By Budd Bailey, Buffalo Sports Page Columnist
The Buffalo Bandits staged an absolutely stunning rally to beat the Saskatchewan Rush on Friday night. The Bandits trailed by as many as seven goals in the third quarter before coming back to win before a sellout crowd in Saskatoon.
It’s not certain if a National Lacrosse League team has ever come back from such a large deficit – particularly in the second half – to win. The league doesn’t keep track of that. But there are some facts about the nature of that game worth sharing.
It should be noted that I only have scoresheets from the start of the 2005 season. Therefore, I can’t make any sweeping statements about all-time team records. Still, you’ll get the idea that it was an unusual night.
THE BAD START
The Bandits gave up the first six goals of the game, and trailed, 6-0, after one period. That in of itself is unusual. Since 2005, Buffalo has allowed the first six goals only twice – the other was in 2011 against Rochester. The Bandits lost that ’11 game. Buffalo has not scored the first six goals of a game in the past 13+ seasons.
If you expand the numbers out a little, Buffalo has had a 5-0 lead on four occasions. It won all four games. The Bandits do better than their opponents in climbing out of holes. They have fallen behind six times by a score of 5-0 (not counting the 6-0 games), but rallied to win two of them. Therefore, in Bandits’ games since 2005, the team that has taken at least a 5-0 lead has won nine out of 12 games.
The Rush lead didn’t shrink by halftime, as Saskatchewan led, 9-3, after 30 minutes. How many times over the years have the Bandits rallied from six back at the half to win? The answer is now twice. The other was a Feb. 20, 2009 game in Toronto. Buffalo’s biggest comeback at home was in 2014, when it spotted Toronto four goals after 30 minutes but won, 12-10.
By the way, the Bandits have never blown more than a four-goal halftime lead since 2005. The one loss when up by four came in 2013, an 11-10 overtime loss to Philadelphia.
THE FINAL QUARTER
It’s even tougher to come back to win in the fourth quarter. Buffalo only has done it 14 times since 2005, or about once a season. The Bandits trailed, 12-8, this time after 45 minutes. They hadn’t come back from four down in the fourth quarter during the seasons studied.
The biggest fourth-quarter collapse by the Bandits came on Feb. 21, 2015 in Rochester. The Knighhawks trailed by four, but rallied to take a 13-12 overtime decision. Buffalo has blown 15 fourth-quarter leads since 2005.
THE TYING GOAL
This one was overlooked in all the noise about the win. Buffalo received the game-tying goal from rookie Josh Byrne with 19 seconds to play. That is the second-latest such goal by the Bandits since ’05. Brett Bucktooth tallied with 13 seconds left in a 2010 game with Colorado.
It’s also interesting to know what used to be the second-latest game-tying goal in recent Bandits’ history. It came less than a week before Byrne’s score. Mitch Jones tied the game with Vancouver with 22 seconds left, but Buffalo lost in overtime. The team’s games have been quite exciting lately.
Oddly, the Bandits have allowed a game-tying goal in the final 10 seconds four different times since 2005. They have never done it themselves.
ONE LAST POINT
You may have noticed that the Bandits knocked off an undefeated Saskatchewan team in completing that comeback. That was the same Buffalo squad that lost to winless Vancouver at home six days earlier.
It’s true. You never know.