By Jeff Baker - Bandits.com
On a night where the Buffalo Bandits celebrated their storied history by bringing back former players, two alumni crashed the party and helped the rival Rochester Knighthawks to a decisive 17-10 road win on Saturday at KeyBank Center.
Joe Resetarits recorded 14 points (3+11) to move near the top of the NLL scoring race and veteran defenseman Billy Dee Smith made an emotional return to Buffalo as the Knighthawks (5-6) earned their third-straight victory while snapping a four-game win streak by the Bandits (6-4).
“Totally disappointed,” Bandits head coach Troy Cordingley said. “We got outed in a lot of areas...I guess some of us were reading too many of our press clippings on how we’re becoming a real good team and we forgot how we became [one]. In every area. Faceoffs, defense, offense, loose balls. We were not good tonight.”
Rochester goaltender Matt Vinc, perennially ranked as one of the league’s top netminders, again turned in a dominant performance with 40 saves. The Knighthawks scored the first seven goals of the game with its offense keyed by Resetarits, a first-half hat trick from Kyle Jackson who finished with five goals, and seven points (2+5) from Cody Jamieson.
“You can’t spot teams seven goals,” Bandits captain Steve Priolo said. “You can’t do that anymore. Even on our winning streaks, we’ve been spotting teams four, five goals and battling back. And tonight, we didn’t have it...like [allowing] a goal off a draw. I don’t know if coach said it yet, but that’s Pee Wee stuff.”
After a goaltending duel to start the game, the Knighthawks opened the scoring 7:13 into the first quarter and jumped out to a 3-0 lead with Vinc stopping all 12 shots that he faced after 15 minutes.
“The first seven or eight minutes, the defense was phenomenal on both sides,” Cordingley said. “Then they get one that gets past us and then we just got off our game plan for some reason. We weren’t trusting the things that we need to do on defense and giving them time. And when you give some of their players like Cody Jamieson time...he’s going to eat you up.”
Two goals in the first two minutes of the second quarter put Rochester up 5-0, which sent Bandits starting goalie Alex Buque to the bench in favor of backup Zach Higgins. The Knighthawks quickly added another pair of goals before Buffalo finally got on the board after over 20 minutes of play to make it 7-1.
Mitch de Snoo’s breakaway goal pulled Buffalo within 9-3 with 3:32 left in the first half but Rochester replied just 13 seconds later and eventually took an 11-4 lead into halftime.
A flurry of penalties allowed the Knighthawks to score a trio of goals in the final minute of the third quarter to extend the score to 15-6 after Bandits transition player Thomas Hoggarth and head coach Troy Cordingley were both ejected for unsportsmanlike conduct infractions.
“It was very, very frustrating,” Cordingley said. “I know the league has addressed 95.3, the diving rule. And it just wasn’t called tonight...so I voiced my opinion about it. And [the ref] didn’t like it.”
While NLL rookie scoring leader Josh Byrne was held without a goal for Buffalo, Rochester’s young tandem of Austin Shanks and Eric Fannell continued to contribute by each scoring twice. Jordan Durston led the Bandits with three goals and Vaughn Harris had a pair of goals as the only other Buffalo player with multiple tallies.
But it was Resetarits who shined brightest with a career night. The Western New York native, who played two seasons with Buffalo from 2014-2015, tied Rochester’s franchise record with 11 assists and saw his point total come up just shy of the NLL single-game scoring record of 17 points, set by the Bandits’ Mark Steenhuis in 2009.
The NLL’s second-ranked powerplay stayed hot as Rochester went 5-for-9 with the man advantage while one of Buffalo’s few bright spots offensively was finding success against the Knighthawks’ league-best penalty kill by going 3-for-6 on the PP.
A video montage on the scoreboard midway through the first quarter paid tribute to Billy Dee Smith’s legendary career with the Bandits, prompting him to raise his stick and thank the fans during his first game back in Banditland.
“I played [Buffalo] twice in Rochester, but coming here was a whole new ballgame,” Smith said. “Had been here for 15 years. Only place I knew for so long. I feel like not only myself, but even Mark [Steenhuis], we grew up here...[now he has] six kids and I have two kids. It’s all starting to wind down, so you kind of look at things a lot different and you appreciate a lot more.”
Smith’s successor for Buffalo’s captaincy, Priolo reflected on facing his longtime teammate and fellow St. Catharines Athletics graduate at home on Alumni Night.
“I love Billy, love him to death,” Priolo said. “I’ll always respect him. He’s taught me pretty much everything I know. Between him, and the Kilgours, and a couple other guys along the way..that’s the people that made me the player I am.”
Buffalo heads to Denver next weekend to take on the Colorado Mammoth on Saturday, March 3 before returning home for a rematch with the Saskatchewan Rush on Friday, March 16.
“Honestly, I don’t know right now,” said Priolo, when asked about needed adjustments going forward. “I’ve got to look at film...we’ve got to make corrections. We’re going to have a huge practice on Tuesday and we’ve got to figure out what happened.”
The Bandits and Knighthawks close out their four-game Thruway series with the NLL regular season finale in Buffalo on Saturday, April 28.