Rochester Makes It Three Straight
BUFFALO - The Rochester Knighthawks concluded their back-to-back weekend with a decisive 15-7 victory over their New York State Thruway rival Buffalo Bandits at the First Niagara Center on Saturday night.
Goaltender Matt Vinc led the early charge for the Knighthawks, shutting out the Bandits in the first quarter and limiting them to only two goals in the first half. The reigning National Lacrosse League Defensive Player of the Week finished the game with 48 saves on 55 shots in just over 55 minutes between the pipes.
"Anytime you come into this arena, it's definitely a tough atmosphere to play in," Vinc said. "I don't have a lot of wins in this arena, so it's great to get one on a back-to-back weekend for sure."
Rochester's offense came alive with four goals in each of the last three quarters. The Knighthawks led by as much as eight in the second half. Cory Vitarelli led the team with four goals and Cody Jamieson finished with two goals and a career-best seven assists. Stephen Keogh added six points (3+3).
"Everyone is involved (in the offense) and moving the ball, and when we do that we will be successful," Vitarelli said. "Obviously when you score that many goals, that's good, but our defense has been awesome and 'Vno' has stepped up too, so it's an entire team effort."
"We knew (the offense) was going to come because they have had chances every time they've stepped on the floor," said head coach Mike Hasen.
Only 27 seconds into the first quarter, Joe Walters gave Rochester a 1-0, which it would never relinquish. Nearly nine minutes later, Keogh scored shorthanded, and Casey Powell closed the opening quarter with his only goal of the night.
David Brock scored unassisted 2:09 into the second quarter, cutting the deficit to two, but that would be the closest Buffalo would come. The Knighthawks scored four of the next five goals to close the half with a 7-2 lead. Keogh's goal at 4:41 in the second quarter chased Buffalo goaltender Anthony Cosmo from the game, but he would return in the second half. Also on that goal, Powell (1+4) earned his 350th career assist.
Brock was assessed a five-minute high sticking penalty 1:27 into the third quarter, allowing Rochester to score two power-play goals by Keogh and Jamieson respectively. The Knighthawks finished 3-of-5 on the man advantage while not allowing a power-play goal to Buffalo on six chances.
"We stepped into this year trying to improve on our power play and our short-man," Hasen said. "Our short-man has been doing a real good job and again tonight, when our power play is on the floor, we've been burying it a little more often than we usually do."
Defenseman Tyler Burton made it 10-3 with his second goal in as many days, and Vitarelli made it an eight-goal lead with his first of the game with 4:01 remaining in the third quarter.
Vitarelli scored three of Rochester's four goals in the fourth quarter. His first of the frame was an over-the-shoulder shot, his second was a diving tip-in after a behind-the-back feed from Keogh and his third highlight-reel goal was a cross-crease dive.
"I'm lucky that shots like that seem to go in for me," Vitarelli said. "I hope it continues, but our offense, we just roll and everyone can do that."
After a 0-3 start to the season, the defending champions evened their record at .500 with three consecutive wins in eight days, tying them with the Bandits (3-3) for second in the East Division.
"Back-to-backs are normally pretty hard," Vitarelli said. "We knew we had an opportunity to get back to .500 and this was by far our best lacrosse so far. We're definitely happy to get two wins."