The Rochester Knighthawks (2-2) got back to .500 by defeating the Buffalo Bandits (3-3) by a score of 17-11 in front of 6,994 raucous fans at Blue Cross Arena on Saturday night. The Knighthawks, not having broken the double-digit scoring mark in their last two games, scored 10 goals in the first half. They led 6-1 after the first and 10-4 after two quarters.
“They were really good, especially that first half,” said Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen. “They were moving the ball, they were moving their feet, and they were rewarded for the job they were doing. When they got the one there in the fourth quarter, we knew it was going to go off again. It was good to see.”
Dan Dawson had a huge night on offense, notching 11 assists on the night.
“We were just burying our opportunities,” Dawson said. “I thought we swung the ball a lot better tonight. Don’t get me wrong, we had three or four that were lucky goals, but those are the ones that weren’t going in last week or the week before. If you’ve played this game for a long time, you know the bounces eventually will go in your favor if you work hard and stay with the process. It showed tonight.”
“It’s definitely nice to get more than what we’ve been putting up,” said Knighthawks forward Cory Vitarelli, who scored two goals in the decisive fourth quarter. “They played last night, so we wanted to take advantage. I think you saw that in the fourth quarter when we got a couple late. I think we gave ourselves some good looks tonight and kept our feet moving, which gave ourselves better opportunities. Tonight, guys were burying the ball and scoring some nice goals.”
When the buzzer sounded on the first quarter, the BCA was rocking as the Knighthawks left the floor with a 6-1 lead. The Bandits pulled starting goalie Anthony Cosmo for backup Davide Deruscio.
Yet at the beginning of the second quarter, the Bandits threatened to climb back into the game with two quick goals by Jay Thorimbert and Alex ‘Kedoh’ Hill (2+1). A four-goal run by the Knighthawks squashed the comeback for the time being and pushed the lead to 10-3, keeping the party in the BCA alive. Even a late Bandits goal by Dhane Smith to cut the lead to six seemed insignificant at the time.
Then the Bandits came out in the third with Cosmo back in net and dominated.Ryan Benesch scored two in a row early and Buffalo rolled. By the end of the third, the Bandits had tied the game on a Hill goal, using a blend of their five-on-five offense and quick-strike transition. Hill is a big part of the transition offense for the Bandits but does everything else well too.
“Kedoh’s played well for us,” said Bandits head coach Troy Cordingley. “Kedoh scoops up tons of loose balls. He pushes the ball really well. We’re pleased with him. He’s been a pleasant addition to our team. 150, 160, I don’t even know how much he weighs but he gives you everything.”
“That’s one thing they do well, they push in transition and create opportunities by pushing and running hard,” Hasen said. “We knew that coming in, we have to be a little better in our shot selections and get them in spots where they’re not going to be able to run on us. That’s what they do, but we could be better at preventing it. It starts with our offense taking better shots and getting off the floor. Offensively in the fourth quarter, we were a lot better.”
Mark Steenhuis gave the Bandits their first lead of the night early in the fourth, capping off an eight-goal run that started in the second quarter.
“We had every reason to stop playing there and let the game get out of hand,” said Steenhuis. “You have to hand it to the guys in the room. We said we weren’t going to let that happen… We battled back. A couple of cheesy goals at the end made the game seem a little bit different than what it really was. You have to like our fight. You have to like our third quarter. You have to like that we were in it.”
“We made some adjustments at half,” Cordingley said. “Talk about effort. The guys battled back, which was a positive. We had a one goal lead.”
Then the Knighthawks offense came back to life and Goodleaf shut down the Bandits.
“Gus is a totally different player than [Vinc] is, a different look,” Hasen said. “He’s solid. We’re blessed to have Gussie sitting there waiting. He does such a good job at his role and he understands his role, but when he’s called upon, he does a good job for us.”
“Not that ‘Vno’ was playing bad or anything, but they just had a couple of goals and we had to stop the momentum,” Vitarelli said. “Goodleaf came in and stood on his head and did his job. Anytime he comes in, we can always count on him.”
“I think he let in one goal tonight,” said Dawson. “That’s why you have the best goalie tandem in the world. When he shuts the door like that, he was the guy, the player of the game.”
“I wasn’t expecting it,” said Goodleaf, who allowed only one goal on 12 shots. “It was a tie game there. Thought it was a little bit early, but I just wanted to go in there and do my best and get the boys back on track… It’s a good feeling that my teammates have my back like that. I support them all the way and they support me too. It’s a good atmosphere we’ve got in that room.”
The Bandits, coming off a game Friday night, seemed to run out of gas after Jamieson tied the game up at 11 for the Knighthawks.
“Then they get a fluke kind of goal,” Cordingley said. “We just folded. It’s frustrating… It’s a grind to play back-to-back games. By no means is that an excuse. They had more energy in the fourth quarter. We dug a huge hole and we gave everything we possibly had. They had lots in tank. We were done. Our guys had given everything they possibly had to get back into the game.”
“A lot of those games that you end up losing,” Steenhuis said. “When you battle back and you get that one-goal lead or tie it up, and then the back breaker is there when they go down and score right away. Unfortunate for us, that’s what they did, and they added another one, and then another one, and kind of steamrolled from there.”
The Knighthawks travel to Minnesota for a Friday night matchup against the Swarm on February 6 at 8:30 p.m. ET. The Bandits travel to Calgary for a Saturday night matchup against the Roughnecks on February 7 at 9 p.m. ET.
Three Stars of the Game as selected by the media:
1) Joe Walters
2) Cody Jamieson
3) Jordan Hall
Story by Jeremy Pike (@KnighthawksBeat) for NLL.com. Photo by Ward Laforme.