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NLL Playoffs live-blog: Buffalo vs. Boston

Chris White and Dan Dawson, photo by Don Nieman

blog by Ben Tsujimoto  • 

Pre-game—East Division winner Buffalo hosts the resurgent Boston Blazers tonight in the first round of the NLL Playoffs.  The Bandits were blown out in two consecutive to close the regular season, including a 16-9 drubbing to tonight’s opponent, but with a clean slate and home-field advantage tonight, expect a hungry Buffalo club.

Pre-game—Speaking of “hungry,” I’ve been dubbed media champion for tonight.  Let’s just say a rusty ice cream case top was no match for my powerful fingers.

Pre-game—Rather underwhelming attendance tonight at HSBC Arena; maybe it’s just a late-arriving crowd because of the beautiful weather.  Regardless, the bagpiper is here, so we have permission to keep going. 

Pre-game —Buffalo’s scratches:  Kyle Clancy, Frank Resetarits, and Brandon Francis.  Ryan Powell, Brett Queener and Jason Dudge won’t suit up for the Blazers.  The Bandits won the regular season series against Boston 2-1, winning one on the road and splitting at home. 

—Tonight would be an excellent time for Mark Steenhuis’ shooting stroke to return.  Steenhuis’ goal total dropped from 36 in 2010 to 22 in 2011. 

Pre-game—Jay Thorimbert and Brett Bucktooth return to the lineup after missing last week’s contest.  Mike Thompson starts in goal, as expected.

15:00 —It’s imperative for the Bandits to start quickly tonight—Buffalo faced a 6-0 deficit against Rochester halfway through the opening quarter of last Saturday’s game.

15:00—Scott Self is taking the opening draw—he’s certainly not a regular face-off man.  After a massive scrum at mid-carpet, Dan Dawson broke in alone on Thompson, but Big Mike stood up to the challenge with a sterling kick save.

13:29—Buffalo’s defense extends nicely on Casey Powell, forcing a shot clock violation.  Vyse fires a shot wide of Blazer goalie Cosmo, the NLL’s leader in goals against average.

12:50—Cosmo rejects Chad Culp’s attempt after the tenacious Bandit forward slashed through the middle.  Bucktooth’s pass doesn’t connect with Culp, and Boston jaunts in the other direction. 

—Hassled by Jonathan Durno, Mark Steenhuis rips a bouncer inside Cosmo’s far post—1-0 Buffalo!

10:37—Looking to further build the momentum, Tracey Kelusky whips a shot that bounces well wide of the far post.  Spectacular save on Ryan Hotaling by Thompson again—beautifully executed pick and roll with Kevin Buchanan went for naught. 

9:52—Another scrum involving Steenhuis after the ensuing trip—Mark dashed into Boston’s crease and made contact with Cosmo, drawing the rage of Blazer defenders. 

9:52 —Buffalo’s offense has been sharp in the game’s first five minutes—unselfish ball movement and solid movement in the Blazer zone.  There still are no fans in the 300s though.

8:37—30 second shot violation on Buffalo.  The Bandit defense continues to extend and challenge on Boston’s shooters, and the Blazers have struggled to deal with the constant pressure.

—Dan Dawson takes his eyes off a pass—the ball squirts across the midfield line, resulting in an over-and-back violation.  Cosmo robs Thenhaus from the doorstep with his shoulder pads. 

6:32—Cosmo saves a Steenhuis blast from distance after Thompson saw Buchanan’s shot the whole way at the other end.  Two low percentage chances, one for each team.  Dawson’s shot from inside the left circle is challenged tightly by Ian Llord—the ball sails well wide.

5:43—2-0 Buffalo!  Pretty dish from John Tavares to Roger Vyse.  Vyse showed quickly to Tavares down low before spinning behind his defender, receiving the pass and scooping a shot over Cosmo’s right leg for the goal. 

5:18—Chris White is awarded a two minute penalty for roughing.

5:07—Dynamite pass from Dawson to Jamie Rooney for the power play goal, mere seconds into the man advantage.  The over-the-shoulder pass fooled the Buffalo defense; unable to rotate on Rooney, the Boston forward snuck a shot over Thompson’s shoulder.

4:34—Another power play for the Blazers—Tom Montour trudges to the box for two minutes.

3:53—Josh Sanderson has two moments to forget on the power play—first, his shot is knocked away by Thompson—after Boston collected the loose ball, a simple pass ricocheted off his chest and to a Bandit defender. 

