1/3/2019 2:00:00 PM / Nick Konotopskyj
Forward Dhane Smith, who has missed the past two games due to injury, is about 90 percent for tonight, according to head coach Rich Kilgour. He will be evaluated before the game, but all signs point to him playing. Corey Small will be in the lineup after missing Buffalo's last game.
In Smith’s absence, John Byrne and Shawn Evans have carried the offense.
“They work well together,” Kilgour said. “I think Josh realizes now that with a great passer like Evans on the other side, if you work hard and you’re open by a step, he’s going to find you a lot of the time.”
This is the 67th matchup between Rochester and Buffalo. The Bandits are 27-39 all-time against the Knighthawks and 15-16 against them at KeyBank Center. The key to this game might be an early start. Buffalo has scored first in each of its first three games and are 2-0 when leading at halftime.
After securing the first home win on the season against Vancouver, the Buffalo Bandits will be back in action against the Rochester Knighthawks on Saturday at KeyBank Center. Faceoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. as Buffalo gets set for the third of four consecutive home games.
For Bandits goalie Matt Vinc, this will be no ordinary game. Fresh off his 100th career victory, Vinc will get set to face his former team when the Knighthawks come to town.
“Looking back at 100 wins, I’m fortunate that it was over the Christmas break and that I had a lot of family and friends here,” Vinc said. “We have limited time to celebrate because we’re right back at it next Saturday against a good team.”
The “good team” that Vinc is referring to is Rochester. He spent the past eight seasons there and 67 of his 100 career wins came as a Knighthawk.
“As a player, I knew this day was going to come,” he said. “I have a lot of great friends on that team, but when you hit the floor, it’s all about wins and losses so I just want to keep this team rolling and hopefully we can get a good win.”
Vinc earned his first home win as a Bandit with a 16-10 victory over the Vancouver Warriors last Friday. The Bandits are now 2-1 on the season and 1-1 at home. Shawn Evans leads the Bandits through three games with 28 points (7+21) while Josh Byrne has 25 (8+17) and Thomas Hoggarth has 15 (8+7).
The Bandits played without Dhane Smith for the second game in a row, but unlike their loss to Toronto on Dec. 28, they were able to generate offense against Vancouver and capitalize on their opportunities.
“Having a faster pace was key,” Byrne said. “If you watched our game [against Toronto], you would see a slower game with guys not moving their feet as much on offense. So it’s really easy to play defense when you’re not moving your feet. The big emphasis was on moving your feet, moving the ball, and not caring who scores.”
Rochester comes into Saturday’s game with a 1-0 record after their 13-9 win against the Philadelphia Wings on Dec. 29. With just one game played to date, Cody Jamieson leads the Knighthawks with 6 points (3+3) while Corey Vitarelli (3+1) and Austin Shanks (2+2) each have four points.
Last season, the Knighthawks were the East Division Champions, but fell to the Saskatchewan Rush in the best-of-three Championship Game Finals.
The Bandits are currently first in goals (45) and goals per game (15.0) in the NLL.
Saturday’s game is also “Hometown Heroes Night.”