Dhane Smith scored the game winner with six minutes to play as Buffalo closed on a 5-0 run to take Game 1 of the Eastern Division Finals 12-8 over Rochester Friday night at the First Niagara Center.
Rochester, who held the lead after three quarters, was led offensively by five-point efforts from Cody Jamieson (2+3) and Dan Dawson (2+3). Cory Vitarelli also chipped in two goals and one assist.
After Buffalo took a 2-0 lead, Rochester answered with three straight goals to grab a 3-2 lead in the first quarter. Jamieson struck first with a shot stick side on Anthony Cosmo. Just 45 seconds later it was Dawson with a diving goal to tie the contest at two. The Knighthawks took their first lead of the game on a low shot by Joe Walters at 11:48. Matt Vinc made eight saves in the first 15 minutes, including a breakaway stop on Chad Culp.
Rochester extended its run to four, taking a 4-2 lead on Stephen Keogh’s transition goal 2:44 into the second quarter. Buffalo answered with a 4-0 run of its own to move in front with a 6-4 lead. The Knighthawks, however, got one back on Jamieson’s second of the game at 11:32. The power-play goal trimmed the deficit to 6-5.
Vinc, who finished with 30 saves, was stellar early in the third, making back-to-back point-blank saves. He followed that up with a left-pad kick save on a diving John Tavares. While the Knighthawks blanked the Bandits in the third, Rochester scored twice to take a 7-6 lead. Dawson’s goal at 9:51 tied the game at six and Cory Vitarelli tallied at 12:36 to give Rochester a one-goal advantage.
Vitarelli would score again to give Rochester a one-goal lead at 7:34 of the fourth quarter. Yet, Buffalo would respond with five goals to win Game One of the series. Tavares had two of his game-high four goals in the fourth to complement Dhane Smith’s fourth quarter hat trick.
Game 2 is Saturday the 17th in Rochester. If the Knighthawks win, there will be a ten-minute mini-game following Game 2 to decide who moves on to the NLL Finals.