Share this article

print logo

Bandits rock the house
Self's breakaway goal settles things; Tavares leads offense with five points

When Scott Self was asked if he had scored the biggest goal of his lacrosse life on Saturday, he didn't need to think it over.

"For sure," he said quickly.

Self's breakaway score 4:01 into overtime lifted his Buffalo Bandits team to a heart-stopping 15-14 win over the Toronto Rock before an estimated 14,000 in HSBC Arena.

The Bandits, who had blown a five-goal lead in the fourth quarter, had traded chances with the Rock in the extra period when Chris White stole a Toronto pass in the Buffalo end.

"We played some pretty good 'D' and knocked the ball down," Self said. "Chris White picked up the loose ball, and I just yelled and took off. He led me with a pass and I was just able to run into it.

"I was worried about them [Toronto]. Sometimes I'm better when I don't have a lot of time."

As Self -- he of 33 career goals in 144 games -- sprinted down the floor, the play almost seemed to unfold in slow motion for Bandits' coach Darris Kilgour.

"I couldn't look," he said.

Self beat Toronto goalie Pat Campbell to wrap up a Buffalo win in the defender's first home game as a member of the Bandits.

"I was glad he ran the floor instead me," joked Buffalo's John Tavares, participating in his 20th home opener with the team. "I probably would have had to pull out. Everyone would have caught me."

Self might not have been Kilgour's first choice to shoot the ball in overtime, but he was happy to see one of the team's "unsung heroes" get a moment in the offensive spotlight.

"It's huge," Kilgour said. "If you look at every game in the league and look at the stats that really count, the one stat I look at is how many players score on your team. If you have 18 guys who have a point, guess what? You've had a pretty good game. That means the ball was moving, you were transitioning, and it means you had a lot of goals."

Indeed, the scoresheet was pretty full for the Bandits. Tavares had three goals and two assists. Roger Vyse, Brett Bucktooth, Tom Montour and Brendan Thenhaus all had two goals each. Mark Steenhuis added four assists.

It was necessary to offset a Toronto attack that is one of the most dynamic in the sport. Colin Doyle had four goals and two assists, while Blaine Manning had two goals and an impressive eight assists.

It was a memorable start to the home season, complete with all sorts of unexpected twists.

The Bandits jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first two minutes of play, only to see the Rock come right back with three goals of its own to tie matters. From there the teams went back and forth on the scoreboard, rarely pausing to take a breath for much of the first half.

"We knew they wanted to come out quickly after playing [Friday] night," Thenhaus said. "We also wanted to get on them early, and hopefully wear them down a bit by the fourth quarter."

Buffalo had a 9-8 lead at the half, and extended it to 12-8 after three quarters. When Thenhaus scored his second of the game with 13:55 to play, it looked as if the Bandits were in control.

Wrong.

"I think we relaxed as a defense," Self said.

Toronto slowly crawled back into the game, and tied the contest at 13-13 when Stephan Leblanc scored with 4:56 left. Tavares responded with his third goal of the game with 3:02 left, and as the clock wound down it looked like the Bandits would survive in regulation.

Wrong again. Leblanc got an open look from the right side, and beat Mike Thompson cleanly with 10.1 seconds left to send the game to overtime. It took Self's goal to make sure that the Bandits didn't suffer a crushing early-season loss.

Toronto came into the game as the only unbeaten team in the National Lacrosse League at 3-0. So instead of falling 2 1/2 games behind the Rock, the Bandits improved to 2-1 and are only a half-game behind Toronto.

"Every game is a must game, especially in this division," Kilgour said. "That's the way we have to approach it."

The Bandits have a week before they will try to duplicate this win when they play the Rock in Toronto next Saturday. In the meantime, Tavares is going to enjoy this one.

"This is great," he said about the game. "Me as a fan, I like to watch a game like that. I thought it was an entertaining game, and I'm glad we came out on top."

e-mail: bbailey@buffnews.com