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Knighthawks knock Bandits out of playoffs

ROCHESTER - The Buffalo Bandits never could figure out a way to beat the Rochester Knighthawks during the 2015 season.

As a result, this edition of the Bandits will never have a chance to beat anyone else.

The Bandits were eliminated from the playoffs by the Knighthawks for the second straight year on Friday night. Rochester came up with a 14-11 win before 6,527 in Blue Cross Arena. The Knighthawks had won the three regular-season meetings between the teams.

“It’s hard to beat anyone three times in a season, let alone four,” Bandits forward John Tavares said. “We did make some strides this season, but we need to get on our home floor for these games. It would give us that extra bit of confidence.”

Buffalo had come into the game with four straight wins at the end of the regular season, and playing its best lacrosse of the year. The start of the playoffs always sparks talk about how everyone has to start over, and in this case the Knighthawks had answers for much of what the Bandits tried.

“We were not good. I was disappointed, especially the way we played down the stretch,” Buffalo coach Troy Cordingley said. “They outwilled us in every way. It’s a bitter pill to swallow.”

This was one of those rare lacrosse games in which the decisive part came right at the start. The Bandits got the first goal of the game (Chad Culp) after only 26 seconds of play. Jordan Hall of Rochester tied it 40 seconds later. Buffalo never led for any part of the rest of the game.

Rochester scored four more goals before the 10-minute mark of play – two of them by Hall – and the Knighthawks had a 5-1 lead. That’s exactly what you don’t want to do against the three-time defending champions.

“I thought it took us a little while to wake up, and you can’t play like that,” Alex Kedoh Hill of the Bandits said.

“They got off to the good start at 5-1, and we just couldn’t catch up,” Tavares said. “We had a valiant effort, but they responded when we got close.”

Indeed, every time the Bandits seemed to get within striking distance, the Knighthawks would get a clutch goal or two to prevent the Bandits from having any momentum. Buffalo got the lead down to 7-6 and 8-7 along the way, but Rochester had an answer.

“They are a good squad, and we wanted to limit their streaks,” Rochester’s Paul Dawson said. “Our offense did great tonight. When it was five-on-five, we did a great job.”

Some of those answers came from Joe Resetarits. The forward, who was dealt from Buffalo to the Knighthawks just before the trading deadline, scored four goals – including three in a row – in his first game against his old teammates. Resetarits has found it easy to fit in with his new team.

“In the last three years, they’ve been in all sorts of situations,” he said. “There’s no panic out there.”

Dawson added, “Joe’s been great. He was a one-man gang out there. It must have been great to stick it to his old team like that.”

Dhane Smith had three goals and four assists for the Bandits, while Ryan Benesch had six points and Mark Steenhuis and Tavares scored five points each. But the offense never seemed as threatening as it had been in the past month.

“That’s a combination of that they are the best defense in the league, and we didn’t do what we did in the last four, five games,” Cordingley said. “We played into their hands.”

Cody Jamieson had two goals and seven assists for the Knighthawks, and Dan Dawson added six points. Rochester moves on to the NLL East final against Toronto, starting next weekend.

As for the Bandits, they’ll have to wait until 2016 to see if they’ve figured out how to get past the Knighthawks. It makes for a long offseason.

“Obviously it’s tough,” Cordingley said. “We put a lot of time and effort to get to a big game like this. We’ve got some problems.”