After coming away with a huge Western Division victory over the Calgary Roughnecks in overtime last week at the Scotiabank Saddledome, the Buffalo Bandits were faced with the difficult challenge of making it two wins in a row when they faced off against their Thruway rivals the Rochester Knighthawks at the First Niagara Center Saturday night. In their second of three regular season matchups on the schedule, the Bandits would need to come away with the victory in the hopes of keeping the Knighthawks from securing the regular season series.
The game was truly a Jekyll and Hyde situation for both the Bandits (4-4) and the Knighthawks (3-3) as each experienced a half of offensive surges and outages through the course of the game. In the end, it was the second half rally by the Knighthawks in the fourth quarter that took them over the top with the 15-10 road victory.
“It’s not good. I thought we were real solid in the first half and not very good in the second half,” Bandits head coach Troy Cordingley said. “That’s a veteran, championship team over there, they know how to win these games and we’re still learning.”
Leading the way for the Knighthawks in the victory tonight was the outstanding play of forwards Cody Jamieson, Dan Dawson and Craig Point. Jamieson led all scorers this evening with nine points (9A) while Dawson had eight points (2G, 6A) and Point had five points (4G, 1A).
Leading the charge for the Bandits in the loss to the Knighthawks was forward Dhane Smith (2G, 4A) with six points. Mark Steenhuis (3G), Kevin Brownell (2G, 1A) and Steve Priolo (3A) each had solid efforts with three points apiece.
In the opening fifteen minutes of the game it was truly a back and forth affair with neither team giving the other a distinct advantage.
Knighthawks transition specialist Jordan Hall helped put Rochester in the drivers’ seat early in the game by opening the scoring on the power play just 6:05 into the game to give the team the one goal lead. The Bandits responded with a goal of their own from Kevin Brownell a little over a minute later to tie the game midway through the first quarter. Joe Walters dialed a long distance shot past Bandits goaltender Anthony Cosmo with 1:18 remaining in the first to give the lead back to the Knighthawks. Less than a minute later, Kevin Brownell scored his second goal of the game on a breakaway past Knighthawks starting goaltender Matt Vinc to tie it at 2-2 with 39 seconds remaining in the first. Knighthawks forward Dan Dawson was able to give the Knighthawks the 3-2 first quarter lead with a diving shot past Cosmo with 19 seconds remaining.
With the Knighthawks leading 5-3 midway through the second quarter, the Bandits turned on the afterburners and went unchallenged for a five goal run that lasted 5:25. Bandits forward Mark Steenhuis ripped identical upper right corner shots past Vinc to tie the game at 5-5. What the fans and even Mark Steenhuis himself didn’t know was that his second goal of the game also contained a little piece of NLL history. Steenhuis recorded his 800th career point in his illustrious career.
After the game, Steenhuis took a moment to reflect on the mile stone with “I don’t really pay attention to those sorts of things, but when the graphic came up on the board and the fans have such a big reaction, that was definitely touching.” “Individual accomplishments are good in a sense, but it doesn’t feel as good after a loss.”
Ryan Benesch joined in the festivities with two goals of his own while Bandits rookie Brandon Goodwin helped complete the five goal run with a short side shot past Vinc and giving the Bandits the 8-5 lead with two and a half minutes left in the first half.
Down three goals heading to halftime can be a really daunting feat to come back from in the second half and Rochester made sure that wouldn’t be happing tonight. Stephen Keogh buried a shot past Cosmo less than ten seconds after Goodwin’s goal and Point buried his power play chance after Billy Dee Smith went to the box for the Bandits on a slashing call to make it a one goal 8-7 Bandits lead heading into halftime.
To go from the possibility of being three goals up at halftime to being only up by one goal slowly killed the Bandits momentum heading into the second half.
“To be honest with you, I thought we gave it away,” said Steenhuis. “As unfortunate as that sounds, we had the game in hand. When it’s 8-5 and they score those two goals before half, that’s kind of a stab in the back.”
Dhane Smith helped extend the Bandits lead to two goals early into the second half before it was vanquished by Keogh and Point three minutes later to the game at 9-9 midway through the third quarter. Steenhuis recorded the hat-trick at the 7:19 mark and was responded in kind by Hall for the Knighthawks a minute later. Joe Walters would give the 11-10 lead back to the Knighthawks and unfortunately for the Bandits, the Knighthawks never looked back from that moment on.
With Kedoh-Hill taking an illegal cross checking penalty late in the third quarter, the Knighthawks power play took over in the fourth as Point received a quick pass from Jamieson and ripped one past Cosmo for the 12-10 lead.
Rochester’s special teams were absolutely lethal tonight going 4-5 for the evening while Buffalo went 0-2.
“We want to play tough and we want to be an intimidating defense but you don’t want to do it at the cost of being in the box,” said Brownell after the game. “It’s good to be physical, but I think we need to be a little bit smarter with the timing of them. In the fourth quarter, we can’t be taking those penalties because they’re pretty lethal on the power play.”
Walters and Hall continued the assault for the Knighthawks in the fourth and Dawson recorded the empty net goal with 51 seconds remaining to put the final nails in the Bandits’ coffin.
Vinc had a solid evening for the Knighthawks making 45 saves out of 55 shots in the victory while Cosmo was a little uneven making 38 saves out of 52 shots in the loss.
Buffalo’s next game will be Saturday February 21st at the Blue Cross Arena in their final regular season showdown with the Rochester Knighthawks.