Two games into the season, it's safe to wonder whether anyone can stop the Rochester Knighthawks. The Buffalo Bandits certainly couldn't Saturday night at Blue Cross Arena.
The Knighthawks put on an offensive showcase and goalie Matt Vinc turned away 55 shots in Rochester's 21-11 victory against the Bandits.
Buffalo, which earned an impressive win against Toronto in the season opener, was brought back down to earth.
"We didn't play as well as we could have," Bandits head coach Troy Cordingley said. "We didn't execute like we did in the first game. We weren't hungry like we were in the first game. ... We can't come and think teams will hand wins to us."
Rochester's offense executed at an impressively efficient pace, scoring 21 times on 50 shots on goal. The unit has scored a combined 38 goals through two games, as the Knighthawks blew by Calgary, 17-6, in their opener.
"They're a big team. They're heavy," defenseman Steve Priolo said. "We had a game plan going in. I don't know if we didn't do the game plan or they stopped it, but they played well."
The timing of the Knighthawks goals was consistently crippling. Rochester scored on the first shift of the game and the first shift of the second half. When Bandits goalie Alex Buque was pulled, the Knighthawks scored on their first shot on his replacement, Davide DiRuscio.
"They're killers," Priolo said. "They suck. You're up here and then they score those and it brings you right down."
Rochester's offense clicked from the start. The Knighthawks scored the first five goals of the game in a eight-minute span, putting the Bandits in an early hole.
Buffalo's Mitch Jones did his best to get the Bandits back in it, scoring two straight to end the first, but little else was working.
"We came out slow as an offense," Jones said. "When you come out slow, you've got to hope that you get a bunch of stops. That wasn't the case tonight. Then everyone starts gripping the sticks a little more and maybe you compound the mistakes."
By the half, the Knighthawks scored four more goals than Buffalo allowed to Toronto in an entire game on Dec. 8.
On the other side of the field, the Rochester defense packed in and forced Buffalo into outside shots early. Even when the Bandits started getting strong opportunities, Vinc or the crossbar usually got in their way. Buffalo's failure wasn't due to lack of shots, as the team hit the net on 66 of their 86 attempts.
"Obviously, he's the best goalie in this league for a reason," Cordingley said. "I thought we had a lot of quality shots, but he stood on his head. Not even the first save, he's making second and third saves."
Buffalo had spurts of offense, but after going down 5-0 the team was never able to cut the deficit under three.
Dan Dawson, a notorious Bandit killer through the years, dismantled the Buffalo defense. He scored three goals and dished out six assists to earn first star honors. Cory Vitarelli had three goals and three assists, Kyle Jackson had four goals and an assist and Joe Resetarits had three goals and five assists.
Jones led Buffalo with three goals and an assist. Rookie Chase Fraser, who scored twice, was the only other Buffalo player with multiple goals.
DiRuscio was pulled from the game in the first quarter after suffering an injury less than a minute after coming into the game. Cordingley didn't have an update on the backup keeper, who was walking around the Bandits' locker room with a crutch. Josh Byrne also suffered a lower-body injury.
Reid Acton was inactive for the game with a lower-body injury. The Bandits called up Zac Reid from the practice roster to take his place.
Priolo, the Bandits' captain, said a lopsided game like this can be a good learning experience for a youthful team like the Bandits.
"We're going to take some nice video from that," Priolo said. "We're going to have, what, 22 clips of video on things we can do better."
The Bandits play a second straight road game next week when they travel to Toronto to face the Rock Saturday. Toronto is 0-2 after falling to Buffalo in the opener and Saskatchewan last Saturday.
"We're going into a barn where there's a team that's desperate for a win," Cordingley said.