The Buffalo Bandits (4-3) defeated the Rochester Knighthawks (2-5) 16-14 in front of 9,425 fans Saturday night. The victory marks the first time the Bandits won back-to-back games during the 2018 season. Rochester dropped their fifth straight game after starting the season 2-0.
The first half was a back-and-forth affair that was a high-quality advertisement for the National Lacrosse League. The Knighthawks jumped out to a two-goal lead on goals by Luc Magnan and Kyle Jackson only 30 seconds apart. Buffalo responded with a two-goal run of their own with tallies from Dhane Smith and Mitch Jones. Every time a team went on a run, the other responded. A two-goal run by the Knighthawks answered with a three-goal run by Buffalo to take a 5-3 lead with under two minutes to go in the quarter.
Joe Resetarits knotted the game up at 5 with only 5 seconds remaining in the half to key a three-goal run that stretched into the third quarter.
Then came the biggest run of the game. The Bandits scored five times in the final 8:32 of the third quarter to turn the 10-8 deficit into a 13-10 lead.
“I wouldn’t question our heart, our effort, our desire,” said Buffalo head coach Troy Cordingley. “We worked hard tonight, but we weren’t the smartest team at times. . . We found a way. We’ll take it.”
“There’s no doubt about it, we’re just fighting it right now,” said Knighthawks forward Dan Dawson. “The effort is there, I just don’t think the execution is there. I obviously haven’t been playing very well. The team relies on us up front a lot, and I don’t think we’re doing our job. I thought Vno has been giving us chance to win every night. I thought our ‘D’ has been playing well. Our ‘O’ has been struggling a bit. I thought we had a great first half. We had a great first half. In the third quarter, I think we only had two goals. . .
“You feel good in the third quarter, and all of a sudden, they go on their little run there, it’s just been deflating us. Professional teams can’t do that. We can’t let teams go on these runs that they’ve been doing. We need the answers.”
Rochester had an opportunity to cut the lead early in the fourth quarter after Reid Acton was sent off after only 43 seconds has gone off the clock. The Knighthawks power play had already put up three goals on five attempts.
Yet Mitch Jones had arguably the biggest goal of the night. Buffalo stymied the Knighthawks power play and Jones scored shorthanded, his second of the night, with under a minute left in the power play to make it 14-10.
“I think that was one of the big ones,” Cordingley said. “Another one was the start of the second half, where they only scored one on that five-minute power play. The guys beared down and Buque made some real big saves on that power play.”
Vaughn Harris scored his lone goal of the night less than two minutes later to put Buffalo up by five.
The Knighthawks made things interesting in the final 10 minutes. They scored four goals, including twice in transition and Cory Vitarelli scoring his fourth of the night with under 1:30 to play to make it a two-goal game. Yet Rochester could never get it closer despite repeated shots on Alex Buque in the dying moments.
“We’re in a bit of a rut,” said Knighthawks forward Cory Vitarelli. “Something might work for a few minutes, then we hit a tough spot. It’s just one of those things, we’re going to have to continue to work our way through it. There’s a lot of ups and downs.”
“We just had some brain cramps,” Cordingley said. “Resulted in two goals against us. On offense, I think the one where Josh Byrnes and Jonesy made a pick-and-roll and Byrnes slipped, giving a breakaway off that. Just a fluke thing. . . We’ve just got to be a little bit smarter in situations like that. To credit the guys, they found a way to stop the bleeding right then and there, found a way to pull this one out.”
Byrne may have had an issue on that play, but he was a force for Buffalo, posting five goals and an assist.
“Three of his goals, I’m shaking my head because of his incredible athleticism,” Cordingley said. “You can see his confidence growing and growing as we go here. We know the kid is a good player. He’s got a lot of potential to be a great player in this league. I love the kid because he’s team-first.”
Byrne was not the only one tearing up the floor the Bandits. Dhane Smith had a 10-point night (3 + 7), including his 200th career goal.
Now Rochester needs to pick up the pieces of a five-game losing streak and figure out how to turn things around.
“We’re working hard, but the shots just aren’t falling,” said Knighthawks forward Cody Jamieson. “We’ve just got to win. It’s the only way to break the losing streak is to win a game and get back feeling it. It sucks losing. We’ve just got to come back, get back to work. Everybody’s working hard, we just ain’t getting the result we want. It’s a long season, we’ve just got to keep going, not give up on each other, keep going, and keep, keep, keep trying.”
“We believe in ourselves,” Vitarelli said. “We know we’re right there, so we’ve just got to continue to work towards it. There’s a fine line between winning and losing, and we’ve just got to find that line, get back into the winning column.”
“Our offense is just letting us down right now,” Dawson said. “You can point the finger starting at me. We’re just not doing our job. That’s the bottom line. We’re not doing our job. That’s the frustrating part. The effort is there, the execution is not. . . That’s the great part about our dressing room and the attitude. It’s ‘Dude, we need you, we need you to execute a little bit better.’ We know we’re going to get our looks, and we know where the ball is going to fall for us, but it’s got to fall next weekend. Our season is really on the line. To go 2-6 or 3-5 is a huge difference.”
Three stars as voted by the media:
- Josh Byrne
- Dhane Smith
- Graeme Hossack