2:30 —Sanderson is denied again by Thompson’s stick, and Montour’s penalty expires.  Vyse fires high over the target, and the shot clock expires before Buffalo can corral the rebound. 

2:00—A little of The Darkness over the sound system.  Darris believes in a thing called winning.

:28—Powell can’t convert on a foray through the middle of the defense—Scott Self collapsed nicely when he saw Powell bearing towards goal.

————————-End of First Quarter, Buffalo leads 2-1———————-

15:00—This is shaping up to be a tight game, and we’d expect nothing else after Buffalo and Boston’s first two meetings went down to the wire.  The Bandits look much more determined tonight than they did in their last two contests, a reassuring sign.  It’s hard to know whether or not a team can simply “flip a switch” going from a meaningless regular season game to high-intensity playoff action.

14:20—Buffalo wastes the first possession of the second half on a shot clock violation—Boston switched the pick-and-roll on Steenhuis quickly, leaving Mark with no lane to shoot. 

13:49—Buchanan, who scored five goals in the last meeting, fires wide, but there’s a delayed penalty on the Bandits.  Darryl Gibson heads to the box for an illegal crosscheck. 

13:31—Powell shoots wide, and Thompson raises his arm instinctively to deny Rooney just outside the crease.  With a clear sight line, Thompson stops Buchanan’s chance easily. 

12:47—Penalty on the Blazers—a minute remains in Gibson’s time of service.  Two minutes for slashing on Mitch Belisle.  The teams will play four on four. 

12:14—Buchanan scythes through the defense again, but Thompson stands tall again at the near post.  The Bandit goalie has been exceptional tonight.  Dilks tries a feeble attempt in transition, which Thompson easily tips away.

11:27—Buffalo on the power play for a minute.  Kelusky’s pass is tipped and intercepted by Boston.  Mike Kirk hands the ball off to Buchanan, and Boston will exhaust a shot clock to kill the penalty. 

10:48—Thompson rises to the occasion again—he’s the only reason it’s not 6-2 right now.  Dawson, lurking deep in the Buffalo zone, burst past a defender and shot high on Thompson, who deflected the shot away with his shoulder. 

8:45—Cosmo makes a tremendous point-blank save on Bucktooth, but instead of sprinting to the bench, Bucktooth chases down the Blazer who corralled the loose ball and slapped it free.  Tavares picks up the loosie. 

8:28 —Boston leads in shots on goal so far 15 to 11.  I’ve failed to credit the Blazer defense so far, but Rubisch and co. have been as stingy as their counterparts. 

8:11—Buchanan sees another shot fly into the netting of Thompson’s stick.  The usual sharpshooter doesn’t have it tonight—yet, at least. 

7:49—Bandit power play—two minutes on Greg Downing for cross-checking. 

7:35—At the point on the power play, a role he’s played for twenty years, John Tavares whistles a shot to Anthony Cosmo’s left—goal, Buffalo!  3-1 Bandits

6:55 —Bucktooth’s shot slinks just wide of Cosmo’s goal; the Blazer keeper never saw it.  Thompson swarms across the crease to deny Buchanan’s rocket after a gorgeous cross-carpet pass.

6:09—4-1 Buffalo!  Roger Vyse hammers home his second of the evening, a seeing-eye snapper that snuck between Cosmo’s shoulder and the crossbar.  Tom Montour with the assist.

5:47—Boston answers back immediately with a goal from trusty Nick Cotter.  The Blazers’ transition player bounced a shot through traffic that Mike didn’t see until the last minute.  Rooney and Hotaling on the assists.  4-2 Buffalo.

5:04—Thompson rises to stop Rooney again just after Chris White planted Sanderson into the turf.  Kelusky slithered diagonally across the crease only to see his 15 footer clang off the crossbar and out of play. 

4:29 Roger Vyse is en fuego tonight.  81 used a John Tavares screen to create space and step into his shot—the ball flew past Cosmo, a hat-trick for Vyse.  5-2 Buffalo.

3:51 —Casey Powell ducks around Travis Irving and sends a low shot against the grain to beat Thompson.  Probably the softest goal that Buffalo has allowed tonight, and the score is 5-3 after Boston’s quick response. 

3:27—The goals are flying in now, but this one may be waved off.  Tracey Kelusky snagged a pass behind the goal and reached around the far post with his stick to “dunk” the shot behind Cosmo.  The ruling is a goal, but Matt Sawyer promptly whipped out the challenge flag. 

