The Buffalo Bandits (10-4) hosted the Rochester Knighthawks (6-8) and celebrated Native American Night in front of 17,397 fans at the First Niagara Center. The Bandits punched their ticket to the postseason with an impressive 14-12 win over their division rival.
“Our main goal coming into the season was to make the playoffs. That’s definitely what we wanted to do,” said Bandits forward Dhane Smith. “Tonight was a big win for us. We’re looking forward to what’s next.”
The Bandits scored on their first two shots of the game and jumped out to a 2-0 lead just 59 seconds into the first quarter. Scott Campbell netted a goal for the Knighthawks before Smith capped off his first quarter hat trick and gave Buffalo a 4-1 lead through 15 minutes.
Ryan Benesch opened the scoring in the second quarter before Rochester notched four straight goals. Jay Thorimbert found the back of the net before Cody Jamieson tied the game at six to end the half.
Dan Dawson opened the second half’s scoring before Buffalo tallied three straight goals. The Knighthawks pulled back within a one with a Brad Gillies tally and the third quarter ended 9-8 in favor of the Bandits.
The fourth quarter began with another three goal run from the Bandits. The Knighthawks answered with a four goal run and tied the game at 12 with 7:31 to go. Kevin Brownell scored in transition for Buffalo with 1:38 to go and Steve Priolo scored on the empty net with 1:02 to go to give Buffalo a 14-12 lead and seal the win.
“The positive out of this game was that we found a way to win. I know we can be better and there are some things we need to work on, but a ‘W’ is a ‘W’ at this point of the year,” said Bandits head coach Troy Cordingley. “Things were clicking for us, but then Rochester got momentum in the fourth quarter. I was glad that when they made it 12-12, our defense stepped up. It was a tight one as always; I’m just glad we came out on top.”
Dhane Smith (5+0) led Buffalo with 5 points and continues to break records. His third goal of the game was his 56th of the year and broke the Bandits franchise record for goals in a season. With his fifth point of the night, he earned his 116th point of the season which also set a new Bandits franchise record.
“The records are a cool thing to have, but I’m just glad we won the game. If you set a record and lose, it’s not the same,” said Smith. “I’m going to remember this for the rest of my life. I’m just thankful. I never thought I’d be at this point in my career. I’m hoping to keep going.”
Dawson (2+5) led all runners with seven points while Jamieson (3+2) had a five-point night.
Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen realizes that injuries are stacking up for his team and was excited by some of the young players who were in the lineup. Mike Kirk, Corey Vitarelli, Craig Point, Paul Dawson and Mike Manley are all on Injured Reserve for his squad. He attributed the loss to the poor start his team had.
“It’s tough when you come into such a big game like this and have such high expectations for quite a few new guys, but they stepped up and played well,” Hasen said. “We got off to a slow start. Buffalo scored off the opening faceoff. We were chasing. After that we settled in, played our game and had our chances.”
The Bandits travel to Toronto to play the Rock on Friday, April 15 at 8 p.m. ET. The Knighthawks host the Georgia Swarm on Saturday, April 16 at 7:30 p.m. ET.
Three Stars of the Game:
1) Dhane Smith
2) Dan Dawson
3) Anthony Malcom
By Steve Bermel for NLL.com. Photo by Bill Wippert.