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Stories/Op-Ed

Thruway Thriller: Knighthawks Down Bandits In Ot, 13-12

After scoring twice late in regulation to force overtime, Cody Jamieson scored the game-winning OT goal as the Rochester Knighthawks (5-3) defeated the Buffalo Bandits (4-5) by a score of 13-12 on Saturday night at Blue Cross Arena. With the win, the Knighthawks swept the Thruway Rivalry season series with the Bandits, 3-0.

“I thought we battled for probably 50, 52 minutes of the game,”said Buffalo head coach Troy Cordingley. “Then they took control in the fourth quarter. We didn’t get out on the man shooting the ball which cost us. It’s the name of the game. I’ve been preaching 60 minutes, it’s got to be 60 minutes to beat teams in this league.”

The star of the night was last year’s Most Valuable Player Jamieson with four points (3+1). He was held off the score sheet until late in the third when he scored on the power play with under two minutes remaining in the period.

“I think I just finally hit my spot,” Jamieson said. “I must have taken a lot of shots. I don’t even know how many. I didn’t hit my spot for a long time. I thought I should have scored a bunch of times- I missed the net, Cosmo made a nice save, or I put it in his belly. It was frustrating but I stuck with it. I’m glad my teammates stuck with me, because I just kept shooting and shooting. It finally started going in.”

“Great players come up big in big games like this at the right time,” said Knighthawks forward Joe Walters. “That’s why he’s our leader, that’s why he’s the league MVP. He’s that guy for a reason. He came up big at the end.”

That goal brought the Knighthawks within four and halted the Bandits’ 7-1 run that had staked Buffalo to an 11-6 lead. That goal turned the tide for Rochester which only allowed one goal in the fourth and put six more past Bandits goalie Anthony Cosmo. Prior to that, the Knighthawks were struggling to keep it together. However, Rochester is not the winners of three straight championships because the rest of the league rolled over for them.

“One goal at a time,” Jamieson said. “Keep going. It wasn’t like we weren’t getting chances, we just weren’t scoring. I can attest to that. At that point in the game, there’s a lot of time left. You’re just trying to get one goal.”

“We’re just trying to stay calm and stick to our gameplan,” said Knighthawks forward Cory Vitarelli. “We’re a pretty veteran team. We’re not going to panic. We pride ourselves on never getting too high or too low and staying the course. We did and luckily tonight it worked out for us.”

“We played with a little desperation, backs against the wall,” said Rochester transition player Brad Self. “You’re down 11-6 on your home floor, which is not very good. We played a pretty solid game up until the third quarter. For whatever reason, we slowed down. Then we started to bear down on defense and guys stepped up on offense. Cory had a great game burying the ball. Then obviously Cody, he’s a big game player. He’s done it for us… He did it again for us tonight. He’s awesome.”

“They don’t panic at all,” Cordingley said. “They’re a steady team and they keep going.”

The fourth quarter was back and forth to start, with Craig Point scoring his second goal of the night 50 seconds in en route to a six point effort (2+4). Dhane Smith answered back a minute later with his third goal in a six-point game for him (3+3). Then Dan Dawson brought the Knighthawks back within three less than 30 seconds later.

The teams stayed deadlocked at 12-9 for the next eight minutes before Vitarelli inched the Knighthawks closer with his third goal of the night. Less than five minutes remained in the game.

The last three goals of the game all came off Jamieson’s stick, including the game winner in overtime.

“Me and Joe Walters said we’d try a pick-and-pop,” Jamieson said about the winner. “We didn’t get too many of those at all. It didn’t really work out the way we planned, but they sloughed off me a little bit and I hit my shot.”

“What a great win,” Walters said. “What a character win, to be down five goals and to fight back one at a time. It just shows what kind of team this is. We’re not the three-time champs for no reason.”

“It’s real big for us,” said Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen. “It’s a good one to come out on the right side of. We had a real bad third quarter, and to come away with this one is just a lot of hard work.”

Former Knighthawk Alex Kedoh Hill helped key the Bandits’ big third period in the losing effort and finished with four points (3+1).

“It’s a good feeling I guess,” Hill said. “It’s good to be back here again, playing here. It would have been better if we had the win, but it’s always fun for me to come back to play against Rochester… I know a lot of the guys from Six Nations, so it’s a fun game.”

“Kedoh’s got a lot of energy to burn,” Cordingley said. “He was by far our best player out there today. Loose balls that he gets, pushes the ball. He did a good job for us tonight. He just keeps getting better and better. For him to put up three goals, that’s huge for us.”

A big part of the run that gave the Bandits an 11-6 lead late in the third was the play of their special teams. The Bandits went 2-3 on the power play and scored a shorthanded goal during a five minute major penalty. The Bandits’ penalty kill also held the Knighthawks to two power play goals on four attempts while successfully killing off that five minute major.

“We’ve been focusing on that,” Cordingley said. “We have to keep doing that. We have areas that we know that we need to work on, and we’re going to continue to do that.”

Prior to the game, fans had an opportunity to get autographs from Buffalo Sabres head coach and Knighthawks Special Advisor to the President Ted Nolan along with Sabres forward and the Knighthawks’ 2004 fourth-round pick Matt Moulson.

“I just love lacrosse,” said Nolan. “I became really familiar with it when I was out of hockey and got a call from Mr. Styres about coming down and helping out with the Amerks. All of sudden I get turned on to lacrosse, and from that moment on I really fell in love with the game… It was a great three years I spent down here, getting to know all the guys. Jamieson was one of the first players we picked when we were down here. Seeing what he’s doing now, it’s really really cool.”

Moulson has had a good career in the National Hockey League but Nolan believes that he could have had a career in the NLL with Rochester.

“Matty Moulson was one of the better lacrosse players there was,” Nolan said. “He got drafted in this league. If he didn’t play pro hockey, I’m pretty sure he’d be playing pro lacrosse right now. It was a great thrill for him when Lewis Staats asked if Matt would come down and get a sweater… Matty jumped at the opportunity. He couldn’t wait to come here. We’re sports fans. Whether you’re watching hockey or lacrosse, they’re both terrific sports.”

Three Stars of the Game as selected by the media:

1) Cody Jamieson
2) Dhane Smith
3) Alex Kedoh Hill

By Jeremy Pike (@KnighthawksBeat) for NLL.com. Photo by Micheline Veluvolu.

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