Knighthawks vs. Bandits: A Titanic Grudge Match Once More
ROCHESTER, N.Y. ---The Rochester Knighthawks continued their unbeaten run in a barn burner, defeating the Buffalo Bandits 15-12. Despite a slow start, Rochester got into their dominant flows when it mattered and came out on top. Once the Knighthawks found their rhythm they were firing on all cylinders. Ryan Smith led the team with nine points, scoring a career high five goals and adding four assists. He was closely followed by team points leader Connor Fields who had five assists and a hat trick on the night. Holden Cattoni had seven points, Thomas Hoggarth had five points, and Curtis Knight had four points.
The defense suffered in the first half as they were missing assistant captain Dan Coates who is on short term IR. But as the game went on, they found their game as a unit and settled in. Rylan Hartley had another great night in net as he notched 43 saves sending his season total over 200.
To say the first period was slow would be an understatement, the first goal came over half way through and led to a three goal run by Buffalo from the eighth to tenth minute of the quarter. The last was a power play goal from Dhane Smith, his first of a hat trick on the night. Before the period could end Rochester was able to get on the board with Knight and Hoggarth connecting with two minutes to go.
The second quarter was night and day to the first. there were nine total goals. Josh Byrne started the scoring to put the Bandits up 4-1 just over a minute into the period. That was answered by the first true offensive spark from the Knighthawks, just 30 seconds after Byrne's goal, Ryan Smith scored his first of the night on the power play. The start of a three goal run with another coming from Smith in the same spot and Curtis Knight scored his only goal of the evening. All three goals coming within two minutes of each other.
Joel Tayler scored his first NLL goal in 2,148 days after fighting his way from the arena league onto an NLL roster once again. Connor Fields answered with a shot from his favorite spot, on the lefty wing, he had no sightline of the goal though, finishing blindly from the outside. Following that the teams were tied 5-5 and there were still nine and only 6:30 had passed in the quarter. Momentum picked up with buffalo after that and Dhane Smith, Brendan Robinson and Josh Byrne all scored before the end of the quarter to send the players into the locker room with Buffalo up 8-5.
The second half opened with a slow start similar to the first, however this time it was Rochester who scored first and went on a three goal run. The first was Ryan Smith completing his hat trick, the second was by Fields on a fake from the outside which opened his line to drive in and finish on the crease. The third was by Matt Gilray in transition as he continues to average a goal and an assist a game. Dhane Smith stopped the run with another power play goal to complete his hat trick with just under five minutes remaining in the quarter.
Holden Cattoni and Ryan Smith each scored quickly after the Bandits goal, Smith's giving Rochester their first lead of the day with just under four minutes to go. Josh Byrne answered back though with a goal on the man advantage to tie it and a miscue in front of net by Matt Bennett ended with the ball in the back of Rochesters net to give Buffalo the lead to end the third quarter.
The fourth was another physical start, stick battles dominated the first six minutes of play, attackers were wrapped up and doubled by both teams, it was physical defensive chaos. through all of it though, a switch eventually flipped in the Rochester offense at the six minute mark. Connor Fields snagged his hat trick as he showed off his range, scoring from a step inside the restraining line. Ryan Smith scored a few minutes later pulling a dunk from behind the goal out of nowhere for his career high fifth goal of the night.
Holden Cattoni Scored the next two goals less than 40 seconds apart in the final minutes of the period, giving him a hat trick. Then Thomas Hoggarth had the final goal for Rochester, bookending their "Knight". Josh Byrne had one more goal in the tank but it was too late and Rochester was able to hold out for the 15-12 victory to stay the only undefeated team in the NLL.
With that win Rochester soar to 6-0 while Buffalo fall to 4-2, their positions in the standings unchanged. Rochester will travel next week to take on The 3-3 Halifax Thunderbirds, a team that showed some serious offensive firepower early in the year but has slowed down since the holiday break.