In the postseason, HSBC Arena is their house. Just call the latest Rochester Knighthawks success the Accursi curse.
The Knighthawks made mincemeat of the Buffalo Bandits' normally reliable back end and ran away to a 19-14 victory before 10,014 in a first-round National Lacrosse League playoff game Saturday night. Mike Accursi, who spent the last five seasons in a Bandits uniform before being traded, led the onslaught with seven goals and an assist.
"Everybody in this room had their reasons to be up for this game," said Accursi, whom the Bandits sent to the expansion Minnesota Swarm last summer, before he was dealt again to Rochester. "For me it was a no-brainer. I wanted to prove to them that they lost a talent. I put my heart and soul into that team for five years and to have them trade me away basically for draft choices, well it was their decision. I lived with it. But I felt I deserved a little more, that's for sure."
All of Accursi's goals came after the first quarter and six came during the Knighthawks' two most decisive periods. He scored three times in both the seven-goal second quarter and six-goal fourth. Accursi, who had 146 goals and 257 points in 73 games in a Buffalo uniform, set a Knighthawks record for goals in a playoff game and the team set a franchise record for winning margin in the postseason.
It was the most goals scored against the Bandits (11-6) in a game this year.
Buffalo was the league's third-stingiest team during the regular season, yielding a franchise record-low 11.4 goals per game, but the Knighthawks had nearly matched that by intermission when they led, 11-8, after opening a 10-3 advantage in the second period.
The Knighthawks (11-6) move on to the Air Canada Centre, where they'll face the East Division champion Toronto Rock (12-4) Friday night in the semifinals. The Bandits exit the postseason two rounds earlier than last season, when they lost to the Calgary Roughnecks in the Champion's Cup final.
"It's just tough to explain," said Bandits forward John Tavares, who had two goals and three assists. "We came out trying not to be too high and we were too low instead. We fought back hard after they got out to a big lead but when you play catch-up lacrosse, it's just tough to keep that energy going. We just ran out of gas in the fourth quarter."
Every time the Bandits got close, Accursi inserted the dagger.
After the Bandits crept within 13-12 early in the fourth quarter on Mark Steenhuis' team-high fifth goal of the game, Accursi scored three of his team's next five. John Grant Jr., who had four goals and four assists, scored twice in 30 seconds to make it 15-12, then Accursi scored a pair in a 53-second span to put it out of reach at 17-12.
Early in the third, Accursi scored after the Bandits had closed within 11-9. In the second, he ended a four-goal Buffalo run on a score just 25 seconds before intermission to make it 11-7.
"We had a couple of chances to tie it and I think if we could have tied it or taken a lead, things would have been different," said Bandits head coach Darris Kilgour. "Once they got on that run in the fourth quarter I knew it was over. (Accursi) had a good shooting game and I know he got a lot of easy goals. He had some big goals on the power play but I don't think we did a very good job on him either."