Heading into their final regular-season matchup, bragging rights are on the line between the Buffalo Bandits and Rochester Knighthawks.
Buffalo is coming off a back-and-forth comeback win against Albany last weekend, where the Bandits used seven unanswered fourth-quarter goals to propel them to victory.
Rochester is using an extra week of preparation in attempts to get their first win of the season against the Bandits, who are atop the NLL standings with a 7-1 record.
In their last game on February 12, Rochester beat Albany 15-13. Shawn Evans led the way with 10 points. The win was also Rochester’s first of the season at Blue Cross Arena after dropping their first two home meetings to Buffalo and Georgia.
At 3-5, the Knighthawks are in seventh place in the East. They’ve scored 86 goals, which is the fifth fewest in the league. In comparison, the Bandits have scored 104 goals, which is third most.
Faceoff on Saturday is scheduled for 8 p.m. at Blue Cross Arena on ESPN+ and The Bet 1520 AM. The game wraps up a double-header at the arena. The Rochester Americans play at 2 p.m.
Spend your Saturday with us and the @RocKnighthawks!
But HURRY: the doubleheader deal ends tonight.
— Rochester Americans (@AmerksHockey) February 24, 2022
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Get the brooms out?
Buffalo has already emerged victorious against Rochester twice this season, beating the Knighthawks on the road 12-8 in December and 11-8 at KeyBank Center earlier in the month.
If the Bandits win on Saturday night, it would be the first time the Bandits have swept Rochester since the 2016 (that incarnation of the Knighthawks has since relocated to Halifax).
2. Knighthawks Special Team Woes
One of the reasons the Knighthawks find themselves toward the bottom of the standings is their struggles on the power play and penalty kill.
Rochester ranks 13th out of 14th in power-play percentage (32.5), scoring only 13 times on 40 attempts. Rochester is slightly better on the defensive end of the floor with a penalty kill at 54.8 percent, good for 10th in the NLL.
Buffalo, meanwhile, is in the middle of the pack in both departments. On the man advantage, the Bandits are tied for seventh with Calgary at 40 percent and fifth on the kill at 60 percent.
Another discrepancy between the two teams is their goal differential. Buffalo is tied for the best in the league at plus-26 with the San Diego Seals and Rochester is 10th at minus-11.
3. Nanticoke Named Rookie of the Week
Following his third hat-trick performance on Saturday against Albany, the NLL announced on Wednesday that Tehoka Nanticoke as the Rookie of the Week.
Your Week 12 Player and Rookie of the Week!@CachZurrier | @Tehoka1 pic.twitter.com/qfbnq3bngD
— NLL (@NLL) February 23, 2022
The third-overall selection in the 2021 NLL Draft, Nanticoke scored the Bandits’ first goal of the game early in the second quarter before adding his second of the night with 4:43 left in the half. Albany stormed back in the third, leading to Nanticoke scoring the eventual game-winner off to make it a 9-8 game.
Nanticoke ranks fourth in rookie scoring with 24 points in eight games. However, his 14 goals place him one above first-overall pick Jeff Teat to lead all rookies.