The Buffalo Bandits (11-5) and their Thruway rivals the Rochester Knighthawks (6-9) will face off in their third and final divisional showdown of the 2016 NLL regular season Saturday night at the Blue Cross Arena.
In their first two matchups of the season, the Buffalo Bandits came away with the 13-10 victory at home against the Knighthawks on March 11th and picked up the 14-12 victory again at home on April 9th.
Even though the team has already clinched a playoff spot, the Bandits as well as the Knighthawks will have plenty to play for.
At this moment, the standings show the Bandits with a game and a half lead over the New England Black Wolves. With a win tonight and a New England loss to the Georgia Swarm, the Bandits can clinch the Eastern Division title and a first round bye in the playoffs.
For the Knighthawks, they will be fighting for their playoff lives. In order to stay alive in the playoff hunt the team will need a win at home against the Bandits and the Swarm to lose against the Black Wolves.
One of the players hoping to lead the Bandits to the promise land tonight against the Knighthawks will be the NLL leader in scoring, forward Dhane Smith. Smith currently leads the lead in points with 123 (64+59) and will be looking to add his name to the record books. He’s currently eight points away from breaking the NLL’s single season points record set last year by Black Wolves forward Shawn Evans and eight goals away from breaking the league’s all-time record for goals scored in a season.
Coming up big offensively for the Bandits on the score sheet during the series has been the outstanding play of Bandits forwards Dhane Smith with 12 points (9+3), Ryan Benesch with nine points (3+6) and Mark Steenhuis with seven points (3+4).
For the Rochester Knighthawks during the series they have been led by forwards Dan Dawson with 11 points (4+7), Cody Jamieson with 10 points (5+5) and Stephen Keogh with nine points (3+6).
Buffalo’s offense is currently ranked first in the league and they will certainly be pushed to their limits against the second ranked defense of Rochester and their five time NLL goalie of the year in starting goaltender Matt Vinc. Vinc is currently ranked fifth in goals against average with 11.35 and sixth in save percentage with .778 over the course of 15 games. Bandits starting goaltender Anthony Cosmo is ranked sixth in goals against average with 11.68 and fourth in save percentage with .784 over 16 games.