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Bandits punch ticket to postseason party

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Buffalo Bandits are headed to the playoffs.

The Bandits clinched a postseason berth with a 12-9 victory over the Minnesota Swarm on Sunday afternoon.

It was the Bandits' fourth straight win, and improved their overall record to 8-3. That's only a half-game behind the first-place Toronto Rock (9-3) in the National Lacrosse League's East Division.

If Buffalo lost all five of its remaining games, it would finish with an 8-8 record. The Philadelphia Wings are 4-8. The best they can do this season is 8-8, but would lose a tiebreaker to the Bandits because they lost two of three regular-season games to Buffalo.

Buffalo has not missed the playoffs since the 2002 season.

The Bandits have never lost to the Swarm in Minnesota in their history, and they continued that streak Sunday with a solid effort before 9,294 in the Xcel Energy Center.

One of Buffalo's best players on the day was Tracey Kelusky, who played one of his finest games of the season. He led the Bandits with three goals and added an assist for four points. One of the goals came after a jump from behind the net to stuff the ball past Swarm goalie Nick Patterson.

Kelusky had two goals in the second period, when the Bandits broke the game open. Buffalo went into the period trailing by 2-1. By halftime, Buffalo had a 6-4 lead and didn't trail the rest of the way.

Mark Steenhuis led the Bandits with two goals and three assists. His second assist of the game was the 300th of his career.

John Tavares added a goal and three assists. Other scorers for Buffalo were Jon Harasyum, Brenden Thenhaus, Chris Corbeil, Chad Culp (two) and Tom Montour.

At the other end, Mike Thompson had another strong game in net. He finished the game with 39 saves, including several big ones during stretches when the Buffalo offense turned dormant.

His goals-against average is 9.26, the best of his career. Thompson has an 8-1 record this season and a save percentage of .792. He ranks second in the league in all three categories.

Buffalo's biggest problem came when it was outmanned for one reason or another. Minnesota scored two power-play goals, had two scores when a delayed penalty was called, and added another goal when it pulled Patterson for an extra attacker in the final seconds of the first half.

Ryan Benesch, the NLL's league leader in goals, ran his total to 33 with two goals and added three assists for the Swarm.

Buffalo returns home on Saturday night to host the Washington Stealth.

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