By Joe Ray – Bandits.com
Rochester, NY – After a disappointing loss in Toronto on Friday night, the Bandits needed to come out with a stronger effort in Saturday’s matchup with the Rochester Knighthawks. A strong opening effort did not hold up, as the Bandits fell by a score of 8-4 at Blue Cross Arena.
Rochester was led offensively by Johnny Powless, who had three goals and one assist. Joe Walters had five assists to lead all scorers in the game, and goaltender Matt Vinc stopped 45 of 49 shots in the win.
Ryan Benesch paced the Buffalo scorers with a goal and three assists, while Joe Resetarits added two goals and Shawn Williams contributed a goal and two assists.
The Bandits now sit at 8-9 with one game left to play, but Bandits head coach Troy Cordingley still feels confident in his team moving forward.
“For us, it’s a confidence booster,” he said. “I thought our defense was sensational tonight, I thought our goaltending was sensational, I thought our offense was real good. We were battling offensively, we outshot them, we created power plays from effort, and we just couldn’t score. That’s a good goalie over there [in Vinc]. That team’s got the best defense in the league, and one of the best goalies.
“Every goal that we scored was well-earned, hit a couple bars. When you’re losing and you’re in a hole, things don’t go your way. We just gotta keep believing, and honest efforts will result in honest results.”
Forward Joel Matthews was signed off the practice squad for today’s game and replaced Aaron Wilson in the lineup. Even though he did not get on the scoresheet, Matthews’ energy was infectious throughout the game.
“Joel Matthews came into our lineup today, and he works like that in practice,” Cordingley said. “How do you take that kid out of the lineup when he provides that much energy?
"He did a good job and he created from his movement and his hard work, created chances for guys like Ryan Benesch and JT and Resetarits.”
For Matthews, the journey to his NLL debut has been impeded multiple times, but with a consistent effort, he made his way onto the floor tonight.
“I feel great,” he said. “It’s been a long year and a half full of shoulder surgery, broken foot, couple family issues, the list goes on … two days in the gym, training non-stop, plus working full-time. It’s just finally like everything you’ve worked so hard for has finally paid off. It felt for a while that I never may get this chance, so I just went out there and I didn’t wanna let the guys down. I knew we needed some kind of spark, so I tried to cause as much trouble as I could and make sure the team hated me as much as possible.”
Coming out of the gate, the Bandits certainly did not look like a team that fought hard in a losing effort three hours away. The Bandits came out of the gate strong and moved the ball well in all phases. After Dhane Smith drew a hooking penalty on Scott Self, Resetarits cashed in on the power play to give the Bandits the first goal of the game.
The goal from Resetarits gave the second-year forward a goal in 11 straight Bandits games. With each week, Resetarits has become even more integral to the team’s offensive success.
“Joe’s been our best offensive player this year,” Cordingley said. “He’s a kid that has enormous potential. His speed is tremendous. He’s still learning the game at this level, but he’s all eyes and ears. When you have a player like that, it’s real good for the organization. This is his second year, and pretty well his first full year of playing every game. He’s gotten better every game … and hats off to his work ethic and just how much he wants to win.”
After opening the game on a strong note, the game started to slip away in the second quarter for the Bandits. Joel McCready got the Knighthawks on the board with the extra man with a delayed penalty issued to Williams at the 5:29 mark. Just 34 seconds later, Derek Hopcroft scored his first goal as a member of the Knighthawks to give Rochester the lead.
Powless went on a tear for a short period in the second, beating Cosmo with a low shot at the 7:56 mark of the second quarter before ripping home another shot just 26 seconds later.
After going scoreless in the first half during their last trip to Blue Cross Arena, the Bandits could only muster up one goal on 25 first-half shots on Saturday.
Buffalo found their offense again coming out of the half. With their fourth power play chance of the game, Williams scored with a behind-the-back shot that beat Vinc over his left shoulder. 34 seconds later, Resetarits picked up his second of the game with a strong cut to the net and a great pass from Benesch.
The run would end there for the Bandits, however, as Brad Self got Rochester on the board with a goal that would be the eventual game-winner. Five minutes later, Powless completed his hat trick off a quick turnover as Buffalo was attempting to start the rush in transition.
The Bandits got on the board early in the fourth quarter on a power-play goal from Benesch that was set up by a wonderful flip pass from Williams. But just 45 seconds later, the Bandits gave up another Rochester goal, which was scored by Cory Vitarelli.
Cody Jamieson tacked on an insurance goal with just under five minutes to play, and the stellar Rochester defense held strong to double up the Bandits by a score of 8-4.
Buffalo heads back to First Niagara Center for their home finale on April 26 with their heads held high. Steve Priolo says that the team will be able to channel their positive efforts tonight into next week, and hopefully that will produce a win for the home crowd.
“There’s a lot of positives out of this game. I think we recognize that. Especially with that big save that [Cosmo] made on the penalty shot at the end of the game, that’s going to carry over more than people think, as opposed to if they score, our heads are down, we’re a little more upset about it. He makes that save, we’re happy with our effort, and we’re carrying our heads high into next week.”
Buffalo’s final regular season game will be played at home against the Knighthawks next Saturday at 7:30 p.m. After that, the Bandits have clinched a playoff game that will be against the Toronto Rock with the location still to be determined.