3:27—The referees are checking to see if Kelusky’s feet touched the crease before the shot crossed the goal line.  It’s ruled a goal!  6-3 Buffalo.

3:11—Great patience by Tommy Montour, and Buffalo’s now up 4!  The defender darted out in transition, faked a shot and found Chad Culp open at the back post, and Culp buried the quick stick. 7-3 Buffalo.  Anthony Cosmo’s head is spinning.

1:54—Steenhuis is awarded two minutes for roughing.  A frustration penalty on Mark, who shouldn’t have retaliated.

1:12—Buffalo’s penalty kill stands strong, as Buchanan, Powell and Rooney all can’t beat Thompson.

:14—Fantastic initial save by Thompson, but Jamie Rooney got another chance and converted on the power play.  7-4 Buffalo.  Dan Dawson beat Buffalo’s defense down in transition following Rooney’s goal but hummed his shot just wide of the near post.  A sigh of relief, and it’s halftime.

—————————Halftime, 7-4 Buffalo————————-

Halftime—ILIndoor writer Steve Bermel reports that Boston is 0-6 when trailing at the half.  And yes, they’re trailing at the half.

Halftime—Boston won 8 of 13 faceoffs and outshot Buffalo 28-25 in the first 30 minutes.

14:25—Buffalo can’t muster a good opportunity on its first possession—Casey Powell starts the second half hot with a blistering bouncer that eluded Thompson.  7-5 Buffalo, but Boston strikes first in the second frame.

13:11—The Bandits answer back in a hurry!  John Tavares sheds a defender and flips the ball back to Vyse, who quickly fakes his shot before flicking the ball between Cosmo’s legs.  Roger’s fourth of evening puts Buffalo up 8-5.

12:41—The run is on!  Mark Steenhuis sprinted straight at two Boston defenders, leaped and slipped the ball between Cosmo’s arm and his leg pads. 9-5 Buffalo, assists to Culp and Hill. 

11:22—Nick Cotter’s shot hits a leg before it reaches Thompson, and Darryl Gibson is first to the loose ball.  Culp is creamed to the turf as he bursts through the middle.  There have been three invading balloons in the last five minutes.  Tavares throws an off-speed shot on Cosmo, but the Blazer netminder parries it away.

9:36—Steenhuis rolls down the right side, absorbs contact and releases a shot that bounces inches wide of the far post.  Timeout on the floor, Buffalo leads 9-5.

9:15—Great poke by Darryl Gibson on a loose ball in front of his own cage, clearing the ball away from danger.  Dawson flings a shot wide of Thompson’s net—absurdly hard shot though.  Buchanan’s long-distance heave hits Big Mike’s pads. 

7:06 —Gibson blocks another shot; Sanderson briefly sees green in front of him, but Steve Priolo recovers to deliver a jarring check.  Boston keeps possession, however. 

6:35 —Ian Llord will serve two minutes, but Boston is quickly whistled for a minor just seconds later as Tommy Montour lost his helmet. 

5:42—Nick Cotter serves the penalty.  Kyle Rubisch breaks out in transition, but his shot hits Thompson square in the chest.  Bucktooth’s rifle from outside sticks between Cosmo’s legs.

3:57—The Bandits work the ball around the perimeter but don’t release a shot before the shot clock expires.  Three seconds remain in Cotter’s penalty. 

2:23—Neither team getting high percentage looks.  Nick Cotter hit the deck but let loose a side-winding blast that went wide.  Both team defenses are stronger than the attack so far in the third quarter. 

1:23—Culp turns the ball over, leading to two on one for Boston the other way.  Kyle Rubisch is denied by Mike Thompson’s foot, however.  Buchanan drills a shot wide that bounces long off the backboards—Jay Thorimbert races down the other way, looks off his defender and tries to beat Cosmo near post—to no avail.  Quiet end to the quarter.

——————-End of 3rd Quarter, Buffalo leads 9-5—————-

15:00 —I have a correction to make—Buffalo was outshot at halftime 28-18, not 28-25.  Shots are 36-28 Boston after three.  Sorry about that.

14:12—Early fourth quarter penalty on Buffalo—Ian Llord was caught for “holding the stick.”  Troubling. 

13:34—Casey Powell twirls a shot into Thompson’s body.  Big Mike gets his mitt on a Powell blast before blocking the rebound with a sprawl.  Powell regularly struggles against Buffalo.

—Right as I say that, Powell picks out the upper left corner for a power play goal.  9-6 Buffalo.

