The Rochester Knighthawks seized control of the game early in the fourth quarter en route to a 16-14 win over the I-90 rival Buffalo Bandits. With the victory, Rochester tied its single-season wins record with 14. The Knighthawks ended the season with five straight wins and victories in nine of their last 10 games.
For 45 minutes, the East Division foes slugged it out with Rochester holding on to a one-goal lead. The Knighthawks broke open the game in the fourth with three straight special team’s goals. Dan Dawson and Mike Kirk scored back-to-back shorthanded goals to give the Knighthawks a 14-11 lead. Rochester added a power-play marker by Cody Jamieson just 1:07 later, which proved to be the game-winner.
Jamieson had a career night, scoring two goals and chipping in eight assists, which tied his personal best. The four-year pro also reached 200 career assists and eclipsed the 100-point plateau for the first time in his career. With 10 points, Jamieson ended the season with 108 points to take the lead in the NLL scoring race.
Dawson finished with seven points, including six assists, to break the team’s single-season assist mark of 67. He ended the season with 72 helpers. Dylan Evans also became only the second Knighthawk to win 200 faceoffs in a season.
Rochester came out firing, taking a 4-0 lead in the first five minutes of the game. Joe Walters and Jamieson scored goals 85 seconds apart to give the Knighthawks a 2-0 lead. Dawson assisted on both goals to set the team’s single-season assist record with 68. When Cory Vitarelli made it 3-0, Jamieson picked up his 100th point of the season and his 200th career assist. Craig Point increased the lead to 4-0 before Buffalo answered with two goals. Stephen Keogh gave Rochester back its four-goal lead with two goals 22 seconds apart. The Knighthawks carried a 6-4 lead into the second. Point and Keogh each finished the game with three goals and two assists.
After Buffalo tied the game at six early in the second, Rochester stormed back with three straight goals. Craig Point fired a shot past Anthony Cosmo, on a delayed penalty, from the left wing to give Rochester a 7-6 advantage. Brad Self then made two fantastic plays that led to two goals. His shot at 7:42 trickled past Cosmo for an 8-6 lead. Then 1:18 later, Self flipped a no-look pass to Keogh who buried a shot to make it 9-6. Buffalo, however, battled back with three goals to tie the game at nine and it appeared the teams might be headed to halftime tied. However, Knighthawks Captain Sid Smith intercepted a pass and fired it into an empty net with 20 seconds left. Smith’s first professional goal staked the Knighthawks to a 10-9 lead.
Rochester opened the third with two of the first three goals of the quarter to take a 12-10 edge. After Buffalo evened the game on the power play, Johnny Powless scored back-to-back goals to put the Khawks back in the lead. Buffalo cut the deficit to one before the end of the third on a goal by Mark Steenhuis. Ian Llord and Keogh helped Rochester maintain its lead. Llord blocked two point-blank shots, while Keogh knocked away a breakaway pass with four minutes to go in the third.
The turning point of the game occurred early in the fourth quarter with Buffalo on the power play and trailing by one goal. Dawson grabbed a pass with one hand and bounced a shot past Cosmo to give Rochester some breathing room at 13-11. Dawson then set up Kirk for his second of the season and it was 14-11. Buffalo also picked up a penalty, which negated its power-play opportunity. Rochester took advantage on Jamieson’s shot into the empty right-side of the net. Point increased the lead to 16-11 with a tough angle shot from goal-line extended to give the Knighthawks their biggest lead of the game.
In goal, Matt Vinc made 40 saves to extend Buffalo’s losing streak to a franchise-record eight games. Ryan Benesch led the Bandits with three goals and six assists, which included the last two goals of the game.
In two weeks, Rochester will play the winner of the East Division Semifinal, which will feature the Buffalo Bandits (8-10) and the Toronto Rock. The East Division Semifinals will take place the weekend of May 2-4. The division finals will kick off the following weekend in either Buffalo or Toronto.
Rochester will host Game 2 of the East Division Finals on Saturday, May 17th at 7:30 p.m.