The Buffalo Bandits will host the Rochester Knighthawks at KeyBank Center on Saturday for Youth Lacrosse Night.
The Bandits enter the matchup with a 4-3 record after topping the previously undefeated Toronto Rock 16-14 on the road last Saturday. The Knighthawks travel to Buffalo at 3-3 on the season and hungry off a three-game losing streak.
Last weekend, Chase Fraser led Buffalo with four goals in its win over Toronto, one of which was voted No. 1 in the NLL’s Top Plays of the Week. Josh Byrne and Chris Cloutier pulled the strings on offense, each notching six assists. Goaltender Matt Vinc totaled 38 saves and a first quarter shutout en route to the victory.
— Buffalo Bandits (@NLLBandits) January 28, 2024
After Toronto took a 10-9 lead heading into the fourth quarter, Buffalo exploded in the fourth with a seven-goal run. Despite the Bandits’ six-goal lead in the final minutes, the Rock made it close with four unanswered goals but ran out of time to complete the comeback. Byrne thought the final minutes of the game did not reflect the team’s performance throughout the contest.
“I thought that was probably our best overall game except for those two minutes,” Byrne said. “At that point we had to be a little more dialed, a little bit more understanding of clock management as well as knowing who’s probably going to want to shoot the ball.”
The lessons throughout a season are key in the eyes of the Bandits that have made it to the championship before. Transition player Nick Weiss knows Buffalo can get there again by learning from each game.
“Going through the season now that we’re seven games in, it’s time we need to learn from our mistakes in the past and start turning it around and changing,” Weiss said. “So, by the time we hit the very important part of the season in playoffs, that we’re rolling and well oiled.”
The Bandits now turn their attention to the Knighthawks for their second and final meeting of the regular season. Learning from mistakes made in their first matchup of the season will be key for this game.
“I wouldn’t say it’s an easier matchup because both teams know each other now and know each other’s tendencies,” Weiss said. “But there’s definitely concrete film from what we did earlier this year. … We know going into this one we need to start fast and not let them get ahead so we’re chasing.”
Faceoff between the Bandits and Knighthawks is set for 7:30 p.m. on CW23 and ESPN+. Radio coverage can be found on WGR 550.
Here’s everything you need to know for the game.
The Bandits topped the Knighthawks 15-13 in their last matchup on Jan. 13. The Bandits were on the road and made a comeback in the fourth quarter for the win. Read more here.
The two teams were tied 10-10 at the halftime break but penalties would put them down by two to start the fourth quarter. Buffalo’s defense found an answer in the final frame and only allowed one goal as the Bandits’ offense put up five to secure the victory.
“We definitely looked to that fourth quarter, and we played tighter and more within ourselves,” Weiss said. “I think we need to come into it faster and more athletic to keep those guys like Fields and Smith – to get a little more pressure on them and not let them get comfortable and get a hot start.”
A family affair
Saturday will not only bring families together for Youth Lacrosse Night, but it also has potential to be a family reunion between half-brothers for Byrne and Knighthawks rookie defenseman Taylor Jensen.
Jensen made his debut for the Knighthawks last week in their loss to Halifax as he notched an assist and five loose-ball recoveries. He is a right-handed defenseman, which means if he plays Saturday, he will be directly across from his half-brother.
“He definitely will be playing against me if he gets the call and it’s cool. It’s someone who’s been my ride or die, my rock, someone who’s shown me so much about life,” Byrne said. “To be able to share the floor with him is gonna be something that’s really special. I’m probably not going to let it affect me pregame or during the game but after the game it’ll be nice to take a moment and just give him a big hug and let him know how proud of him I am.”
Byrne and Jensen have an interesting dynamic. While Byrne is the older of the two, he looks up to his little brother for the father and husband he became before he went back to pursue his dream of lacrosse.
“It couldn’t mean more to me to see him doing what he’s doing and being successful,” Byrne said. “It’s gonna be a cool moment for me but also for my mom and family as well.”