By Alex Beilman - Bandits.com
The Buffalo Bandits put together another quality 60-minute effort and took down another top goaltender, as they defeated Matt Vinc and the Rochester Knighthawks 13-9 on Friday night at KeyBank Center.
Seven points from Dhane Smith (2+5), and six points each from Brad Self (3+3) and Alex-Kedoh Hill (2+4) highlighted the Bandits’ third consecutive win as they improve their record to 4-5.
“We had some moments where we really good and we had some moments where the IQ wasn’t the way it should be, but we’re fighting out of those situations the way we should,” Bandits head coach Troy Cordingley said.
“[Goaltender Anthony] Cosmo – when our defense wasn’t good – was huge. Kedoh Hill was the result of two quick goals for us because he got the loose ball off the faceoff. Brad Self keeps impressing and scoring big goals.”
Cosmo anchored the backend, stopping 41 out of 50 shots, including a number of breakaways and chances on the doorstep. Although he’ll likely sit tomorrow because of a quick turnaround in the second half of a home-and-home against the Knighthawks (3-7), he’s happy with the team’s effort of late.
“It feels good to be on the winning side. This winning streak has been good, credit to the hard work we’ve put in,” Cosmos said. “It was frustrating at the beginning. Finally, our hard work is starting to pay off. We’re getting some breaks and getting some bounces. The small things are starting to pay off.”
The newest addition to the roster, Pat Saunders, made a good first impression in the orange and black. Saunders fired 14 shots toward goal, and connected on two of them. He was also responsible for the primary assists on the Bandits’ first two goals. Buffalo acquired the forward in a trade on Tuesday with New England.
“It’s the type of offense: It’s a five-guy unit. As long as all of us are working for each other, we’re going to have a two-from-each-guy kind of thing. It’s not the pressure of one or two guys scoring,” Saunders said. “[Matt Vinc] is obviously a good goalie and he does a lot of homework, so I think he was playing by tendency. So it was keep shooting and keep going to the net and one had to fall.”
It was Vinc and Cosmo who went head-to-head to start the game. Both netminders made save after save for almost five minutes before Smith was able to bury a feed from Saunders to open the scoring.
Rochester’s Kyle Jackson and Joe Resetarits answered to give their team a brief advantage, before Hill tied the game at 2-2 to close out the first frame.
Jarrett Davis gave the Knighthawks the lead back 2:52 into the second quarter. However, the Bandits were able to take a one-goal lead back when Craig England scored his 11th goal in seven games off of a slick feed from Self. Saunders then notched his first goal as a Buffalo Bandit 1:28 later to give his side a 4-3 lead.
Veteran Dan Dawson tied the game for Rochester, but then came the most electric moment of the half. Andrew Suitor crashed into Cosmo on a drive to the net. Although the blow didn’t take the goalie down, Steve Priolo took exception.
Priolo had a short shoving match with Suitor, then the gloves and helmets came off and the two went toe-to-toe. It was five minutes well-earned by each combatant for the ensuing fight. Despite Suitor doing his best Rob Ray impression and shedding his jersey, Priolo was able to take him down to the floor.
“We scored two goals right after that. It was a momentum changer. A guy goes into our goalie and [Priolo] didn’t like it,” Cordingley said. “Suitor is a competitor on their team and he’s a tough kid. You’ve got two guys, it wasn’t premeditated and they just went at it. Those two guys respect each other an awful lot and I wouldn’t be surprised if you see them having a pop together after the game tomorrow.”
The fight provided a spark for the home side, as Saunders answered with his second less than a minute later and Hill got his second two minutes before halftime to get the Bandits a two-goal lead.
Jackson was able to open the scoring for the visitors in the third quarter to get the game within one goal. However, the Bandits persisted with their onslaught of shots and were rewarded with a three-goal run, capped off by Self’s first of the night.
Self came to play in his first game against his old team. He quietly posted three assists in the first half and registered a hat trick in the second half.
“It’s a nice win. Any time you can get contributions from everyone on offense, it’s pretty tough to stop,” Self said. “It feels good. At the end of the day, it’s just another game and an important one for us as a team. I’m a Bandit now, so, we have to do it again tomorrow for this one to be meaningful.”
The Bandits held tough when captain Billy Dee Smith was whistled for a five-minute slashing penalty.
Despite conceding just seven seconds into the major penalty, they kept their heads above water and killed off the other 4:53 seconds of penalty time.
The Bandits took a five-goal lead just a minute into the final stanza, getting goals from Self and Mark Steenhuis (1+1). Rochester was not content to let the game slip away there, scoring the next three goals over 4:34 of playing time to get the game within two.
However, Self capped off his big night by scoring his team’s 12th goal to end the visitors’ run and effectively seal the victory. Mitch Jones would close things out by scoring 16 seconds after self. From there, the Bandits defense withstood a late push by the Knighthawks to leave the floor with the 13-9 victory.
Now comes the fun part, as both teams are already on their way to Rochester to faceoff at 1 p.m. on Saturday afternoon. This sort of quick turnaround is rare, but the Bandits are up for the challenge.
“We’re hungry. We’re battling. Right now, I know the training staff is taking care of the guys,” Cordingley said. “Our guys have to be smart and hydrate. We have to go back at it, but so does Rochester. Credit to the players on both teams. They’re going to go out and battle as hard as they did tonight. That’s what makes our sport so special.”
The win helped the Bandits retain the third spot in the East Division standings. A win tomorrow would elevate the team to 5-5, and pull them even in wins with Toronto (5-4).
“It’s tough, but it’s nice that both teams are doing it,” Self said. “It’s a big game tomorrow. We have to make sure we’re ready to play.”