ROCHESTER — The Buffalo Bandits’ offense didn’t do much scoring during the course of Saturday night’s game with the Rochester Knighthawks.
As a result, their five-game winning streak is history.
The Bandits went 38 minutes and 39 seconds before scoring their first goal of the game; that’s past the halfway point of the third quarter. They went on to drop a 9-6 decision to the league’s defending champions before 9,280 at Blue Cross Arena.
“I don’t think we were very good for the whole game,” Buffalo coach Troy Cordingley said. He added that assistant coach Rich Kilgour “said after the game that it’s really hard to win five straight games. You don’t realize just how hard it is. The teams are so evenly matched.
“We were slapped in the face. Maybe this brought us back to reality. Maybe we thought we were better than we were.”
The Bandits had only been blanked for a half in only one other game in their history. It came in April 2010, when the Orlando Titans did it during the second half in a win over the visiting Bandits.
The common denominator in those two games: goalie Matt Vinc.
“This was a little bit of a different game,” the Rochester goalie said. “”Our defense played really well in the first half. We took away their big guns early in the game. Our offense not only scored goals, but took away their transition game.
“That was something that killed us in our first game between us,” a Bandits win in Buffalo.
Vinc was part of a classic duel of top goaltenders for the first part of the game. He and the Bandits’ Anthony Cosmo played “Can You Top This?” as they traded spectacular saves. In fact, only one goal was scored in the first 23 minutes of play.
“We were gripping the sticks a little tight, and making bad passes,” Buffalo forward Ryan Benesch said about his team’s offense.
“When you see ‘Vino’ get confident, you can see him bouncing around down there,” Bandits defenseman Billy Dee Smith said. But he added that Cosmo “was just as good. He’s having an MVP year for us.”
In the final minutes of the first half, Rochester finally solved Cosmo and the Buffalo defense. The Knighthawks scored four quick goals to take a 5-0 lead at the half.
“The bounces just didn’t go our way at the end of the first half,” Smith said.
“We were just kind of flat in the first half. It’s one of those things you can’t really explain.”
It was more of the same for more than half of the third period. Just when it looked like the Bandits might threaten the league record for fewest goals in a game (two), they finally started scoring. Mark Steenhuis, Benesch, John Tavares (a nifty backhanded bounce shot from the top of the slot) and Joe Resetarits got Buffalo within a goal at 5-4.
Still, it’s difficult to sustain that level of play for a long period of time, and Rochester was ready to step on the gas just when it looked like the Bandits were ready to go past the Knighthawks on the scoreboard.
“We used a lot of energy in that effort. Then they got some big goals that slowed down our momentum,” Cordingley said.
“That’s a big hill to climb,” Benesch added. “We got three-fourths of the way there, but then we slid back down. That’s going to happen sometimes.”
Cody Jamieson scored an important goal near the end of the third period. That started a 4-1 run for the Knighthawks that wrapped up the outcome.
Benesch was the only Bandit with two goals. Cory Vitarelli had the hat trick for Rochester, while ex-Bandit Mike Accursi added two goals.
Vinc finished with 33 saves on 39 shots. Cosmo went 40 for 49; that usually is good enough to give a team a win, but not on this particular night.
The result made the standings look a little different in the National Lacrosse League East.
The Bandits fell to 5-2, while Rochester moved to 4-2. The Knighthawks didn’t want Buffalo to get too far ahead in the division, even in early February.
“Any time you play Buffalo, it’s a big game,” Vinc said. “We were coming off two losses, one in overtime. We needed to get things going in the right direction.”
The Bandits return home next week to play the Philadelphia Wings. It’s their last game before an odd three-week break in the schedule, as they’ll be off until March 8, when they host the Minnesota Swarm at First Niagara Center.
“They played great. There’s not much else we can say,” Benesch said. “We’ve got to get back to work on Tuesday at practice, and then be ready for Philadelphia.”