Bandits Hold On For Victory Winning Season Series With Knighthawks

cover photo courtesy of the NLL

The battle of Western New York continued Saturday night, as the Rochester Knighthawks (3-4) looked to a halt a three-game skid against the defending NLL champion Buffalo Bandits (5-3) at KeyBank Center in Buffalo, NY.

The Knighthawks looked to avoid the season sweep at the hands of the Bandits, whose five-goal run to open the fourth quarter was enough for Buffalo to come away with a 15-13 win in the previous meeting just two weeks prior in Rochester.

After emerging as one of the most dynamic and productive scoring duos in the NLL a season ago, Connor Fields and Ryan Smith have again burst on the scene with the Knighthawks in 2023-24. The forwards have combined for 36 goals and 72 points through Rochester’s first six games, making them the fifth-most point-producing twosome in the league. Only Buffalo’s Josh Byrne and Dhane Smith, Albany’s Alex Simmons and Ethan Walker, Georgia’s Shayne Jackson and Lyle Thompson, and San Diego’s Wesley Berg and Austin Staats have collectively recorded more points this season.

The goaltending match-up had Riley Hutchcraft in net for Rochester against Matt Vinc in net for the Bandits.

The Bandits got off to a fast start, getting out to an 8-3 lead midway through the second quarter.  However, a resilient Knighthawks team kept fighting, scoring 5 out of 6 of the final goals of the fourth quarter to bring the game within one goal with 1:12 left.  The Bandits were able to hold off the last Rochester push for the 15-14 victory.

Ryan Smith (5g,6a) and Connor Fields (4g,5a) led the way for the Knighthawks.   For Buffalo, Josh Byrne (3g,4a), Chris Cloutier (3g,3a), Dhane Smith (2g,4a) and Chase Fraser (2g,4a) led a balanced Bandits attack.

“I think we need to learn to close out our games a little better. That’s two in a row and teams see that,” coach John Tavares said. “It gives them confidence, makes them believe they can win. The next team coming in – if you’re up three or four – they’re like, ‘Hey, we’re not out of it.”

Quote courtesy of the Buffalo Bandits

To The Game:

Rochester drew first blood when Ryan Smith converted an Austin Hasen pass at 3:53.  Buffalo then answered with four goals themselves.  

Chase Fraser tied the game finishing off a Brandon Robinson pass at 4:47.  Dhane Smith gave the Bandits the lead converting a Chris Cloutier pass at 10:01, followed by Cloutier himself scoring a highlight reel goal off a Chase Fraser feed at 11:25.  Dhane Smith then scored his second of the game off a Chase Fraser pass with just 0:17 seconds left in the quarter.

After one quarter, Buffalo 4 Rochester 1.

Second Quarter:

Connor Fields opened the second quarter scoring for the Knighthawks off a Dan Lomas pass at 2:07, but Nick Weiss answered in transition for Buffalo just 0:33 seconds later.

Fields again scored for Rochester off a Kyle Waters pass at 3:27, but the Bandits exploded for three more goals.

Kyle Buchanan finished a Nick Weiss pass in transition at 5:14, followed by Dalton Sulver also in transition, off a Cam Wyers pass 0:23 seconds later.  Chris Cloutier then added a power-play goal off a Josh Byrne pass at 6:49.

Connor Fields scored his second goal of the game off a Ryan Smith pass at 13:40, followed by Thomas McConvey finishing off a Ryan Smith pass at 14:50.

At the half, Buffalo 8 Rochester 5.

Third Quarter:

Ryan Smith opened the second half scoring for the Knighthawks converting a Ryan Lanchbury pass at 2:33, but Kyle Buchanan answered back with a blast off a Josh Byrne pass at 7:57.

Ryan Lanchbury scored for Rochester at 8:06, but a pair of Josh Byrne goals brought the Bandits lead to 11-7.

Ryan Smith again scored off  Kyle Waters feed at 10:39, but again the Bandits answered when Chase Fraser finished a Chris Cloutier pass at 11:54.

after three quarters, Buffalo 12 Rochester 8.

Fourth Quarter:

Ryan Smith opened the fourth quarter scoring his fourth of the night off a Ryan Lanchbury pass at 0:29 seconds, but the Bandits scored twice more and looked in total control trol of this game.  Josh Byrne’s third of the night, followed by Kyle Buchanan’s second had the Bandits leading 14-9.

Ryan Smith scored a power-play goal off a Rylan Rees pass at 5:04, followed by Connor Fields unassisted on the power-play at 6:50.

Kyle Waters added to the Knighthawks total, followed by Ryan Lanchbury converting a Ryan Smith pass at 10:41 and the KeyBank Center started to get restless.

Chris Cloutier gave the Bandits a two goal lead again finishing off a Dhane Smith pass at 11:24, but a Dan Lomas goal with just 1:12 left set the stage for a dramatic finish.

The Bandits were able to weather the storm and came away with the victory.

Buffalo 15 Rochester 14.

***Of note, Dhane Smith got his 1000th career goal in this game.

The Three Stars:

1. Josh Byrne
2. Ryan Smith
3. Connor Fields

Game Stats:

  • Shots on goal were 64-56 for the Knighthawks.
  • The faceoff battle was won by Rochester 23-13.
  • The loose ball battle went to the Knighthawks 81-68.
  • Rochester went 2 for 4 on the power-play, while the Bandits went 1 for 1.

Top Scorers:

Rochester Knighthawks:

  • Ryan Smith 5g, 6a
  • Connor Fields 4g, 5a
  • Ryan Lanchbury 2g, 2a

Buffalo Bandits:

  • Josh Byrne 3g, 4a
  • Chris Cloutier 3g, 3a
  • Dhane Smith 2g, 2a
  • Chase Fraser 2g, 2a

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Gary Groob
Gary Groob

Gary Groob has been involved with Lacrosse for the majority of his life, whether playing, coaching, or covering the sport for the media.

An avid fan, with a real drive about helping to “grow the game”, Gary became part of podcasts about the game in 2010. Through the podcasts, Mr. Groob was given an opportunity to write about lacrosse, and the rest as they say, is history.

Through many miles (flying and driving) Gary has made inroads with the National Lacrosse League, Major Series Lacrosse League, the Ontario Lacrosse Association, as well as the Arena Lacrosse League, covering the leagues, their teams, and players, working for, and in concert with all of them.

In the year 2020, Mr. Groob was made the media person for the Arena Lacrosse League, voted onto the board of directors of the Brampton Excelsiors Lacrosse Club, as well as being made administrator of the Lacrosse page “Global Lacrosse” with a membership of 9000 members in over 90 Countries. Gary was also made an administrator of Lacrosse History Past Present and Future in 2022.

Mr. Groob co-hosts a weekly Lacrosse show on Spanglish Sports World, and ZingoTV channel 250, as well as writes a weekly lacrosse column for La Portada Canada News (both in print, and online).

Gary also hosts a Lacrosse talk show and podcast for The Edge of Philly Sports Network, seen live Sunday nights at 9pm (ET), and archived on the Edge of Philly YouTube page, as well as Spotify.

Mr. Groob’s other sports interests include Hockey, Football, Boxing, Wrestling, and Baseball, competing competitively in Boxing and Wrestling for many years.