The Buffalo Bandits are welcoming the Rochester Knighthawks to the Key Bank Center for the first time this season on Friday night. The Bandits are coming off a nail-biting 13-12 overtime win on the road in Colorado, putting them at a much respectable second place in the North Division with a 4-1 record. Rochester has not fared well this season with just one win (albeit against defending champion Calgary), and is no doubt hoping to right the ship with a win over Buffalo.
Past matchups between Buffalo and Rochester have always been huge rivalry games. The original Knighthawks franchise has since moved to Halifax (bringing most players and coaches with them), but some familiar faces remain from those intense battles including Paul Dawson, Shawn Evans, and coaches Mike Hasen and Pat O’Toole. Being a “new” team, the biggest challenge is creating a winning pedigree, and grabbing a win over a big regional rival like Buffalo is a step in that direction.
While the Knighthawks are sitting at just 1-5, they can’t be taken lightly. Rochester gave the still-undefeated Thunderbirds a run for their money back in week two, losing just 14-12. They’re also not lacking firepower either, with the likes of former Bandit Shawn Evans (8g,18a) and Holden Cattoni (10g,20a) leading the K-Hawks in the offensive department.
One problem that Rochester has seemed to have so far is between the pipes. Time has been split almost evenly between Craig Wende and Steve Fryer, two goaltenders who while not rookies, have very little to no starting experience in the NLL.
This is in sharp contrast to the Bandits goaltending situation, with former Goaltender of the Year Matt Vinc guarding the net. One should not be surprised if you see Coach Hasen switch up goaltenders several times during this matchup with the Bandits.
For Buffalo, lack of consistency has seemed to be the killer that hasn’t struck yet. The latest example being just last week in Colorado, Buffalo had a strong showing in the first half, leading 7-4 by buzzers end and seeing two crucial multi-goal runs.
They seemed to just flip that performance and take their foot off the gas, allowing Colorado to creep back into the contest and take their first lead of the night with just four minutes remaining. Buffalo needs to start finishing games more strong, because eventually it will bite them back.
Josh Byrne put in a monster performance, burying seven goals with an assist to boot. If he can replicate anywhere close to that again, Rochester is going to have a long night.
Byrne almost knocked Dhane Smith off the team leader boards with his outing in Colorado. But Smith still leads the forwards with 26 points (6g,20a), compared to Byrne’s (17g,8a).
Game time is set for 7:30pm EST at Key Bank Center in Buffalo. It can be watched with a subscription on the B/R Live app which is available on the web or through iTunes, Google Play, Roku, Apple TV, and Amazon Fire.