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Saunders' overtime goal pushes Bandits past Rush

SASKATOON, Sask. – Pat Saunders was a healthy scratch for the Buffalo Bandits the previous two games, but Friday night he was an overtime hero.

The second-year Bandit scored just under two minutes into overtime to lift Buffalo to a 16-15 win over the Saskatchewan Rush.

The go-ahead tally completed a ferocious comeback for the Bandits, who were down 6-0 in the first quarter and 12-5 in the third.

Dhane Smith scored five goals and four assists, while Mitch Jones had three goals and six assists and Jordan Durston had a goal and six assists. Nick Weiss and Vaughn Harris each scored a pair.

Buffalo scored the first three goals of the fourth quarter, eventually catching the Rush at 13-13 with a Smith goal with 6:25 remaining in regulation.

The comeback appeared to be all for naught late. Chris Corbeil scored a short-handed goal and Jeff Shattler added insurance to make it 15-13 with 3:17 remaining.

The Bandits didn’t back down, scoring a pair of goals in the final two minutes. Rookie Josh Byrne sent the game into overtime with a goal with the goalie pulled and 19 seconds remaining.

Saskatchewan jumped out to a commanding lead early, scoring four straight goals in the first four minutes of the game. Bandits coach Troy Cordingley pulled goalie Alex Buque at that point in favor of Zach Higgins.

The move slowed the bleeding but didn’t stop Saskatchewan’s high-powered attack in the first. The Rush scored twice more to take a 6-0 lead at the end of one.

Buffalo mounted a comeback at the start of the second, but their efforts were thwarted by a pair of late Rush goals. Smith, Jones and Weiss scored in a 3-1 run for Buffalo to cut the lead to 7-3. However, Jeremy Thompson and Ben McIntosh scored in the final minute of the half to give Saskatchewan a 9-3 lead.

Buffalo scored three straight to end the third quarter and set up the Bandits’ comeback in the fourth.

The Bandits are off next weekend, but return the week after to play at Rochester on Feb. 3.

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