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Immediate reactions: Bandits 11, Knighthawks 10

blog by Ben Tsujimoto  • 

It was just a matter of time before two-time defending NLL champion Rochester made a run.

When the third quarter closed 10-3 in favor of Buffalo, Bandits fans sat comfortably, relishing the scoring wizardry of ageless wonder John Tavares and the stellar reaction saves from surging goalie Anthony Cosmo.

Rochester’s leading scorer, Dan Dawson, didn’t see action in the second half, and second-leading scorer Cody Jamieson was forcing shot after shot from bad angles or into traffic.

Nothing was going right for Mike Hasen’s club, and the Bandits thrived—for the game’s first 56 minutes, at least.

That anticipated Knighthawk run eventually did arrive, however, and it had very little to do with Rochester’s two superstars.

A goal from Stephen Keogh, two from Joel McCready, one from Johnny Powless and a last-ditch blast from Joe Walters pulled Rochester within a goal with 19 seconds left—five unanswered tallies in a span of 3:35 (all with an extra attacker)—forcing the home team to survive a white-knuckle affair. 

Bandit defender and face-off specialist Jay Thorimbert won the ensuing draw from Rochester’s Dylan Evans, then maintained possession all by himself deep in the left corner to kill off the rest of the clock—Buffalo’s first-year head coach Troy Cordingley and a startled Bandits defense could finally exhale.

Despite the late scare, Buffalo handed Rochester its first loss of the season—an 11-10 final—and took sole possession of first-place in the East Division with the win.

Magical JT: Right when you think John Tavares (pictured right) is over the hill, the 45-year-old in his 23rd season of box lacrosse defies your belief of what an aging superstar can accomplish.

Sure, a tenacious defense and superb goaltending from Anthony Cosmo frustrated Rochester into just three goals entering the fourth quarter, but it was Tavares’ four goals that extended the Bandits’ lead and gave them a needed cushion.

After scoring twice in a first half that saw Buffalo build a 6-2 advantage, Tavares closed the third quarter with a vintage JT goal followed by a moment of brilliance—a burst of athleticism that perhaps even his 23-year-old nephew would be proud of.

As we’ve seen hundreds of times over Tavares’ tenure with the Bandits, the left-hander received a pass on the right side, drew a defender and snapped a shot—using that approaching defender as a screen.

Briefly blinded, Rochester goalie Matt Vinc had no chance as No. 11’s shot buzzed into the upper-left corner. Classic Tavares.

What happened next made you forget that the goal-scorer is 45 years old.

Cradling the ball deep in the right corner, Tavares slipped past Rochester defender Mac Allen—leaving him frozen in his tracks—and dove across the crease as he jammed the ball past a helpless Matt Vinc.

Call it a renaissance moment for Tavares, who scores the majority of his recent goals on outside shots.

Tale of two halves for Cozzer: Bandits starting goalie Anthony Cosmo stopped 21 of 24 Rochester shots in the first half, earning MVP honors even after surrendering seven goals in the fourth quarter.

It’s noteworthy, though, that Cosmo got the better of Matt Vinc, who entered tonight’s game with an NLL-leading 7.67 goals against average.

Point-blank first-half stops on Johnny Powless, Cory Vitarelli and Scott Campbell highlighted Cosmo’s surprising effort.

Hometown hero: The Bandits’ win doubled as a coming-out party for Hamburg High School graduate Joe Resetarits, who scored thrice Saturday—including what would eventually be the game winner—after tallying four points against Colorado last week.

He’s a different style player than his older brother, Frank, who suited up for the Bandits before getting released in early 2012.

The younger brother, however, is much more slippery than the powerful older brother, and that’s allowed Joe to find space when attention is paid to the likes of Dhane Smith, John Tavares and Shawn Williams.

Physical ‘D’: The Bandits’ defense punished the Knighthawks in the first half, forcing opposing cutters to be wary when cutting across the middle and limiting the opportunities of Dan Dawson and Jamieson.

The off-season acquisitions of Rory Smith and Andrew Watt—in addition to the marked development of Steve Priolo, who looks nothing like the 2013 version of himself—have given the Bandits’ defense more of an identity.

Plus, Banditland feeds off jarring hits—why else would Billy Dee Smith be a fan favorite?—so Cordingley and Richie Kilgour’s defense fits snugly.

Checking in on recent ex-Bandits: Rochester boasts several former Bandits—goalie Angus Goodleaf, defenders Scott Self, Ian Llord and Wenster Green, and transition player Jimmy Purves, who’s currently on the K-Hawks’ practice squad.

Player on the opposition we don’t like: Stephen Keogh, Rochester forward. With 12:34 left in the fourth quarter and the Knighthawks trailing by six goals, Keogh sliced down the left side and dove at the legs

Given the Bandits’ history of injured goaltenders, perhaps we’re being a little over-protective.

What’s a Knighthawk?
You can search the internet for hours (Hint: I did), and not find the origin of the Rochester Knighthawks’ nickname. Seriously. They may be back-to-back champions, but their nickname remains a mystery.

As intently I try to connect the MH-60S Knighthawk—a helicopter in the U.S. Navy—with the Rochester box lacrosse franchise, it doesn’t make sense.

The helicopter was introduced in 2002; Rochester started MILL lacrosse in 1995 before moving to the NLL shortly thereafter.

The Knighthawks’ logo—which looks like a cheap ripoff of the Seattle Seahawks—doesn’t ooze medieval chivalry, either. “Nighthawk” would make more sense, but perhaps there was a trademark on that name?

At the end of the day, who really cares?

Swennie Filez:
I feel like regular Bandits blogger Ryan Nagelhout is shortchanging Swennie, the Bandits’ in-game public address announcer.

Yes, Chris Swenson’s nicknames and occasionally high-pitched yelling teeter right on the edge of uber-energetic and annoying, but that’s where he’s supposed to be.

Plus, us judges from above the 300 level don’t get the benefit of alcohol, which presumably makes Swennie much more tolerable. He furthers the “B-O-X’ chant, too, and that must count for something.

Criticisms of Ben Tsujimoto, guest press box occupant:

—Didn’t tuck in dress shirt underneath his sweater. Amateur hour.

—I’m sure Nagelhout holds a greater level of box-lacrosse gravitas than me. The legion of NLL press—and good lord, there’s a lot this year—gave me funny looks in my 2014 debut.

—Stacked his used cups. No one likes a guy who stacks cups.

Statistic I liked:
The Bandits scored 10 goals on 35 shots against Matt Vinc, the league’s best goalie coming in.

Statistic I didn’t like:
Uh, the five unanswered Rochester goals that made this game close.

What’s next?:
The Bandits remain at home for a 7:30 p.m. contest against Toronto next Saturday at the First Niagara Center.

TAGGED: buffalo bandits, downtown, first niagara center, lacrosse, nll, rochester knighthawks, troy cordingley

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