ROCHESTER – The Buffalo Bandits were this close to reaching the .500 mark for the first time this season – a mere 2.1 seconds.
Sadly for them, National Lacrosse League games must be played for 60 minutes, and not 59 minutes and 57.9 seconds.
Rochester tied the game on a goal by Josh Currier, and then won it in overtime on one by Dan Dawson. The goals gave the Knighthawks a 9-8 victory that thrilled most of the 6,102 at Blue Cross Arena, but left the Buffalo team rather despondent. They had missed a chance to go 5-5 and win their fourth in a row.
"Sometimes it doesn't go your way," Bandits coach Troy Cordingley said. "That's the way she goes. Sometimes you're on the good end of that, and sometimes you're not."
"Obviously this is quite a rivalry," Buffalo's Brad Smith said after playing his first game in Rochester as a Bandit after several years with the Knighthawks. "This was another epic battle."
The game really kicked into gear with less than four minutes to go. With the score tied, 6-6, Dhane Smith put Buffalo ahead with 3:42 left. The lead lasted for only 91 seconds, as Cory Vitarelli got the Knighthawks back to even.
Yet it only took 11 seconds for Smith to get that goal back. He stripped a Rochester player of the ball shortly after the faceoff, broke toward the goal, and beat goalie Matt Vinc with a shot that few in the building even saw - let alone Vinc.
"He's got a lot of heart," Pat Saunders said about his new teammate, Smith. "He's a very skilled player. He wants to win so much, and he came up big again."
Even while playing short-handed for the final minute and a half, it looked as if the Bandits would hold on. They had the ball with less than 15 seconds left, and only had to maintain possession to earn the win.
But Scott Campbell of the Knighthawks gave Smith a bump along the boards and caused a turnover. Graeme Hossack picked up the loose ball and hit Josh Currier in full flight. Currier went by a defender and beat Dave DiRuscio for the tying goal. Two-point-one seconds can be an eternity.
"I still don't know how the ball came out," Cordingley said about the turnover.
The Bandits did get the first possession in overtime, and quickly called a timeout to set up a play. It resulted in Saunders getting a decent shot from the slot, but he couldn't get it in the net.
"The play had a lot of options," Saunders said. "You have to react. I notice a guy in the middle, and I went right to the net. I thought I had a lot more room than I did, and I had to slide earlier than I thought. So I had to dive to get it off."
Back came the Knighthawks, who didn't have much going for most of the possession. But then Dawson found a little room high in the slot, and he ripped the ball past DiRuscio for the game-winner.
DiRuscio hadn't played since Feb. 17, but was pretty sharp in the net overall.
"He played unbelievably well," Buffalo's Brad Self said.
"Out defense was pretty good, and the goaltending was phenomenal," Cordingley said. "He made some stellar saves."
Both teams put out plenty of effort in the contest, which came less than a day after Buffalo had beaten Rochester in the KeyBank Center on Friday night.
"Everyone's pretty tired, but we all put out a great effort," Self said. "There was desperation on both sides. If you looked at the tape, you might see that we were moving a little slower than normal."
The Bandits would have preferred to sweep the weekend home-and-home set, of course. Still, they showed more signs that they have worked their way out of their problems that beset them early in the season.
"We're back to being a team that has a lot of character and a lot of heart," Cordingley said. "We're a team that battles, and we'll continue to battle no matter what the score is. That's a good sign from the last two or three weeks."
Buffalo gets to rest up for an extra week. The Bandits' next game is on March 17 at Vancouver.