There was plenty to cheer about on Saturday night as the Buffalo Bandits held on to defeat the Rochester Knighthawks 11-8 in front of a sold-out crowd at HSBC Arena.
Buffalo had the lead for most of the game, but Rochester rallied back with three straight goals to tie the game at six in the third quarter. However, Buffalo was able to get clutch scoring in the fourth quarter to help the Black and Orange win in front of 18,690 fans.
Brett Bucktooth brought his A-game in the win, as the NLL All-Star notched three goals on just four shots while adding an assist. Mark Steenhuis and Roger Vyse also had big nights with two goals and three assists apiece. Mike Thompson stood on his head for most of the game as the netminder made 40 saves to send Buffalo on its way.
“I was a little snake-bitten earlier goal-wise so I just wanted to come out and shoot with some confidence," said Bucktooth. "I wasn’t really trying to pick my spots; I was just trying to get a shot off quickly.”
It was all too quiet in the opening quarter until Joe Walters broke the goose egg halfway through to put the Knighthawks up 1-0. Brett Bucktooth got the Bandits on the board when the All-Star ripped the ball from the point into the back of the net. John Tavares assisted on Buffalo’s first goal, which was the 800th assist of his illustrious career. With under a minute to play in the first quarter, Steenhuis pulled off an impressive move and beat Rochester goaltender Matt Vinc stick-side to give Buffalo the 2-1 lead going into the second quarter.
The Bandits picked up where they left off with two straight goals from Chad Culp and Vyse within a one-minute span. Vyse’s goal was replay worthy as the forward shot the ball from behind his back to put the Bandits up 4-1. The Knighthawks put a momentary halt on the surging Bandits with a goal by Jordan Hall. Their goal wasn’t enough to stop Buffalo as Bucktooth grabbed his second goal of the game when he scored on the power play with less than two minutes left before halftime. However, former Bandit Mike Accursi would get his team back within two just before the end of the first half.
The Bandits started the second half with a bang as Bucktooth capped off the hat trick to put Buffalo up 6-3. The crowd got louder in the third when tough guy Brandon Francis squared off with Knighthawks defenseman Troy Bonterre. After Francis wrestled his opponent to the ground, both players went to the penalty box to serve their five-minute penalties for fighting.
The fight gave Rochester a jolt as it rallied to tie the game with goals by Scott Campbell, Cody Jamieson and Hall. Things got physical following Rochester’s sixth goal as a scrum broke out in front of Buffalo’s net. The third quarter ended with both teams tied at six goals apiece.
Rochester appeared to grab the lead at the start of the fourth quarter when Campbell stormed in and scored right off of the faceoff. However, the game would remain tied as the goal was overturned after the lengthy video reply showed a crease violation by the Knighthawks.
The Bandits took advantage of the momentum change as Brenden Thenhaus and Steenhuis scored back-to-back goals to regain the lead at 8-6. However, the Knighthawks would stop Buffalo’s streak when Jamieson scooped up his own rebound and fired it into the net. The Bandits answered back with two consecutive goals by Tavares and Vyse to put Buffalo up 10-7.
The resilient Knighthawks would not go down without a fight, as Hall finished off his hat trick to bring Rochester within two. Tom Montour sealed the deal for Buffalo when he scored off of a break-away with under a minute left in the game.
“I thought that was the best our defense played all year," said Head Coach Darris Kilgour. "I thought Mikey (Thompson) played real solid in net and the offense really stepped up in the second half when we needed them to. Complete game - the guys really did well but, you know, it’s only half a weekend so far. We have another big game tomorrow night so we’ll be ready.”
Buffalo improves its record to 5-3 and moves within 2.5 games of first place in the East division. Meanwhile, Rochester falls to a 5-5 record, dropping it to fourth place in the division.
There will be little time for the Bandits to celebrate, as they will travel to Boston to take on the 6-3 Blazers on Sunday night. The two division rivals will battle it out at 5:00 p.m. Bandit fans will get a chance to catch the game on Time Warner Cable (Channel 13) or listen to it on WWKB 1520.