-13. Friday, however, it was Buffalo that blew a late lead in a league that’s littered with back-and-forth drama.
Philly’s Drew Westervelt nabbed the winner 2:14 into overtime, rolling around a Mike McLellan screen and snapping a laser that bounced between the legs of Buffalo goalie Anthony Cosmo and smacked firmly into the netting—igniting a post-game tirade from Buffalo head coach Darris Kilgour.
“We were fortunate to get [to overtime],” Westervelt admitted after the game. “[Jordan Hall] had a nice goal to take it to overtime. I got a chance to dodge, got a little screen and then the win. I’ll take it.” (See video highlights of the game via Reebok and NLL.com here).
The tying goal that the Wings’ hero referenced was equally as dramatic. With the Bandits’ David Brock in the penalty box for holding, Philly opted to leave Brandon Miller in net and attack Buffalo 5-on-4 on the final possession. With Wings’ starlet Kevin Crowley and flamethrower Westervelt receiving the most defensive attention, it was Hall who whipped a side-arm shot from the point past Cosmo with 3.7 seconds left—just as Brock careened into him after sprinting from the penalty box.
The response from a three-goal, fourth-quarter deficit and a dramatic equalizer just before the horn handed Johnny Mouradian’s team all the momentum entering the extra session, and the Bandits looked resigned to defeat.
In fact, the Bandits were still stewing over an alleged missed call on a Philly defender that had pummeled Luke Wiles with 30 seconds left—Buffalo’s final offensive possession.
As you can see from the header photo, Bandits’ head coach Darris Kilgour virulently attacked the refs following the game, largely over a series of missed calls.
“We outplayed them and should have won that game, but it got taken away from us in the last two minutes of a close game,” a still-seething Kilgour said in addressing the media. When asked if he’d been given an explanation for any of the calls, the former Bandit player and long-time head coach responded vehemently:
“No explanation—no explanation on the hold on Luke Wiles coming out of the corner with 30 seconds left [in regulation], no explanation why there wasn’t a reset on Dhane’s shot or the one in overtime on Mark [Steenhuis].”
Kilgour adamantly shot down the argument that it was the Bandits’ league-wide reputation as “bullies” that hurt them late against Philly.
“What reputation? That was 10 years ago,” the Bandits’ head coach said sternly. “You [media] guys are the ones that keep that reputation going. You look at our penalty minutes, they’ve gone down the last six years. When is everyone going to realize that that’s not us anymore?”
With the Wings trailing 7-2 at the beginning of the second half, however, it was Philadelphia that had reason to gripe with the officials, but in the end, the referees did their best to balance the calls.
“Sometimes when you get [a lot of penalties] from the refs in the first half, they kind of even it out—maybe they let that one slide because they were so tough on us [early],” Philly’s Miller speculated. Buffalo had scored five power-play goals off six Wings’ penalties in the first 31 minutes, but then the Bandits were awarded only one man-advantage for the remainder of the affair.
“I don’t know if we ran into some penalty problems or some penalty problems ran into us, but we battled through that,” Mouradian said, an amusing back-handed jab at the officiating crew of Matt Robinson, Jason Wisewell and Josh Hiltz.
Without the stunning efforts of Philly’s Miller, however, Buffalo would have left the First Niagara Center with a comfortable victory. The 13-year NLL veteran stopped 22 of the Bandits’ 26 second-half shots, a few of the spectacular variety.
A SportsCenter Top 10 Play nominee came in the final stages of the third quarter, where Miller flopped onto his back to make an initial save on Aaron Wilson, conceded a rebound to Buffalo’s exceptional rookie Dhane Smith on the doorstep, and then somehow thwarted the rebound, too.
“I was hoping the ref would blow it in the crease,” Miller explained, “and I saw the rebound go out and I couldn’t reach it, and I knew Dhane was right there and thought, ‘Oh, man.’ I threw my hand up and hoped for a crease call, but I got the save instead,” the goalie added with a chuckle.
With the Wings in near-constant man-down situations, Miller parried away only 18 of Buffalo’s first 25 shots. He credited the advice and reassurance of backup goalie Kevin Croswell during TV timeouts with helping ease his nerves and raise his level of play.
“I started seeing the ball, and I told our backup Croswell that I had to relax a little bit—I was a bit jumpy,” Miller explained. “Sometimes you get a little anxious when your offense isn’t scoring and Coz is doing so well down at the far end, you start trying to do too much.”
Philadelphia boasted six players with three or more points, and second-year star Crowley led the Wings with a goal and four helpers. Red-hot Shawn Williams paced Buffalo with a six-point game, notching two goals and four assists—totaling 13 points over the last two outings.
The Bandits remain at home for a 7:30 p.m. tilt against the Colorado Mammoth on March 9. The Mammoth suffered a 14-12 defeat to Philly on Feb. 24 and host East Division foe Rochester tonight. Colorado currently stands at 2-5 overall and has scored the fewest goals in the league.