Tonawanda News — The Buffalo Bandits found out why the Rochester Knighthawks sport the top defense in the National Lacrosse League.
The Knighthawks tied the Bandits for second in the East Division with a 15-7, wire-to-wire win at First Niagara Center on Saturday night.
Matt Vinc was outstanding in net for Rochester (3-3), which allows a league-low 10.2 goals per game. Buffalo (3-3) peppered Vinc all night, finishing with 61 shots, but was unable to finish the way the Knighthawks were. Before being pulled with 4:19 remaining with the game being out of reach, Vinc made 49 saves on 56 shots.
“Our ‘D’ has been working hard these two nights,” Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen said in reference to the team’s 20-10 win Friday in Philadelphia as well as last night. “They’re not all necessarily quality shots on (Vinc), which is the way we like it. We’re putting them in the right spots to allow (Vinc) to make that save for us.”
Vinc attributed much of his performance to Rochester’s back door’s effort.
“I had a lot of clear looks,” Vinc said, who had 32 saves in the first half alone. “Our guys did a great job of cleaning up a lot of loose balls. (The Bandits) are a pretty good team at picking up those and getting those second opportunities.”
Though the Bandits held the edge in shots, 61-48, many of their chances were from far out. And with their power play going 0-for-6 — Rochester was 3-of-5 with the man up — the Bandits failed to capitalize on the opportunities they did have to get back in the game.
“It’s a matter of execution. We didn’t execute on defense tonight, we didn’t execute on offense tonight,” Bandits head coach Darris Kilgour said. “Man short, once again, was not very good, power play was not very good. When you get outplayed that badly in so many areas of the game, that’s the kind of game you’re going to end up with.”
Vinc was especially sharp in the first quarter, stopping all 13 Bandit shots. The Knighthawks helped their goalie with the only three goals of the quarter.
Buffalo had their chances to mount a comeback after digging an early hole, but they failed to take advantage of any positive play of theirs or lulls by the Knighthawks, who have now won three straight, while the Bandits are now on a two-game skid.
A David Brock snipe that beat Vinc top left 2:09 into the second got the Bandits very much back into it at 3-1, but the Knighthawks answered with the next two goals to extend to a 5-1 advantage.
Brock, a transition player, was one of few players that were burying their chances. In a quiet night for the front door, forward Aaron Wilson led the team with three points on two goals and an assist, while fellow forward Luke Wiles had a goal and an assist.
Those numbers did not sit well with Kilgour, who was frustrated with the lack of production from his forwards.
“We scored seven goals tonight, four of them came out the back door,” Kilgour said. “If Dave Brock can figure out how to beat (Vinc), I would think that some offensive players should be able to figure how to beat him.”
The Bandits get a chance to avenge this loss when they play Rochester at 7 p.m. on Feb. 16 at Blue Cross Arena. It will be the third matchup of four between the teams this season, with the series now tied at one.