By Alex Beilman | Bandits.com
The Buffalo Bandits (4-6) were denied a chance to move to .500 as Dan Dawson and the Rochester Knighthawks (4-7) exacted revenge on the backend of a home-and-home series in a 9-8 overtime thriller on Saturday.
The low-scoring showdown saw Rochester equalize through a Josh Currier breakaway in the dying seconds of regulation. Dawson capped off the win as he scored just 1:02 in the overtime period to level the season series between the two squads at one win apiece.
The first star of the game, though, was undoubtedly Rochester goalie Matt Vinc. Vinc, who made 46 saves the night before in his side’s loss to Buffalo, came back home and answered with a similar performance. Vinc thwarted the Bandits 44 times on 52 shots, this time willing his team to victory.
Davide DiRuscio played quite well for Buffalo, stopping 40 of 49, but he was not able to best the five-time NLL Goalie of the Year.
Dhane Smith (3+3) and Pat Saunders (2+2) led the way offensively for Buffalo. Saunders has impressed in his first two games with Buffalo after being acquired via trade during the week. He now has eight points in two games with his new team.
It was Dawson (1+4) who led the way offensively for the home side, notching four assists during the game before burying the winner for his only goal of the match.
The game was close from start to finish, with no team ever amassing a lead greater than two goals. Rochester opened the scoring with a Cory Vitarelli (2+0) power-play marker. Vitarelli finished the quick stick goal off a feed from Kyle Jackson (1+3).
Dan Lomas would get his only goal of the game 7:59 later to close out the 1st quarter scoring and give the Knighthawks a 2-0 lead.
Buffalo would respond positively in the second frame, however, scoring four of the five goals the teams combined for. Smith continued his excellent form of late, burying a feed from Brad Self to score on the power play. Smith now has 36 of his 42 points over his last five games.
Saunders then scored his second of the day, but Joe Resetarits was able to answer for Rochester after that. Mark Steenhuis and Craig England closed out the scoring in the second half with goals 1:20 apart to put the Bandits up 4-3.
It was Rochester who would win the third quarter, scoring three of four goals in that frame. Jackson and Saunders traded goals, and the Bandits held a 5-4 lead. Dan Gilles then stepped up in a 4-on-4 situation, stealing a pass and burying his breakaway chance to tie the game at 5-5. Resetarits rang up his second of the game to put his club up 6-5.
Buffalo would take the lead back in the fourth. Mitch Jones broke the game’s longest goalless drought, as his goal did not come until the 10:25 mark of the final stanza. The goal tied the game at 6-6, despite Vinc’s best efforts. Then, Smith would give his side the lead less than a minute later, scoring on the power play.
However, Rochester’s Vitarelli answered Smith’s tally 91 seconds later to knot the game at 7-7. Smith would answer with an incredible effort off the ensuing faceoff.
Smith fought through a scrum, forced a loose ball, took the ball into the Rochester zone and scored just 10 seconds after Vitarelli to give his side an 8-7 lead.
The Bandits held strong as Rochester pushed to tie the game. DiRuscio came up with what looked to be a game-winning save with just 15 seconds left in the game. The Bandits called a timeout to get a clean position and get the ball in the stick of Smith.
After the break, Smith burst out of his own end, but was met at the center of the floor, and turned the ball over. Graeme Hossack scooped the loose ball and fed Currier, who was able to beat his man and finish on the breakaway with just three seconds remaining.
The Bandits were able to control the opening possession of overtime, but a crease violation turned the ball back to the Knighthawks. Again, the Bandits defense was prepared for most of the possession. However, with the shot clock winding down, Dawson was able to back the defense off just enough and ripped an overhand shot through the legs of DiRuscio to end the game.
The loss ended Buffalo’s three-game winning streak, and put Rochester 1 1/2 games back of the third-place Bandits.
The team will now have a bye week after wrapping up a stretch of five games in 16 days. They will return on March 17 against the Vancouver Stealth in Langley, B.C. Fans will need to stock up on coffee, as faceoff is set for 10:30 p.m. EST.