By Alex Pagliano - Bandits.com
ROCHESTER – Victories do not come by chance in the National Lacrosse League. The Rochester Knighthawks earned a win Saturday night because of their play on the defensive end of the floor.
In the process, they snapped the Buffalo Bandits’ five-game winning streak.
Rochester outscored Buffalo 5-0 in the first half and fended off a 4-0 Buffalo run over the course of the third quarter to pick up a 9-6 win at Blue Cross Arena. For the first time in franchise history, the Bandits were unable to score a goal in the first half.
Ryan Benesch led the Bandits with four points (2+2).
After the loss, Buffalo (5-2) leads Rochester (4-2) by just a half-game in the NLL East Division.
“It’s real difficult to win five games in a row in this league,” Bandits coach Troy Cordingley said. “Every game is a big game in this league, particularly with teams so evenly matched. We just did not step up today.”
Rochester had a tenuous 1-0 lead after the first quarter, but used a 4-0 run over the duration of the second quarter to send the Bandits into the locker room facing a 5-0 halftime deficit. Cory Vitarelli scored two of his game-high three goals in the second quarter to spark the Rochester run.
Rochester goalie Matt Vinc also stopped all 21 shots he faced in the half to hold the Bandits scoreless.
“I do not think we were very good for the entire game,” Cordingley said. “We played with a sense of urgency in the third quarter, but they played a good game. [Rochester] may have brought us back to reality.”
Buffalo mounted a comeback, scoring four unanswered goals to start the third quarter.
Mark Steenhuis bounced a shot past Vinc to put the Bandits on the scoreboard at 8:39 to start the momentum. Benesch, John Tavares and Joe Resetarits each added a goal over the 4-0 run.
Tavares produced the highlight of the game at 11:32. The veteran fired a no-look backhanded shot past Vinc as the shot clock winded down.
The exertion of the run mounted for Buffalo. Rochester outscored Buffalo 4-2 over the remainder of the game. Chad Culp and Benesch each added a goal over the fourth quarter, but the goals came far too late to have an impact on the outcome of the game.
“It was a big hill to climb,” Benesch said. “We just kind of slid back down after the third quarter. Vinc played well. Their defense did, too. There’s not much else you can say.”
Buffalo looks to rebound from the loss at home next weekend, as the team hosts the Philadelphia Wings at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at First Niagara Center.
“We have two weeks off after the game, so we need that win on Saturday,” Benesch said. “We’ll go to practice on Tuesday and work.”