It was hardly a blowout with the winning margin of three favoring the Knighthawks, 15-12.
It was hardly a game without milestones. Huge congratulations to Josh Byrne for recording his 300th career point and; goaltender Matt Vinc for passing the 14,000 minutes played plateau.
It was hardly a game we did not see spectacular goaltending on both ends, but I must say:
It was Hartley’s night. The young kid goaltender, Rylan Hartley, absolutely robbed the Bandits clean, especially in the third quarter of play.
Without question, when eight-time goaltender of the year Vinc is ready, the torch should go to Hartley for him to hold it high.
While Vinc made huge saves in the first half of last Friday night’s game, 29 in a 45-save total performance, Hartley swept aside 34 in quarters two, three, and four in a 43-save full performance, many from all angles.
And I am not counting the seven cross-bars and side pipes dinged by the Bandits in their scoring attempts.
Here is a sample of some big Hartley saves in just nine minutes of the third quarter. Yep, he kept the Knighthawks in the game.
Watch Nanticoke on a rush, swinging to the side of the net, setting up Joel Taylor (#70) with a quick stick, stopped cold by the flexible Hartley.
Here is Marcus Minichiello passing to a running Matt Spanger, denied by a splitting-toe save.
As the Bandits take excellent positioning in the K-Hawks zone, Brad McCulley (#10) is stopped by another kick save.
Sir, Great Game
This was an excellent game for the fans, which included a massive contingent of Banditland citizens who traveled the straights of the thruway from the Buffalo area.
The Bandits started as they have in this year’s previous games, 3-0. In fact, to a carbon copy, two three-goal runs. But the Knighthawks came alive in the second half with a five-goal run that was too much for the Bandits.
“We are a really tight team this year. We always have been, but this year we have a lot of young guys in the lineup that have provided an extra spark to us,” said Bandit defenseman Justin Martin. “Especially out the back end, like Dylan Robinson, and he’s been a huge boost to us back there.”
Here are some nice plays to draw off on the positive and the tightness of this year’s Bandits.
Starting off, Vinc makes a solid save, allowing the rebound to be pushed up the floor in transition. Dylan Robinson (#8), Nick Weiss (#20), and Ian MacKay (#4) prove to be a solid trio in pursuit with some nice swings, finished off with a rebound by MacKay.
Here is a play that I get suckered into most of the time while doing the play-by-play. Watch Buchanan give the ball to Dhane Smith. Then, watch closely as Smith and Byrne slide together as if the ball is being given to Byrne.
Watch Byrne back into the K-Hawks zone and wind up for a shot but no ball. Meanwhile, Smith has the ball, makes a couple of moves, and then finishes it with the beauty of a goal.
I was glad to see Joel Taylor in a Bandit uniform after his short stint with the club in 2014. He had been away from NLL action since 2017 but made his presence known in his first game.
And, as my broadcast partner, Randy Mearns, said, Taylor established his scoring prowess back in his college days with Detroit Mercy. And here is an example.
Watch for Taylor (#70) to elude Rochester’s defender to get wide open, take a feed from Smith, and go face-to-face with Hartley.
Broadcast member Dave Buchanan updated the span between Taylor’s goals in the NLL: 3,191 days. A monumental achievement for Taylor and worth it!!!
Take through the congrats and Taylor walking by himself as he reflects.)
“Joel is a kid we’ve liked for a long time. He’s like Brad McCulley on the right side; he’s a pick mover, a guy that will fight for loose balls, play physical, and do all the things you want those guys to do,” said Bandits GM and defensive coordinator Steve Dietrich.
Nothing to hang the heads about here for the Bandits, and the rematch is on February 4 inside KeyBank Center.
“We will come through this and drive to continue to improve, ” Dietrich said. “We have a good group here, adding to it this week. As long as we keep going, we should be a tough out for anybody.”
Hardly to remember.
Leaders, Streakers, Soakers, Loosies
Byrne enters this week as the NLL’s leading scorer with 24 goals and 21 assists for 45 points. He leads the league in goals and short-handed tallies with three. He has scored 20 goals in the last four games, including: 7-3-6-4. Byrne is averaging 7.5 points per game.
Right behind him follows Smith with nine goals and 33 league-leading assists for 42 points. Last year’s MVP now has five five-plus assist games, including back-to-back eight assist games.
Kyle Buchanan is one goal away from his 200th of his career. Averaging almost five points a game, Buchanan is in route for a career season, and currently 10th overall in league scoring (9+20=29).
Nick Weiss is on a six-game point scoring streak, third in the NLL with 10 forced turnovers, second in the league with eight blocked shots, and tied for first in the league with two short-handed assists. Wiess is second on the team with 41 loose balls.
Steve Priolo is on a five-game point scoring streak and second overall in NLL defensemen scoring (1+7=8). The Bandits captain has blocked seven shots and scooped 38 loose balls.
Ian MacKay is on a four-game point scoring streak, leads the club with 47 loose balls, and second on team with eight forced turnovers.
Max Adler last week went 24/31 in faceoffs last week for 77% success rate.
Back on the Road
It’s a double-whammy weekend for the Bandits as the road trip continues to Philadelphia Friday night with a meeting against the Wings. Then off to New York to face the Riptide Saturday night.
The Wings are coming off a 14-5 loss to Toronto last Saturday afternoon. Joe Resetarits leads the club in scoring with 12 goals and 15 assists for 27 points.
Blaze Riorden and Matt Rambo follow with 21 points. The always dangerous Ben McIntosh follows with 17. Goaltender Zach Higgins, 2-2 on the season, has a .760 save percentage.
The Riptide posted a convincing 16-10 win over Albany last weekend, with Jeff Teat scoring seven goals and adding five helpers for 12 points.
The Tide played the Bandits tight last year, forcing overtime in the first game (18-17 Bandit win) and then turning the tables on the Bandits, 15-12, in the second meeting.
Jeff Teat leads the Riptide in scoring with 13 goals and 24 assists for 37 points. The second-year phenom is tied for third in NLL scoring, Reilly O’Connor has 21 points, and Connor Kearnan has 17. Goaltender Steve Orleman, 1-3 on the season, has a .740 save percentage.
Friday’s game will be on WGR Sports Radio 550, with a quick pregame show starting at 7 PM. Saturday’s radio coverage will be on 1520 The Bet, with the pregame show beginning at 7:00 PM. Coaches’ comments and player reflections, too, will follow.
Television coverage will be on ESPN+ and TSN+. Friday’s game starts at 7 PM, and Saturday’s game begins at 7:30 PM.