The Knighthawks came back from an early deficit in the first quarter to take their first lead of the game midway through the second quarter. They would never surrender the lead from there, although the Bandits did not go down without a fight.
Down 10-8 with 15 seconds remaining in regulation, Mark Steenhuis scored to make it a one-goal game. Buffalo faceoff ace Jay Thorimbert gave the Bandits the final possession, but John Taraves' pass to Dhane Smith was intercepted by Brad Self to end the game.
"It's really just our playoff start a week early, that's all it is," said Rochester forward Dan Dawson. "It's a step in the right direction and we're going to build on it. We still got to clean up a lot of things but we're going to enjoy it."
The Bandits scored four of the first five goals to jump out to a 4-1 lead in the first quarter. Smith scored only 39 seconds into the game and again at 8:15 to bookend the early run.
Rochester recovered from a 4-1 deficit with six unanswered goals bridging the first and second quarters. Cody Jamieson, Mike Accursi and Craig Point each scored once in a span of 2:04 to tie the game at 4 before the end of the first.
"We just had to bide our time," said Rochester Head Coach Mike Hasen. "We were going to get opportunities and we just had to make sure we were going to capitalize on them. We just stuck to the course and then we went on a little run."
Dawson scored consecutive goals 1:36 apart to open the second quarter. His first has a leaping goal across the front of the crease which gave Rochester a 5-4 advantage, a lead they would never relinquish. Dawson's second goal was followed by Point's hat trick tally to cap the run up 7-4. Rochester would take a 7-5 lead into the locker room at the half.
Matt Vinc held the Bandits scoreless for 20:01 between the first and second quarters. Vinc surpassed Rob Blasdell's single-season save record. With 26 saves on 35 shots, he finishes the season with 662 saves. He also set a new franchise record with a .803 save percentage.
"It's all about the playoffs," Vinc said. "(Breaking the record) wouldn't have mattered if we didn't make the playoffs. Now if we don't win in the playoffs, that's just another season. But overall, I think we just have to look at it defensively. I think my guys on the defense blocked as many shots tonight as I had saves. We're doing the right things on the defensive end and hopefully we'll carry that forward."
Former Knighthawk Shawn Williams traded power-play goals with Point in the third quarter, allowing Rochester to maintain a two-goal lead. A minute after Buffalo defenseman Billy Dee Smith scored Joel McCready regained a two-goal cushion at 9-7.
Stephen Keogh scored the eventual game-winner 3:16 into the fourth quarter. Steenhuis scored the final two goals to give his team a chance to send the game into overtime.
Point finished with a season high five points (4+1) and his four goals was the most he's scored in a game since netting four against Boston on February 13, 2010.
"I sat out a few games this season but I came back strong for my team," Point said. "Whenever I got the ball, they were giving me a lot of space and room. Whenever I had the chance I took it."
Jamieson scored a team-high six points (1+5) and with five assists, he surpassed John Grant, Jr. for second all-time in franchise history for assists in a single season with 61. With 227 career points, he surpassed Derek Malawsky for 10th all-time in career points.
The Knighthawks will host the Philadelphia Wings in the East Division semifinal with the date and time to be announced. Last season, the Knighthawks defeated the Wings in the opening round of the playoffs en route to the 2012 Champion's Cup.