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HALIFAX, NS (March 3, 2023) -- The Halifax Thunderbirds’ (5-6) fourth-quarter push came up just short, as they dropped a 10-9 final to the Buffalo Bandits (9-2) at Scotiabank Centre on Friday night.
Buffalo came out of the gates strong, with Ian MacKay scoring a first-quarter hat trick to give the visitors a 3-0 lead after the opening 15 minutes.
However, Halifax answered in a big way, holding the Bandits to just a single goal while scoring five of their own to end the half. A four-goal run was opened by a goal from Austin Shanks. He was followed by back-to-back power-play markers from Ryan Benesch. Chris Boushy added the go-ahead goal before an answer from Nick Weiss in the final minute of the second. But Tyson Bell answered just 13 seconds later to restore the Thunderbirds’ one-goal advantage heading into the locker room.
Coming out of the half, the Bandits got a pair of goals from Nick Weiss and Dylan Robinson to jump back out to a 6-5 lead. Benesch knotted things again before Randy Staats and Cody Jamieson followed up to put Halifax up 8-6.
But Buffalo went on a 4-0 run of their own. Dhane Smith put up two straight to end the third, tying things up at eight heading into the final frame. The Bandits hopped back into the lead at the 11:37 mark with a Tehoka Nanticoke marker. Smith completed his hat trick just over a minute later, leaving the hosts with a two-goal lead to overcome down the stretch.
The Thunderbirds got to within one when Staats nabbed his second of the night with 5:25 to play. But despite chances to end the game, Buffalo came out with a one-goal win.
Staats had a team-best five-point night while Benesch was able to hit the 500-goal plateau with his hat trick. Warren Hill turned away 41 Buffalo shots.
Smith and MacKay tied for the Buffalo lead in points with five apiece. Matt Vinc made 43 saves on the night.
The Thunderbirds are back in action in a week's time when they travel to Buffalo for a rematch with the Bandits at KeyBank Center. Opening face-off is set for 8:30 p.m. AT.