ROCHESTER — Tracey Kelusky knew he had to do something ... anything.
His Buffalo Bandits were tied with the Rochester Knighthawks, 13-13, Saturday night. Not only were there only a dozen seconds or so left in regulation time, but the shot clock was about a second away from expiring.
Kelusky had corralled a rebound of a missed shot in the slot. He had time to come up with just one wrinkle. The veteran forward wrapped the ball around his back and took his shot from a surprising angle.
The shot caught Rochester goalie Matt Vinc off guard, beating him with 11.8 seconds left. The goal held up as the Bandits (2-1) took a dramatic 14-13 decision from the Knighthawks (0-2) before 7,834 in Blue Cross Arena.
“It was a lucky goal,” Kelusky said. “But we were not going to be denied tonight.”
“It obviously was not the way we drew it up,” said the happy Bandits coach, Darris Kilgour. “But those are the types of breaks you get when you work hard.”
It was a rare good moment on an individual level for Kelusky in a Bandits’ uniform. The veteran has been candid in public that he’s been disappointed in his play since coming to Buffalo a little more than two seasons ago. He was quick to put the contest into a larger perspective afterward.
“It’s pretty exciting to score a goal like that, but only because it helps the team,” Kelusky said. “We moved the ball in five-on-five situations as well as we have in the last couple of years.”
The goal capped a very entertaining night of indoor lacrosse, and spoiled a big night for the Knighthawks. Rochester had won the National Lacrosse League championship in 2012, and the team raised its banner to the rafters during a pregame celebration before its home opener. The Bandits had to sit in their locker room for an extra 10 minutes while waiting for the ceremony to end.
“We talked about it as motivation,” Kilgour said. “We told them to use it and be ready to play.”
Shawn Williams, Mike Hominuck and Luke Wiles (his 200th NLL goal) had the Bandits up, 3-0, before four minutes of time had elapsed. But Rochester scored the final three goals of the first period, and that set up a classic contest.
Neither side was able to establish any sort of edge in play.
During the first half, the Bandits did not trail for a second ... but were tied four different times. Neither side had more than a one-goal lead once the game passed the 9:05 mark of the second quarter. The pace was up-tempo and spirited.
“Five on five we thought we were better. We wanted them to take some quick shots,” Kilgour said.
Rochester finally took its first lead in the second half, but leads didn’t last long in the final 30 minutes. The point totals of individuals quickly built up. For Buffalo, Williams finished with two goals and six assists.
Hominuck, playing his first game of the season as a Bandit, came through with three goals. To put it another way, Hominuck had as many goals Saturday as he did all of last year for Philadelphia.
“They gave me a chance tonight,” he said. “We’re so deep that you’ve got to take advantage when you do get to play.”
It wasn’t a great night for the goalies. Anthony Cosmo finished what he started for the first time this season for Buffalo, as he had 34 saves. He had been pulled in his first two starts.
It looked as if the Knighthawks might escape with a win when Stephen Keogh completed a hat trick with 4:35 left. But Chad Culp scored with a little under two minutes to go to tie the game at 13-13. That set the stage for Kelusky’s heroics.
Still, Rochester had time for one last shot at the buzzer.
“They had scored two goals right at the end of the periods earlier, and we had sort of run out of options on how to defend it,” Kilgour said. “I was sweating it out pretty good. But they didn’t have enough time to run a good play, and [Dan] Dawson missed the net.”
The Bandits (2-1) return home next Saturday night. They’ll play the Philadelphia Wings, who moved to 2-0 on the young season Saturday with a win over Toronto.