The Buffalo Bandits beat the Rochester Knighthawks by a score of 14-13 to spoil Rochester's championship banner-raising home opener at Blue Cross Arena on Saturday night.
Tracey Kelusky scored the game-winner on a behind-the-back goal with 13 seconds left to help the Buffalo Bandits (2-1) beat the Rochester Knighthawks (0-2) on the road by a score of 14-13 to spoil their 2013 NLL home opener at Blue Cross Arena on Saturday night.
“If it goes in, it’s a good shot,” said Bandits head coach Darris Kilgour. “Obviously it’s not the way we drew it up, but they battled. They battled all night long. We had a couple chances to go away in the fourth, but we didn’t.”
The back-and-forth contest was tied 10 times throughout the game as neither team led by more than a goal after the first quarter. For the second consecutive game, the Knighthawks had the lead entering the fourth, and for the second time in as many games, found themselves on the losing end of a one-goal game.
“It’s definitely disappointing, but there’s nowhere to look but in the mirror,” said Knighthawks forward Dan Dawson. “We left two games to the end like that when we had chances to stick it. Great teams in this league win those one-goal games and we still got to get there.”
On a night when the defending champion Knighthawks raised their 2012 NLL Championship banner in a pregame ceremony, the Bandits silenced the crowd by jumping out to a 3-0 lead three minutes into the first quarter.
But Rochester responded with a three-goal scoring run of their own, capped off by a goal by Johnny Powless with two seconds left in the first, to tie the game 3-3. The teams traded goals in the second quarter before Rochester scored another late goal, this time by Casey Powell with four seconds left, to take a 7-7 tie into halftime.
Bandits rookie Dhane Smith scored twice in the third quarter but the Knighthawks still led 11-10 entering the fourth. Stephen Keogh scored two fourth-quarter goals, the second with 4:35 remaining, to regain a 13-12 lead for Rochester. Bandits forward Chad Culp answered with 1:55 left to tie the game at 13-13. With 13 seconds remaining, Tracey Kelusky scooped up the loose ball and scored a no-look behind-the-back goal to give Buffalo the 14-13 lead.
“The play was obviously a missed shot, a loose ball, and a lucky goal,” Kelusky said. “At the end of the day, we weren’t going to be denied."
After a scrum for the ball during the subsequent faceoff, the Knighthawks gained possession and called timeout with 3.4 seconds left. Dawson ran in and shot the ball wide of the net as time expired.
Buffalo's Williams, a former Knighthawk, finished the night with a game-high eight points (2+6).
“You always want to win, and that’s what we came here for,” said Williams, who also was on the losing end of the Champion’s Cup loss with Edmonton when he last played at Blue Cross Arena. “We were lucky enough to get it.”
Mike Hominuck scored a hat trick, while Smith (2+2) and Aaron Wilson (2+2) both recorded four points.
“We were struggling the last couple of games,” said Hominuck, who made his Bandits debut after sitting out the first two games. “We didn’t say die tonight."
Powell, in his first game with the Knighthawks since 2000, led Rochester with six points (2+4), while Stephen Keogh (3+2) and Cody Jamieson (1+4) registered five points in the losing effort.
“[Powell] was shooting the ball very well today in shootaround so it was good to see he got a few goals there,” Hasen said. “He was going hard and getting after those loose balls, getting physical. We need guys to lead, and when an older guy like Casey plays like that, we’ll just jump on board and ride his coattails.”
Knighthawks goalie Matt Vinc made 37 saves on 51 shots, while Anthony Cosmo made 34 saves on 47 shots for the Bandits. For the first time this season, Cosmo played an entire 60 minutes. Kilgour said he wasn't going to bench his starter “no matter what," giving his goaltender some confidence heading into next week.
Rochester head coach Mike Hasen was happier with his defense’s performance in comparison to their Week #1 loss in Washington. Despite being outshot again, the Knighthawks limited Buffalo in comparison to the 64 shots they yielded to the Stealth.
“We’re battling hard from start to finish, which is a good thing,” Hasen said. “We improved as a unit back there by tenfold. It was just little things that cost us. Little breakdowns and when we hit that, it’s in the back of the net.”
The Knighthawks stay in Rochester next weekend as they host the Toronto Rock on Saturday, Jan. 26 at 7:30 p.m. ET while the Bandits will host the Philadelphia Wings in Buffalo, also a 7:30 p.m. ET start.