11:53 —Rubisch tracks back quickly to swat the ball out of Tavares’ grip—JT had a step on the Boston defender.  A nifty pick and roll pass by the Blazers pings off the dome of Josh Wasson-McQuigge—that’s what he gets for having a hyphenated last name. 

10:58 —Dawson tries to split Thompson’s wickets from a bad angle, but Big Mike keeps ‘em closed.  Penalty on Buffalo, however, after a Boston player was flipped over the Bandits bench.  Yep, it’s as crazy as it sounds.  Priolo to the box for two.

10:15—Rooney is denied by Thompson, who stayed at home and jumped to close down the angle.  I think I felt the vibrations from here when Thompson landed. 

8:28—A legendary play that won’t show up in the score-sheet by non other than John Tavares.  The 20 year vet battled in the corner for a loose ball, corralled it, then warded off two defenders.  With his stick pinned to his side and the ball on the ground, Tavares kicked the ball with his feet back to Mark Steenhuis, wasting more of the clock.

8:18—To make matters worse, Kyle Rubisch, Boston’s top defender and an All-Star, was penalized on the play.  John Tavares is the best NLL player ever for a reason.

8:18—11,273 in attendance tonight.

7:29—Kelusky rifles a shot from near the restraining line that pegs Cosmo in the groin region.  He’s probably wearing a cup.  I don’t know for sure, though. 

6:52—Powell shoots wide, and the long rebound rolls out to Priolo, who runs a two-on-one with Tavares.  The give-and-go winds up with Priolo, and Cosmo cut down the angle and made the save.  Tavares should have been a little more selfish there.

6:00 —Thompson anticipates Rooney’s shot and knocks it aside.  His positioning has been crisp the entire night.  Easily the MVP in my eyes.  Boston has had a tough time winning loose balls—Kelusky picks up another one.

5:01 —Thomas Hajek is called for a penalty after sending Steenhuis crashing into Cosmo with a check from behind.  It’s never easy to make up ground when you’re down a man, Boston.

4:45—John Tavares makes it look easy.  At the helm again on the man-advantage, Tavares calmly finds the upper left corner of the goal on a blistering drive.  10-6 Buffalo after the PPG.

4:39—Down four and in desperation mode, Boston has pulled goaltender Anthony Cosmo in favor of an extra attacker.  While it feels early for a move like this, Matt Sawyer needs goals badly.

4:28 —And Sawyer gets one from his best player, Dan Dawson.  I don’t understand why Dawson doesn’t shoot more—you can barely see his shot from the press box it’s so fast.  10-7 Buffalo.

3:35—Dawson scores again quickly with the goalie pulled.  He is unbelievable.  Both shots came from a similar spot, just inside the left dot and tickling the far post twine.  10-8 Buffalo

2:50—Buffalo’s reeling now—Casey Powell joins the fray with a sparkling shot from inside the left dot.  Suddenly, it’s a one goal Buffalo lead, and Boston has the ball.  Cosmo rushes out of his net and back the bench again. 

2:00—10-9 Buffalo now, and it’s tense in here.  Steenhuis got too close to the cage again. 

1:47—The game is now tied—Buffalo has conceded four consecutive goals in 2:45.  Buchanan scored the most recent on another blast from distance.  The Bandits have lost five straight faceoffs.  Huge save by Mikey Thompson.

:48—Cosmo makes a clutch save on Thenhaus, but Kelusky runs down the rebound for a new shot clock.

—Tavares puts Buffalo back in front!  JT curls around a screen and rips a shot into the upper right corner.  You don’t see showy celebrations from Tavares a lot, but he was clearly pumped after that one.  11-10 Bandits with 30 seconds left, and a penalty on the face-off gives Buffalo the ball.

:11.4—Timeout Buffalo.  Boston has a chance to tie with under 12 left in the game.  Darris Kilgour smartly called a timeout with two seconds left on the shot clock, giving Buffalo the ability to roll the ball into the corner to waste more time.  Cosmo chased it down and called timeout with 10 seconds left.

—Powell will start with the ball in his own end.  Cosmo is on the bench.  Powell explodes down the floor and pings a shot on goal, but Thompson kicks it aside, preserving the win!

————————-Final, 11-10 Buffalo———————

Final —An unnerving final quarter, but Buffalo emerges the winner.  John Tavares deposited the winner with Buffalo’s defense collapsing, and Mike Thompson’s last second save on Casey Powell sent Boston home empty.

TAGGED: boston blazers, buffalo bandits, john tavares, nll, nll playoffs

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