The Buffalo Bandits faltered at home in a must-win situation Saturday night. Rochester got goals from nine players as the Bandits fell to the Knighthawks, 15-13, and were eliminated from postseason contention.
Dhane Smith scored with 1:06 remaining to get Buffalo within one, but the team wasn't able to beat Rochester's Matt Vinc on the ensuing possession. Kyle Jackson iced the game with an empty netter with 18 seconds left.
The Bandits, who conclude the season at 8-10, will be watching the playoffs from home for a second straight season. That's only happened once before in the franchise's 27-year history, when the team missed out in 2001 and 2002.
Mitch Jones was the offensive leader for the Bandits, totaling four goals and two assists. Shawn Evans also scored three goals and one assist.
Jackson led the Knighthawks with four goals and four assists as Rochester secured a playoff spot.
Zach Higgins, who made a surprise start for the Bandits, was pulled in the third in favor of usual starter, Alex Buque. He made 31 saves on 44 shots. Buque made 13 saves on 15 shots.
Taking home hardware: The Bandits handed out their annual end-of-season awards before faceoff. Smith was named the team's Offensive Player of the Year. Steve Priolo and Kevin Brownell were named co-Defensive Players of the Year and Josh Byrne was named Rookie of the Year. All three of those awards were voted on by the players. Vaughn Harris and Jordan Durston tied for the Breakout Bandit Award, as selected by fans through the team's Facebook page.
Achievement missed: With his one goal, Byrne fell one short of the franchise's rookie record. He finishes the regular season having claimed the Buffalo records for rookie assists and points.
Byrne also claimed the league's rookie assist and point battle. He entered the finale tied with Rochester's Austin Shanks with a league-leading 25 goals, but the 2017 first-overall pick was outscored by his Rochester classmate, 2-1, on Saturday.
New best: Smith tied his previous high for assists in a season. With his three helpers Saturday, he moved to 68 on the season.
Back in Acton: The previous two weeks were tough for Bandits defenseman Reid Acton, who was relegated to the press box while on injured reserve with a grizzly finger injury. The ailment originated with a crosscheck from a New England Black Wolf which opened up a cut on his finger. He covered it up, but the laceration still got infected. He woke up the next morning and his hand was noticeably swollen.
"I spent a week in the hospital just getting it cut open and drained," Acton said. "It was probably just bacteria from my gloves."
Acton, who was cleared on Thursday, returned to the lineup for the finale.
Career milestones: Evans, who celebrated his 32nd birthday Saturday, opened the scoring with the 400th goal of his career. Jones also notched his 200th point on a goal late in the second quarter.
No futher punishment: Priolo avoided a very ill-timed suspension this week. The Bandits' captain received a game misconduct in the final minute of last Saturday's loss to Toronto after slashing Challen Rodgers twice despite Rodgers already being down on the turf.
"We needed the ball back," Priolo said. "I tried to hit his stick. I got some of his stick and the ball didn't come out. Then his stick was available and I slashed him again and the ball did come out. ... Maybe it was a little bit harder than normal, but hey, we need the ball back. Desperate times, desperate measures."
Priolo said he didn't hear anything from the league and was not fined.
He wasn't the only Bandit on the discipline report this week. So was defenseman Bill O'Brien, who was involved in a skirmish with a handful of Rock players during last week's morning shootaround, and assistant coach Anthony Cosmo, who made a comment to an official.
Buffalo soldier: Joe Resetarits, who played high school lacrosse at Hamburg, set a new NLL record for points by an American-born player. He entered the finale at 94 points, tied with the previous record set by Tom Schreiber last season. Resetarits, who previously played for his hometown Bandits, recorded two goals and four assists against his old squad.