Buffalo can celebrate for once

2008 NLL ChampionsIt’s about damn time.

For those eagerly anticipating this post, and I know there’s a lot of you, sorry for the delay. It’s taken a while to get my thoughts together.

Last night, your Buffalo Bandits defeated the Portland LumberJax, 14-13 to claim the 2008 NLL Champion’s Cup.

Of course, like any Buffalo team, they don’t make it easy for the fans. While the Bandits never trailed, and held the lead the rest of the game after Kevin Dostie scored to take a 3-2 lead just over five minutes in, they never led by more than three, which is considered nerve wracking in the NLL.

When the buzzer sounded, it was the Bandits on top, as the franchise won their fourth NLL Championship, their first title in 12 years.

The Bandits jumped out into the lead early on a highlight-reel goal by John Tavares. What’s referred to as the “hidden ball trick” (a Bandits player fakes a short flip pass to a teammate at midfield, and the teammate acts like he has a ball in his stick and sets up the offense on the opposite side of the field that the player with the ball is headed) completely fooled Portland goalie Matt Disher, and Tavares fired the ball into the open net as Disher followed the wrong Bandits player. Portland answered that goal, and the next goal by Brett Bucktooth before the Bandits pulled away.

Mark Steenhuis scored five goals, including the eventual game winner in the 4th quarter. Kevin Dostie also added a hat trick for the Bandits.

But of course, the 18,690 that came out clad in orange and black never really got the chance to rejoice until the final buzzer sounded.

For a bit, it looked like the Bandits were gonna let it slip away, as they couldn’t pull away from Portland. When LumberJax star Dan Dawson scored a minute into the 4th quarter to pull within one, it seemed like the Bandits couldn’t get that insurance marker. A few minutes after Dawson’s goal, the Bandits fooled Disher with the “hidden ball trick” again, but Tavares completely missed the open net.Mike Thompson

Buffalo was held scoreless for a stretch of over ten minutes after Billy Dee Smith’s shorthanded goal late in the 3rd quarter until Mark Steenhuis beat Portland’s Brodie Merrill, who’s basically the lacrosse version of Sidney Crosby (all hype), one-on-one and buried it past Disher.

After that, it was the Mike Thompson show.

Thompson made 25 of his 39 saves in the second half. Some of them were beyond belief.

Late in the 4th quarter, Portland broke out and beat the Bandits down the floor in transition. The player ringed a shot off the crossbar and knocked over Thompson. Laying on his back with the top of the net wide open, he stopped a shot by a LumberJax player following up on the play.

In the final minute, with the Portland goalie pulled, the LumberJax were able to pull within one with the extra attacker, as Derek Malawsky picked the corner of the net. The Bandits were able to kill a good chunk of clock before Portland gained possession and called a timeout. The Jax got a couple opportunities in the dying seconds, with Thompson denying Portland’s Pete Jacobs as time expired.

Then it was, as Van Miller would call it, “bedlam.”

While it isn’t a Stanley Cup, or a Super Bowl win, this is about as close as our town is going to get for the time being. For those at the game, it was an experience you’ll never forget. HSBC Arena rocked like never before, as the sellout crowd made more noise than you’d hear at any Sabres game.

So, enjoy it, Buffalo. I hope all Bandits fans partied well into the night.

It’s nice to feel like you’re on top every once in a while.


Posted on May 18, 2008, in Bandits/NLL, Buffalo and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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