The Rochester Knighthawks (3-3) continued their offensive explosion, destroying the Buffalo Bandits (3-3) on the road by a score of 15-7 before a mostly-quiet crowd of 14,833 at First Niagara Center on Saturday night.
Coming off a 20-10 blowout win in Philadelphia on Friday, Rochester picked up right where they left off, capping a dominant two-game road trip and extending their win streak to three games to get back to .500.
“It seems like a long time coming but it’s clicked,” said Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen. “[We] were looking good again tonight and all the credit goes to them because they kept at it and kept doing the little things right. We knew it was going to drop and the last two nights it has.”
For Buffalo, nothing seemed to be clicking.
“We got outplayed in every aspect of the game tonight,” said Bandits head coach Darris Kilgour.
In a game where the Bandits outshot Rochester by a 61-48 margin, Knighthawks goaltender Matt Vinc was stupendous once again. Vinc was particularly sharp early in the game, shutting Buffalo out in the first quarter and allowing just two goals on 34 shots in the first half.
“Early on our defense packed it in pretty good and I had a lot of clear looks,” said Vinc. “The confidence was definitely there on the defensive end.”
Vinc was the NLL’s Defensive Player of the Week after making 42 saves on 48 shots last weekend against Washington. He made a strong case to repeat that honor with an .808 save percentage over this week’s two contests.
While the ball seemed to be finding Vinc, it could not have been different on the other end of the floor for Bandits goaltender Anthony Cosmo, who struggled in allowing 13 goals on 44 shots.
“It’s a night that you want to forget, from top to bottom,” said an obviously frustrated Cosmo. “You’re looking down at the other end and [Vinc] has everything going for him and then on my end, the ball hits me and somehow still finds its way in.”
From the opening 30 seconds, it was clear this was not Buffalo’s night. On their opening possession, forward Chad Culp was injured on a cross-check behind the play, unseen by either referee, and the Knighthawks went down and scored 27 seconds into the game, on an odd 5-on-4 situation.
From there, the Bandits offensive frustration quickly set in.
“There’s no excuses,” said Bandits veteran forward Shawn Williams. “[Vinc] played well, their defense played well and we’ve just got to pick the pieces up and get at it Tuesday at practice.”
Meanwhile, Rochester’s offense, vaunted in the preseason polls as the NLL’s defending champions, seems to have finally arrived. After scoring only 39 goals through their first four games, the Knighthawks exploded for 35 goals in this weekend’s two victories.
“Offensively, we knew it was going to come,” said Hasen. “It’s nice to see that [the offense] kept coming and we’ve just got to make sure it keeps coming for next week and moving forward.”
Tonight, the Knighthawks offense was led by forward Cody Jamieson, who led all scorers and matched his career-high with nine points (2+7) and a career-best seven assists.
Corey Vitarelli had a game-high four goals, three of which were highlight-reel quality, while Stephen Keogh had a big night with a hat trick and three assists.
Veteran forwards Dan Dawson and Casey Powell each had five points (1+4), rounding out the Knighthawks’ balanced and effective offensive attack.
While the team is flying high after a superb weekend, Hasen knows there’s far more work to be done.
“It’s nice that we’re back to .500, but we’re still only .500,” said Hasen. “We’ve got a long way to go and everybody in that room knows that.”
For the second straight week, a failure to execute on special teams was critical to Buffalo’s demise. The Bandits were stymied on the power play, going an abysmal 0-6, while Rochester capitalized on its chances by going 3-for-5 on the man advantage.
Buffalo continues to shoot itself in the foot, again taking a five-minute major penalty while on the power play. This time it was transition player David Brock who was the culprit.
“That’s the frustrating part, we’re not correcting the mistakes that we made the week before,” said Kilgour. “We didn’t get any better today.”
It wasn’t all bad for Brock, however, as he scored two goals on the night. His six goals through six games has already doubled his previous career high of three, as he’s continues to make the most of his opportunities on the fast break.
Buffalo will not have to wait long to seek revenge, as the teams will meet again next Saturday, this time on Rochester’s home turf at The Blue Cross Arena at 7:30 p.m. ET.
“When you’re 3-1 and you win three games by a goal, you’re on top of the world. Then you lose a couple and it’s tough,” Williams said. “We just have to lick our wounds for a week and get back at it next weekend, which fortunately we get to play the same team and go back in their barn and hopefully return the favor.”