The Rochester Knighthawks (13-4) handed the Buffalo Bandits (8-9) their franchise-record seventh-straight loss with an 8-4 home win in front of 8,900 fans at Blue Cross Arena on Saturday night.
The Knighthawks finished the season with an impressive 8-1 record at the BCA, with their lone loss at home coming to the then-undefeated Edmonton Rush.
For the Bandits, the outlook is much less pleasant, having set a franchise record losing streak at seven after tonight's loss. However, Buffalo does have some positive signs to build on coming out of this game. They held the Knighthawks to only eight goals and created nine power play opportunities.
"For us, it's a confidence booster," said Bandits head coach Troy Cordingley. "I thought our defense was sensational tonight, our goaltending was sensational, I thought our offense was real good. We were battling offensively, we outshot them, we created power plays from effort."
However, as well as the Bandits defense played, the story tonight was about the Knighthawks defense and goalie Matt Vinc.
"We're sticking to our principles," Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen said. "I think 'V' bailed us out there today. Especially early. They came out full volume. He saved our butts until we got our feet under us."
"Ours was a total team effort," Knighthawks transition player Brad Self said. "Offensive players getting on and off the floor, Vno was unbelievable tonight. We had our lapses... He had our backs again. Our defense short-handed was unbelievable tonight."
"I think I got a couple of bounces early," Vinc said. "I think we played pretty sound defense. We didn't give them too many chances in transition. It's one of those things, as you make saves, and the defense clears the ball, and the offense scores timely goals, it's one of those things where it just kind of builds from there and you get a little bit of confidence back there."
"I think they were the stars of tonight's game," Knighthawks forward Johnny Powless said. "That never really happens, holding that team to four goals. The defensive unit played great tonight."
"That's a good goalie over there," Cordingley said. "That's a real good defense, that team's got the best defense in the league, and one of the best goalies."
The Knighthawks gave up nine power plays but only allowed three goals on those chances.
"You can only control what you can control," Self said. "You can't control the referees' decisions... The short man stepped up when we took those and killed them off. It's nice to know you can kill them, but you don't want to give up nine power plays each and every night."
"We got to be a lot smarter," Hasen said. "A lot of that stuff was stupid, stupid, selfish stuff on our end. We know that and we got away with it tonight. We've got to make sure we aren't doing that next time."
There was a noticeable lack of flow to the game, due largely in part to the nine power plays and the penalty killing efforts of the Knighthawks. After Joe Resetarits scored 3:21 into the game, the Bandits were held without a goal for 29:45, then scored twice in 34 seconds.
Rochester did not score at all in the opening quarter, also due to spending time on the penalty kill three times. However, after spending 20:27 scoreless, the Knighthawks scored twice in 36 seconds. The second goal of that quick pair was scored by Derek Hopcroft who suited up for this first time since joining the Knighthawks back on January 29th. Hopcroft was a member of the Bandits in 2013.
"It felt a little bit extra special that I did it against the Bandits," Hopcroft said. "Got in finally, felt pretty pumped up before that game."
Johnny Powless scored twice in a 26 second span not long after Hopcroft and the Knighthawks took a 4-1 lead into halftime. Powless has been a force on the offensive end the last few weeks for Rochester and tonight was no different, netting a hat trick after scoring late in the third quarter.
"I have to give a lot of credit to my teammates," Powless said. "We've been looking at film a lot."
Joe Walters assisted on two of Powless' goals en route to a five assist night and was a key part of putting the Bandits away in the second half. He tallied one assist in the third quarter and two in the fourth quarter.
"I'm really lucky to play with such great players," Walters said. "They make it pretty easy. Playing with Johnny Powless for all these years now, I just feel like I can just throw it in there and he'll catch it. For a lot of that, that's just having the same guys together now for two, three, four years has really helped with our team chemistry."
The Knighthawks and Bandits close out the regular season next Saturday night at the First Niagara Center.
The loss marks a franchise low for the Bandits, once 8-2 atop the East Division, as they've lost their seventh in a row after matching their previous record of a six-game skid, set in consecutive seasons in 2012 and last year, with their loss in Toronto last night.
The four goals scored by Buffalo were the fewest by an NLL team so far this season as Vinc made 45 saves on 49 shots for an astounding .918 save percentage.
Three Stars of the Game as selected by the media:
1) Matt Vinc
2) Johnny Powless
3) Joe Walters