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Bandits’ offense back in form, take first place in East

Buffalo avenged an earlier loss to Rochester this season as the Bandits topped the Knighthawks, 16-9, before 6,672 at Rochester’s Blue Cross Arena on Friday night.

The win improves the team to 9-2 and gives them sole possession of first place in the Eastern Division.

Since the Bandits’ loss to Rochester on Jan. 26, they’ve gone 5-0 and have outscored their opponents 77-45 over that streak.

Chase Fraser logged four goals to lead the Bandits while Shawn Evans added to his league-best points total with three goals and three assists, bringing his season total to 69.

Corey Small, who came into the game ranked fourth in the league in goals, tallied two to bring his season total to 25. Fellow forward Thomas Hoggarth chipped in with two goals of his own to give him 23 on the season. He was held scoreless in the Bandits’ last game out, but scored the visitors’ first two goals.

Matt Vinc recorded 45 saves against his former team.

Buffalo’s league-leading offense was slow to get going in the first two quarters. Rochester drew first blood before Hoggarth was able to tie the game at one goal apiece.

Things began to look up for the visitors after goals by Hoggarth, Dhane Smith and Evans that established a 5-1 lead for the Bandits, but Rochester would not go gentle into that good night.

Goals by Cody Jamieson, Austin Shanks, Graeme Hossack and Scott Campbell soon had the game knotted at five with three minutes to go in the second quarter.

The two teams traded goals to open the second half, but Buffalo managed to remain one step ahead. The Bandits began to pull away on Evans’ second goal of the night.

Two more goals from Fraser and another score from Small put Buffalo up 12-7 just before the start of the final quarter.

Rochester got one back courtesy of Kyle Jackson, but the Bandits quickly scored three more to put the game out of reach.

The 9-2 start to the season is the best that Buffalo has had since the 2003 season, also a 9-2 start.

Two Bandits — Evans and Smith — are first and second, respectively, in points scored. Small ranks second with 52 and Hoggarth checks in at 23rd to round out the league’s top-25 scorers.

It’s a testament to Buffalo’s dynamic offense, which has racked up 162 goals in 11 games.

To put that in perspective, Georgia, second in scoring, has 128 goals in the same amount of play.

The Bandits also have nearly have 100 more points (414) than the runner-up Swarm (325).

Buffalo will have the week off for the bye before gearing up and traveling to Philadelphia for a game with the Wings on March 8.

After that, the Bandits will return home to host the Georgia Swarm on March 9 for the annual Native American Night.

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