ROCHESTER — The Buffalo Bandits didn’t play a bad game against the Rochester Knighthawks on Saturday night. In fact, they did quite a bit right except when it came to scoring goals.
That makes it easy to guess how this game turned out.
The Bandits dropped their seventh straight game, losing to the Knighthawks, 8-4. That set a franchise record for consecutive losses, breaking a mark from last season.
If that weren’t a dreary enough statistic, the four goals scored set a franchise record for fewest in a regular-season game. Buffalo scored only six goals in its last trip to Rochester in February. Defender Steve Priolo can’t believe the Knighthawks shut down the Bandits on the scoreboard so thoroughly.
“If I knew the answer to that, I’d be coaching,” he said. “They like to play low-scoring games. Their defense plays extremely hard.”
Joe Resetarits added, “You can’t win a game with only four goals. The defense and goaltending have been good. We haven’t been doing our part.”
Bandits coach Troy Cordingley was a bit more upbeat that he was after Friday night’s loss in Toronto. He thought he saw some building blocks as the team approaches the end of the regular season.
“For us, this was a confidence-builder,” he said. “Our defense was sensational. Our goaltending was sensational. Our offense was really good. We outshot them. We created some power plays from effort. We just couldn’t score.”
If Buffalo is having trouble scoring goals, chances are good that Matt Vinc has something to do with it. The frequent Bandit nemesis stopped 45 of 49 shots, a save percentage of .918. Anything above .800 in indoor lacrosse is considered excellent. Vinc had plenty of help in front of him.
“That’s a good goalie, and a good defense,” Cordingley siad. “It’s one of the best defenses in the league. Every goal we got was well earned.”
Of the four Bandit goals, three of them came on the power play.
Buffalo hadn’t led for a second of Friday night’s game in Toronto, so the team hoped to get off to a good start this time. Resetarits accomplished that with a power-play score early in the first period. The catch was that the Bandits couldn’t add to it. Priolo had a clean breakaway coming out of the penalty box early in the second period, but couldn’t beat Vinc.
“I picked out a slot, but the goalie saved it,” Priolo said. “That would have been a big goal. That one’s on me.”
The Knighthawks came alive for only about three minutes in the first half, but it was enough. They scored four goals in that time, including two from Johnny Powless. That gave them a 4-1 halftime lead.
Buffalo came back with goals by Shawn Williams and Resetarits to close to within 4-3. Resetarits’ role has been growing during the course of the season, as he’s been one of the few consistent bright spots the past several weeks.
“Joe has been our best offensive player,” Cordingley said. “His speed is tremendous. His development is good for the organization. It’s only his second year, and really it’s his first full one.”
But that was the last time the Bandits could get within a goal. Rochester built the margin back to three by the end of the third quarter and pulled away a bit more to win the game without too much drama.
Back when the Bandits were 8-2 and leading the National Lacrosse League East, they looked like contenders for a title.
Now they don’t have a chance at finishing with a winning record, having fallen to 8-9.
“It’s stunning,” Resetarits said. “You’ve got to expect that during a long season, you’re going to go through some lows. We’ve got to fight through this.”
Despite the string of losses, the Bandits still have a chance to finish second in the NLL East.
They need to defeat Rochester at home next Saturday, or Toronto needs to lose in Minnesota the same night. Second place carries a reward — a home game in the first round of the playoffs. Rochester already has wrapped up a first-round bye in the East.