The Rochester Knighthawks punched their ticket to the post-season on Saturday night with a 15-13 win over the Buffalo Bandits at Keybank Center. The Knighthawks’ win also eliminates the Bandits, their closest rivals, from playoff contention.
The Knighthawks finish the regular season in second place in the NLL’s eastern division. They will host the New England Black Wolves on Friday night in a single-elimination division semi-final.
“It feels really good,” said Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen in a team press release. “The boys grinded it out and they really earned it, so it’s a good feeling in the locker room.”
Shawn Evans opened the scoring at 1:37. His 400th career goal, scored on his birthday, came as he barrelled his way past two defenders. Jordan Durston put the Bandits up 2-0 at 4:51, but the Knighthawks took over with a three-goal run. Cody Jamieson started it with a hard overhand shot. Paul Dawson followed that with a goal off a restart as Luc Magnan put up a screen, and then Jake Withers got in alone on the crease with two defenders draped all over him. Mitch Jones and Jamieson traded late-quarter goals.
The second quarter was a show of talent, with back-to-back highlight reel goals. Kyle Jackson passed to Austin Shanks on the run, and Shanks managed to get a shot off even with his hands at an awkward angle to put the Knighthawks up 7-4. Durston replied 40 seconds later, finishing a two-on-one with Nick Weiss. Durston’s first shot was saved, but a large rebound popped out. It didn’t even have time to hit the ground before Durston had tossed a bounce shot behind his back and in. Evans’ second goal tied the game at seven with 52 seconds left but Brad Gillies put the Knighthawks up 8-7 with just three seconds left in the half.
The third quarter was highlighted by a hat trick from Kyle Jackson and a four-goal run from the ‘Hawks, who led 13-9. Alex Buque replaced Zach Higgins after Jackson’s third goal.
“We just stuck to the process,” said Knighthawks forward Joe Resetarits. “We knew this was going to be a game of runs. We knew Buffalo was going to come out hungry. We both had our backs against the wall, but we knew once we got on our runs they were going to be tough to stop.”
Resetarits put the Knighthawks up 14-9 early in the fourth, but Thomas Hoggarth then sparked a Bandits’ run with a transition goal. Josh Byrne, Mitch Jones, and Dhane Smith shorthanded pulled them within a goal with 1:06 left. Much to the disappointment of the 19,070 fans in attendance, Jackson scored into the empty net to end the Bandits’ run and their playoff hopes.
Mitch Jones led the Bandits with four goals and two helpers. Shawn Evans had a hat trick and one assist, while Jordan Durston and Dhane Smith each had two goals and three assists. Higgins and Buque combined for 44 saves.
Jackson led the Knighthawks with four goals and four assists. Resetarits contributed two goals and four assists, and Jamieson and Austin Shanks each had two goals and two assists. Matt Vinc made 45 saves.
With his first assist, Resetarits broke the record for American scoring in the NLL, set last year by Tom Schreiber with 94 points. Resetarits set the new record at 100 points, also making him the first American-born player to reach that milestone.