By Alex Pagliano - Bandits.com
BUFFALO – The Buffalo Bandits held onto an 11-10 win over the defending champion Rochester Knighthawks on Saturday in front of 13,339 fans at First Niagara Center. The win puts Buffalo into first place in the NLL’s East Division.
John Tavares led the Bandits with four goals. The 45-year-old veteran continued to defy his age; but newcomer Joe Resetarits joined the scoring fray, recording his first career hat-trick on the evening.
“I can’t describe [John Tavares],” Bandits head coach Troy Cordingley said. “When we needed a big goal when they went on a run, he scored for us. That was huge.”
Cordingley also had praise for Resetarits, who scored a key goal in the middle of the fourth quarter.
“Joe’s been a really good player for us the entire year,” he said. “His speed and shot are amazing. He works hard all of the time; the shots are starting to fall.”
Just 1:50 into the game, Dhane Smith beat Rochester’s Matt Vinc for the only score of the opening quarter. Smith took a behind-the-back feed from teammate Mark Steenhuis before placing a shot over Vinc’s shoulder for the early (4-1) Buffalo advantage.
Dan Dawson had the best chance of the quarter for (3-1) Rochester, but Anthony Cosmo turned the shot aside. Outside of the chance, the Bandits defense clamped down on Rochester. Rochester recorded just two more shots (7) than turnovers (5) over the course of the quarter and were held scoreless over a quarter for just the eighth time in the team’s 20 season history.
The defense remained constant for Buffalo over the second quarter, but the offense picked up. Vinc stopped Shawn Williams on an uncontested look, but Joe Resetarits found the rebound and placed the ball into the back of the net 2:50 into the second quarter. Resetarits scored his second goal of the game just over one minute later, beating Vinc stick-side.
John Tavares continued the run, as the captain beat Vinc five-hole from the middle of the floor. The Buffalo 3-0 run was snapped by Rochester defenseman Joel McCready, but Tavares and Williams sparked another 2-0 run late towards the end of the half. Cody Jamieson scored for Rochester at 13:57 to cut the Bandits lead to 6-2 at the half.
Cosmo rejected several point-blank chances over the duration of the second quarter. Total, Cosmo stopped 22-of-24 shots over the duration of the half.
“I thought Cosmo was exceptional tonight,” Cordingley said. “[It was] probably the best I have seen him play in a Bandits uniform. We broke down and he was there to make the big save.”
The offensive movement continued for Buffalo. Williams, who received the “212” hard hat after the game, scored his second of the game on the power play to expand the Bandits lead. After Jamieson scored on the power play for Rochester, Buffalo closed the quarter on a 3-0 run. Tavares added his third 12:12 into the third quarter and then dove from the left of the crease to beat Vinc.
“I wouldn’t call it a dive,” Tavares joked. “More of a fall. I’ll take any way I can get them.”
Steenhuis converted on an excellent feed from Williams to cap the third quarter run. Rochester pulled Vinc, who led the NLL with a .833 save percentage entering the game, after the end of the third quarter.
Rochester opened the fourth quarter on a 2-0 run. Resetarits’ third goal of the game snapped the streak, but Rochester mounted another comeback. Rochester went on a 5-0 run to cut the Bandits lead to 11-10 with 19 seconds remaining. But the comeback effort would be muted, as Jay Thorimbert won the draw and maintained possession to secure the win.
Cosmo helped preserve the lead late, making numerous key saves as the Bandits defense struggled to find cohesion late. Cosmo stopped 46-of-56 shots, but again turned credit to his defense.
“Again, I credit my defense,” he said. “My defense played incredible in front of me. When they did get it inside, I had enough confidence from those outside shots to make those saves.”
The win moves Buffalo into first place in the NLL East Division. Apprehension aside late, Cordingley was pleased to defeat the defending champions.
“You cannot forget that these guys were the champions of this league for two years in a row for a reason,” he said. “But, a win is a win.”
Buffalo returns home next Saturday to host the Toronto Rock at 7:30 p.m.