The Buffalo Bandits (4-3) stole a 10-6 road win from the Rochester Knighthawks (3-4) to snap Rochester's three-game win streak before a near-capacity crowd, which included a large contingent of Bandits fans, at The Blue Cross Arena on Saturday night.
Bandits goaltender Anthony Cosmo, who had struggled at times this season, starred in net for Buffalo with 54 saves on 60 shots.
“I was hot today and pretty happy,” Cosmo said. “I was seeing the ball well and the defense played incredible in front of me. When you’ve got confidence and things are going your way, everything becomes big and in slow motion. But I credit a lot to my defense. We switched up our style of ‘D’ and kept things to the outside and really packed the middle.”
Cosmo had allowed at least 13 goals in each of previous four games. His six goals allowed were the fewest in a full 60-minute game since doing so twice in 2011. Cosmo’s .900 save percentage, the best save percentage of any NLL goalie in a complete game so far this season, was the highest since his .917 mark in 37 minutes against the Edmonton Rush in February of 2008.
“We’ve always said, when we play good defense in front of him, he’d be alright,” said Bandits head coach Kilgour. “I think he proved it tonight. I don’t think [Rochester] shot particularly well. A lot of them hit Cosmo. That’s what we wanted. We needed that. Cosmo needed that.”
The Bandits’ defensive game plan stifled the Rochester offense. After combining for 35 goals in back-to-back wins last week, the Knighthawks (3-4) were limited to their lowest goal total of the season.
“Normally Buffalo really pressures out, but tonight they did something completely different,” said Rochester forward Mike Accursi. “They needed to change something, so they packed it right in. They were letting us settle for the outside shot. We weren’t working that extra hard to get into the middle. We were settling for outside shots, and Cosmo is a good enough goalie who will eat those up.”
Rochester outshot their I-90 Thruway rival 60 to 51, but were unable to find the back of the net. The Knighthawks held a slim 3-2 lead in the second quarter, but Buffalo ran away with three straight to enter halftime up 5-3.
Luke Wiles scored twice in the first half, his second to tie the game at three with 4:18 remaining in the second quarter. Wiles (3+1) led all Bandits with a season-high three goals and tied former Knighthawk Shawn Williams (1+3) with a team-high four points.
“I think we were overworking the last couple of weeks instead of working smart – that’s one thing [coach] said – work smart, don’t work hard,” Wiles said. “I watched a bunch of video this week. My work ethic is always there, but it’s working smart instead of trying to do too much.”
The Knighthawks came within one after Cory Vitarelli scored 55 seconds into the second half, but the Bandits scored four of the next five goals to take a 9-5 lead after three quarters.
Nick Cotter scored the first goal of the second half for Buffalo, which was overturned by a challenge after initially being ruled a crease violation. Rookie Dhane Smith scored his second goal before Rochester’s Cody Jamieson netted a power play tally, making it 7-5 midway through the third quarter. Wiles closed the quarter with his hat-trick goal.
Dan Dawson scored Rochester’s only fourth-quarter goal but Chad Culp regained Buffalo’s four-goal lead at 5:14.
“You hold any team to 10 in this league, you expect to be on the right side of the end of the game,” said Rochester head coach Mike Hasen. “They had some good looks, and Vinc saved us a few times. For the most part, we kind of did what we wanted to do [on defense]. A couple squeaked by Vinc that normally don’t, and if he gets those, it’s a little bit of a different game.”
Rochester was led offensively by Jamieson, who scored a goal with two assists. Dawson, Craig Point and Vitarelli each added a goal and an assist. Vinc made 41 saves on 51 shots.
The Knighthawks return home next Saturday, Feb. 23 at 7:30 p.m. ET to face the Philadelphia Wings. Following a bye week, Buffalo will play a Thursday night game in Toronto on Feb. 28 at 7:30 p.m. ET.