BUFFALO, N.Y. --- The Buffalo Bandits overcame the Rochester Knighthawks second quarter lead to win and take the first overall spot in the eastern conference. Buffalo was without star forward Josh Byrne, Dhane Smith carried a lot of the load netting four goals and six assists for a ten point night. Brad MCulley also shined as a player who stepped up in Byrne's absence, notching two goals and three assists, while Tehoka Nanticoke notched one goal and three assists. Matt Vinc was the reason Buffalo won the game, both from the momentum he generated and his 47 saves.
Rochester was led in scoring by Connor Fields who had a seven point night with three goals and four assists. Ryan Smith scored a hat trick and added three assists while Holden Cattoni got four points. Rylan Hartley started in goal, notching 42 saves, he had a small stint out of net in the third quarter, Riley Hutchcraft filled in for that getting two saves and no goals against.
The first quarter was a slow and defensive game much like the first time the two teams faced off this season. The Buffalo offense clearly needed time to settle in without Byrne but their defense wasn't missing a beat. Rochester also seemed to need to settle in and they could not find anything through a majority of the first quarter. Buffalo found the back of the net first, almost nine minutes into the quarter, off the stick of Dalton Sulver, his first of two goals on the day.
Rochester started to find their rhythm soon after as they got onto their first power play of the night. It took 12 seconds for Holden Cattoni to find Thomas Hoggarth on the edge the crease for an open goal behind Vinc. Before the quarter could end Ryan Smith scored his first of the day with 19 seconds left. Rochester continued their run into the second as Connor Fields crashed the net and received a perfect feed from Ryan Smith, burying it behind Vinc. Curtis Knight scored another 27 seconds later, crashing the crease in transition with an overhead shot. Just like that Rochester was up 4-1 only a minute into the second quarter.
The momentum started to drop off and evened out until the Knighthawks scored their second power play goal of the night, Connor Fields scoring his iconic outside shot. Matt Vinc swung the momentum for Buffalo as he took out Ryan Smith who came crashing in on the crease, he scored but it was ruled no goal after further review, Vinc was not booked. Sulver notched his second before the end of the half and both teams went into the locker rooms with Rochester up 5-4.
Buffalo came out in the second half clearly still rolling from their late first half successes. Steve Priolo scored first in transition to tie the game just two minutes into the half. Brandon Robinson and Bryce Sweeting scored the next two in quick succession and just like that Buffalo was up by two. Ryan Smith scored moments later for Rochesters only goal of the quarter. It was followed by a four goal Bandits run, four different goal scorers made the run and Buffalo looked like they could finish anything, leading to a short term goalie change for Rochester.
Over the third and fourth quarters Rochester had two scores ruled no goal by the officiating crew. The first was a rebound by Ryan Smith while Ryland Rees was injured and called in the crease. The next was Turner Evans, hitting a bar down shot that was called a no goal, coach Hasen threw the challenge flag but the refs ruled inconclusive evidence based on the timing of Evan's foot landing.
As the teams went into the fourth quarter, Rochester tried to pull out of the five goal deficit as their two top scorers both finished their hat tricks within 30 seconds of one another. Ryan Smith had the first and Fields the second. It was answered by Dhane Smith's fourth goal of the night and despite two more goals from the Knighthawks it wasn't enough to fight back into the game.
Rochester has now lost their last two games after starting out their season 6-0. They will hope to find comfort at home in Blue Cross Arena on Saturday night as they will host the Halifax Thunderbirds next Saturday. Buffalo on the other hand move to first in the east on a three game win streak following their loss in Rochester two weeks ago. They will next host Philadelphia after a bye week.