Conventional wisdom says that winning indoor lacrosse teams have to come up with the proverbial 60-minute effort to win. Tell that to the Buffalo Bandits.
The Bandits essentially only played 30 minutes and 46 seconds on Friday night. But that proved to be just enough to defeat the Toronto Rock, 17-16, in a thriller at the Air Canada Centre.
Buffalo relied on Mark Steenhuis and John Tavares to recover from an 11-5 halftime deficit. Steenhuis finished the game with eight goals, setting a team record in the process. Tavares added six goals.
"I'm glad those guys are on our side," Buffalo goalie Ken Montour said. "They are game-breakers."
Fittingly, it was Steenhuis who scored the game-winner after the Bandits stopped the Rock on the first possession of sudden-death overtime.
"The way the play was set up, I was supposed to draw some attention to me down low and set up Cory Bomberry for one of his patented shots," Steenhuis said. "He actually sealed off two guys, so I saw a lane to shoot. I took a couple of steps and let it rock, and thankfully it went in."
The shot beat Toronto goalie Bob Watson, and gave Steenhuis another entry in the Bandits' record book. He had set the team (and league) marks for assists and points in a game last week against the Rock in a 25-10 win.
The Rock figured to be fired up for a rematch only six days later.
"I could feel it in the morning shootaround. It felt so light," he said. "It wasn't a good start. We didn't have any intensity. There wasn't anyone playing well, and they changed their strategy a little bit."
The Rock jumped out to a 3-0 lead, let Buffalo get within a goal, and then took off during a dominating second quarter. The six-goal lead at the half could have been bigger; the Bandits allowed only one goal during a five-minute short-handed situation at the end of the half.
"Coming into halftime, we were not so much down as a little bit discouraged about the way we played," Steenhuis said.
"We just had to wake up," Bandits coach Darris Kilgour said. "The onus was on us. When you don't come out to play, the other team can stick it to you. We were embarrassed. We left Mike [Thompson, Buffalo's starting goalie] out to dry, and then Kenny came in and we left him out to dry."
Tavares and Steenhuis went to work in the second half. Tavares had four goals and Steenhuis had two in the third quarter alone as the Bandits got back into the game.
"Our main focus coming out was to concentrate on that half, and bit by bit get back in the game," Steenhuis said.
Still, they were down, 16-15, with four minutes left. Montour kept the Bandits within striking distance with some big saves; he says he loves close games.
"I'm a gambler," he said. "When you gamble, sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose."
"I pulled the boys in and said every possession is huge, every loose ball is huge, every time you come off the floor is huge. There is no 'We'll get them next time,' " Kilgour said.
Steenhuis tied the game with 38 seconds left in regulation, and then sent the Bandits home with their third win over the Rock in three tries this season -- a role reversal for a Bandits' team that usually has its hands full with the Rock.
Buffalo returns home a week from tonight to host Minnesota.