Friday the 13th started off scary and only got worse for the Buffalo Bandits as the night went along.
First the Bandits lost goaltender Steve Dietrich, last year's National Lacrosse League Most Valuable Player, to a right knee injury less than four minutes into game. Then they saw their eight-game winning streak go down the tubes with a 14-10 loss to the Rochester Knighthawks, who sewed up the East Division title with their 11th consecutive victory before 15,334 at HSBC Arena.
Dietrich went down in a heap when Rochester's Mike Accursi fired a shot into the goal post, which then caromed into the webbing above the Buffalo goal. After writhing in pain while lying on the turf, Dietrich was wheeled off on a stretcher following approximately a 10-minute delay. Mike Thompson, who started the first five games of this season while Dietrich recovered from an arthroscopic procedure on his left knee, came in and played well, finishing with 45 saves.
"My knee just buckled on me, they don't know what's wrong with it," said Dietrich, who was on crutches after the game and will undergo a magnetic resonance imaging test today. "They don't think it's anything structural. The kneecap may have dislocated and then popped itself back into place. There's not a lot of pain right now, so that's a good sign."
Kevin Dostie had three scores and an assist for the Bandits but he was their lone multi-goal scorer. John Tavares, who began the night tied for the NLL scoring lead, had a goal and five assists.
"That certainly wasn't something we enjoyed seeing because Chugger [Dietrich] is the backbone of our team," said Tavares, whose lone goal late in the third quarter ignited a Bandits rally. "The way he went down, it looked like he was in excruciating pain, so you knew he was really hurt. Mikey's going to have to carry us through now."
The Knighthawks got five goals and four assists from John Grant Jr., three goals and three assists from Shawn Evans and a goal and six assists from Accursi. Grant scored four Rochester goals in a row during the first half, the last two giving the Knighthawks the lead for good. His dart into the upper left corner on a power play 2:13 into the second quarter put the Knighthawks up, 6-5. Then he followed with a picture-book score that beat Thompson low as Grant was falling to the turf.
"It was definitely some of [Grant's] individual ability, he can go one-on-one against anybody in the league," said Bandits coach Darris Kilgour, who suffered his first loss since entering the NLL Hall of Fame on Feb. 16. "But at the same time we weren't aggressive enough on him. We let him dictate where he wanted to go and then he buried his opportunities. Three or four of them came right down the middle and when you give a guy of that caliber that kind of chance, he's going to bury it."
Rochester outscored Buffalo, 4-0, in the second quarter and led, 9-5, at intermission. The Bandits got within 11-9 on goals by Tavares, Phil Sanderson and Dostie but Grant's score on a four-on-four with 4:54 left restored a three-goal cushion.
"We're consistent, and we have a game plan we go in with that we're trying to stick to," said Accursi, who had 146 goals and 257 points in 73 games as a Bandit from 2000-04. "We were able to execute tonight."
The Bandits played without All-Star midfielder Pat McCready, who is nursing a back injury, and defenseman Chris White, who was serving a one-game league suspension. The plan is for McCready to rest again tonight, when the Bandits (10-5) and Knighthawks (13-2) close the regular season at Rochester's Blue Cross Arena (7:30 p.m., Radio 1520 AM).
The Bandits, who will be the No. 2 seed in the East, will meet the Minnesota Swarm (8-7) in the first round of playoffs at 2 p.m. April 22 in HSBC Arena.