The Rochester Knighthawks (3-3) earned more bragging rights in the Thruway Rivalry after beating the Buffalo Bandits (4-4) on the road 15-10 in their Valentine’s Day showdown on Saturday night. The relationship status remains complicated between the two rival teams as 14,737 fans watched them fight it out at First Niagara Center.
Jordan Hall opened the game’s scoring with a power play goal 6:05 into the first quarter. Kevin Brownell answered for Buffalo in transition to tie the game 1-1. Joe Walters squeezed a shot by Bandits’ goaltender Anthony Cosmo with 1:18 to go in the quarter to give Rochester the lead back. Brownell fired in his second goal of the quarter on a breakaway to make it 2-2. Dan Dawson scored with 19 seconds to go in the first to end the quarter at 3-2.
Craig Point earned the first tally of the second quarter before Dhane Smith answered for Buffalo to make it 4-3. The Knighthawks took a two goal lead again with a shot from Stephen Keogh that beat Cosmo. Mark Steenhuis and Ryan Benesch scored two goals each and Brandon Goodwin added a fifth straight goal for Buffalo to make the score 8-5. Keogh stopped Buffalo’s run with 2:32 to go in the quarter. Point added a power play goal to end the half with the score 8-7.
The second half started with a goal from Dhane Smith to extend Buffalo’s lead to 9-7. Keogh and Point each completed their hat tricks and tied the game at nine. Steenhuis netted his third with 7:41 to go before Hall tallied a goal for Rochester to tie the game at 10. Walters scored 2:02 later to give the Knighthawks the lead back 11-10 and wrap up the third quarter’s scoring.
Rochester’s power play drew first blood in the fourth to give the Knighthawks a 12-10 lead. Walters added another goal with a shot the caromed off the glass behind the Bandits’ goal, off of Cosmo’s back and into the net and the Knighthawks’ lead was extended to three. Hall scored another to give Rochester a four-goal lead. Dawson added an empty net goal to finish the game 15-10 in favor of the Knighthawks.
Several Knighthawks put up big numbers in the victory. Cody Jamieson shelled out a career-high nine assists (0+9). Point tied his career high for goals in a game with four goals in a five-point effort (4+1). Goaltender Matt Vinc added 45 saves.
With the win, Rochester guaranteed that they would win the regular season series against Buffalo. Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen is happy to have the wins in his pocket if needed for the East Division standings.
“This is one that we definitely needed tonight,” said Hasen. “Down the road, it could mean a lot if it came down to a tiebreaker.”
Point was happy with the way the night went, both for himself and for his team on the road in Banditland.
“It felt good to have such a good night,” said the right-handed sniper. “Like everyone says, they are our Thruway rivals. They come out hard, play hard, and we just have to match their intensity. When they’re home, it’s a hard place to play. Everybody stuck to the gameplan and it just so happened I had some good shots off tonight.”
Bandits head coach Troy Cordingley was not pleased with his team’s effort in the second half. After an exceptional second quarter of offense, his forwards struggled to generate chances against Vinc.
“I thought we were really solid in the first half,” said Cordingley. “Vinc is one of the best goalies in the league. He’s going to make some big saves when he needs to, but I don’t think we tested him at all in the second half.”
Special teams heavily favored Rochester as the Hawks went 4-5 on the power play while Buffalo went 0-2, including zero goals on a five-minute major opportunity.
“Our special teams are killing us, especially our power play, it’s the worst power play in the league. It’s awful,” Cordingley admitted. “The power play is going to change. We’re going to look at some things here and make some changes.”
Bandits’ forward Mark Steenhuis (3+0) eclipsed 800 career points on his second goal of the game. Although he was proud of his accomplishment, he was more concerned about the loss.
“I don’t really pay attention to those sorts of things, but when the graphic came up on the board and the fans gave such a big reaction, that was definitely touching,” said Steenhuis humbly. “Individual accomplishments are good in a sense, but it doesn’t feel as good after a loss.”
Buffalo outshot Rochester 55-53. The Knighthawks will get right back at it tomorrow as they visit the New England Black Wolves for a rematch at 6 p.m. ET.
Three Stars of the Game as selected by the media:
1) Cody Jamieson
2) Craig Point
3) Mark Steenhuis
By Steve Bermel (@BanditsBeat) for NLL.com. Photo by Bill Wippert.