The Buffalo Blizzard kept alive its drive for a National Professional Soccer League playoff spot in dramatic fashion Friday night.
Chris Handsor one-timed a pass from Daniel Barber for the winning goal with three-tenths of a second left to give Buffalo a 13-11 victory over the Toronto ThunderHawks at Copps Coliseum.
Handsor's goal, off a perfect lead pass from Daniel Barber, stunned the ThunderHawks, who had just rallied from six points down to tie the game on an extra-attacker goal by Giuliano Oliverio with 31 seconds left.
The winner was Handsor's second goal of the game. Edgar Bartolome, Andrew Crawford, Doug Miller and Randy Pikuzinski had two-point goals for Buffalo. Crawford also had a shootout goal to make it 7-5, after a hand-ball penalty rubbed out what would have been a go-ahead goal by the ThunderHawks, who fell out of a tie for first place in the National Division with the loss.
After the game ended, the frustration of the Toronto team boiled over. There was a brief melee on the floor with some punches thrown.
The victory was the seventh in the last nine games and fourth in a row for coach Paul Kitson's Blizzard.
"This would have been a tough loss because we played extremely well, coming in here and dominating the game for the most part and building ourselves a six-point lead," Kitson said.
Buffalo, now 13-14 after starting the season 7-13, moved within one game of the Cleveland Crunch (15-14) in the American Conference of the NPSL. Buffalo will face the Crunch Sunday at 6 p.m. at the Cleveland State University Convocation Center. Cleveland has a road game against the Harrisburg Heat tonight.
"Everybody was writing us off the first half of the season," Kitson said. "Give the players credit. They stuck by me and I pretty much stuck by them and things are beginning to turn in our favor.
"But the weekend is not over. We need all four points this weekend."
In other news, Buffalo signed forward Zarko Kolic, who is expected to be with the team in Cleveland on Sunday night.