ROCHESTER – What a difference a night can make.
On Friday night, the Buffalo Bandits jumped out to a huge lead, saw their opponents rally, but hung on for the victory against the Minnesota Swarm. On Saturday night, the reverse happened against Rochester.
The Knighthawks pulled out a deceptively one-sided 17-11 win over the Bandits before 6.994 in Blue Cross Arena. It was a wacky, don’t-look-away game that featured a pair of long goal-scoring runs and the appearance of all four goaltenders.
“That sort of thing happens when you don’t play 60 minutes,” Alex Kedoh Hill of the Bandits said.
This particular contest felt like it was three mini-games tied together. In that sense, Rochester was the better team in two of the “contests” and deserved the win.
The Knighthawks controlled the action for almost all of the first half. They were getting to every loose ball and kept the Bandits out of shooting positions. By the end of the first quarter, the Knighthawks had a 6-1 lead and briefly chased Buffalo starting goaltender Anthony Cosmo.
“It’s a grind to play back-to-back games in this league, but that by no means is an excuse,” Bandits coach Troy Cordingley said. “They had more energy than we did at the start. We dug a hole for ourselves, and we weren’t focused.”
It was more of the same in the second quarter. Rookie goalie Davide Deruscio saw his first bit of action in a Buffalo uniform, basically playing the second quarter, and had about as much help as Cosmo did.
By the time the first half was over, the Knighthawks were ahead by an almost outrageous 10-4 score. Buffalo’s big guns of Dhane Smith, Mark Steenhuis and Ryan Benesch had combined for only one goal – a Smith score late in the first half.
“They’re a good defense,” Steenhuis said about the Knighthawks. “They pack it in, block shots. We had to do a better job of creating shots. A 10-4 half is unacceptable.”
The 30 minutes of slumber made the Bandits’ revival in the third quarter that much more stunning. Buffalo went on a 6-0 run in the third quarter, sandwiched by goals late in the second period and early in the fourth. Buffalo had come all the way back to lead by an 11-10 count.
“We had every reason to stop playing,” Steenhuis said. “I have to hand it to the guys in the locker room. We battled back.”
Not only were Buffalo’s top scorers back on target, but transition players such as Hill and Jay Thorimbert chipped in. Each had two goals on the night.
“The opportunities were there,” Hill said. “I had a couple of good shots, and I could have had a couple of more goals.”
The problem with a rally of that magnitude is that it uses up a large amount of energy. When Rochester finally responded, Buffalo’s tank looked empty.
“That’s the way it goes when you battle back,” Steenhuis said. “They came down and got a backbreaking score right after we took the lead. Then it was like a steamroller.”
Rochester scored the final seven goals, including two big ones by Cody Jamieson. Joe Walters finished with career highs in goals (five) and points (seven). Dan Dawson had 11 assists, while Jamieson had four goals and three assists. For Buffalo, five different players had two goals.
When the evening was over, four of the five teams in the National Lacrosse League’s East Division were at .500, including Buffalo at 3-3. Toronto is a game and a half up on everyone at 4-1.
“It is a mess, and we want to make sure we grab” the division, Steenhuis said.
The Bandits play their next game in Calgary on Saturday night.