Tavares Leads Buffalo Over Rochester in Opener
BUFFALO, N.Y. - The Buffalo Bandits continued
their rebound by swiping Game One of the East Division Finals with
a 12-8 home win over the two-time defending champion Rochester
Knighthawks at First Niagara Center on Saturday night.
Trailing 8-7 midway through the fourth quarter, the Bandits took complete control scoring five even-strength goals in a 3:30 span.
The 5-goal run, bookended by goals from the legendary John Tavares, who finished with six point (4+2), was just what the doctor ordered for the Bandits after being shut out in the third quarter.
Tavares tied the game at eight with a rocket shot from ‘his office’ on the left side of the offence with 6:10 to play and the offense just poured it on from there.
Buffalo was led by Mark Steenhuis’ seven points (4+3), as well as second-year man Dhane Smith’s five points (3+2), who had the game winner and an insurance tally 59 seconds apart.
Anthony Cosmo had several key saves down the stretch, finishing the game with 36 saves on 44 shots.
Rochester was led by Dan Dawson and Cody Jamieson, who both had five points (2+3).
The first half was played at a feverish pace, with the teams trading multiple-goal runs.
Steenhuis opened the scoring with two goals in a 24-second span less than two minutes into the game, sending the home crowd into an early frenzy.
After nearly eight minutes of scoreless, but back and forth lacrosse, Rochester stormed back with a four-goal run spanning the first and second quarters.
During Rochester’s run and the scoring lull that preceded it, the Bandits offense was struggling mightily to find its rhythm and get into the middle of the floor for quality scoring chances. That is until Chad Culp, who has spent most of the season on the defensive end of the floor, created his own space with an excellent low dodge, sending a side-arm shot back to the near post to beat Vinc.
Culp’s goal sparked the Bandits to go on a four-goal run of their own, highlighted by Tavares’ second goal of the game, an incredible one-handed ‘Air-Gait’ slam dunk from behind the net. The 45-year-old’s highlight-reel tally sent the home crowd into a frenzy once again.
A late power play goal from Jamieson cut the Bandits lead to 6-5 heading into halftime.
Three Stars of the Game as selected by the media:
1) John Tavares
2) Mark Steenhuis
3) Dhane Smith
Buffalo travels to Rochester for Game Two next Saturday at Blue Cross Arena at 7:30 p.m. ET. If the Bandits win, they advance to the NLL Championship series. With a Knighthawks win, the two teams will play a 10-minute mini-game immediately following Game Two to decide the series winner.
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