January 21, 2012

Late Run Pushes Buffalo Past Rochester

by Travis Larner | NLL.com

ROCHESTER, N.Y. - The Buffalo Bandits remain undefeated after a tight contest against their Western New York rivals, the Rochester Knighthawks, on Saturday night. Buffalo (2-0) edged the Knighthawks (1-1) by a final of 12-9 in front of a packed house at the Blue Cross Arena.
Trailing 6-5 in the third quarter, the Bandits went on a 7-1 run and took an insurmountable lead.

"We stuck around. We played well for most of the game but they went on a bit of a run there in crunch time," said Rochester defenseman Sid Smith. "That's what won it for them."

The first quarter was a tight defensive battle. Buffalo goaltender Mike Thompson, the reigning NLL Defender of the Week, went toe-to-toe with the reigning NLL Goaltender of the Year, Rochester's Matt Vinc. Both teams were robbed of a couple goals thanks to some solid play between the pipes.

"I think we played a decent game for the most part," said Vinc. "We just lost focus for three or four minutes and it really killed us tonight. We stay of out the penalty box, limit their runs in the fourth quarter, we have a chance to win that game."

Rookie Stephen Keogh found the back of the net for the Knighthawks only goal of the opening quarter. After a six-point performance in his debut against Philadelphia last week, Keogh tied the game at 1-1, answering the early goal from Bandits forward Luke Wiles.

"There was a lot of unsettled situations. Both teams were pushing the ball pretty good so there wasn't a lot of five-on-five to start, especially in the first half," said Knighthawks defender Kyle Laverty.

Offenses began to heat up in the last few minutes before the half. Between 11:23 and 13:30 in the second quarter, Buffalo took a 4-3 lead. Mark Steenhuis netted two of Buffalo's three. Cody Jamieson and Alex "Kedoh" Hill scored a pair for the Knighthawks, who trailed by one at the break.

"The ball didn't bounce our way," said Jamieson. "They did their game plan very well. They knew what we wanted to do. They executed their defense better than we executed our offense."

Rochester scored three unanswered goals in the third quarter to take their only lead of the contest. Transition Player of the Week Jordan Hall tied the game at 5-5 before former Bandit Mike Accursi gave Rochester a one-point lead.

"Everybody was excited to have a home opener. It's an emotional game so guys tend to do things that they are not used too," said Accursi. "Everything went perfect in Philadelphia. I think we just got to get back to basics."

The Knighthawks saw their slim lead vanish when veteran John Tavares tied the game at 6-6. Tavares helped the Bandits' offense take over the game late by tallying four of his eight points (four goals, four assists) in the fourth quarter.

"Johnny's scored a lot of goals in this league because he shoots all four corners of the net," said Vinc. "He's been the best player in this league for a long time now and he showed the reason why tonight."

Now in his second season as Rochester's head coach, Mike Hasen has had the chance to not only play against the Bandits, but also call the shots against them as well.
"Most games, it's a good game, it's a tight game. It's been that way since '96 when Rochester got here," said Rochester's head coach about the Interstate 90 rivalry. "It's one that won't go away, that's for sure."

Jamieson lead Rochester with six points (three goals, three assists). Hall followed with a four point performance (one goal, three assists). Vinc made 36 saves on 48 shots.
The Knighthawks have a tough weekend road trip coming up next. They head north to face another East Division rival, the Toronto Rock, on Friday at 7pm ET. Then on Saturday, they'll travel out west for a 9pm ET game against the Colorado Mammoth.

"I think our biggest thing is getting our feet moving again," Hasen said about what the team needs to work on in practice. "We were really caught flat footed. Offensively and defensively, we were watching the Bandits play tonight."

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