BUFFALO, NY - (NLL.com) The Buffalo Bandits have claimed the National Lacrosse League’s final remaining playoff berth.
Mark Steenhuis scored four goals and Anthony Cosmo stopped 46 of 55 shots as Buffalo defeated the Rochester Knighthawks 14-9 on Saturday night before 18,690 at the First Niagara Center in a game broadcast on the CBS Sports Network.
Buffalo’s second win in three games eliminated Washington from playoff consideration. The Stealth won the Champion’s Cup in 2010 before falling to eventual NLL champion Toronto in a rematch last spring.
Buffalo (6-9), which moved into third place in the East Division over Rochester (6-9), took two of three in the season series.
Cory Vitarelli had three goals for the Knighthawks, who needed to win both their final regular-season games to host a playoff contest.
Wiles opened the scoring for Buffalo at 4:39 of the opening quarter, but Rochester’s Tyler Burton tied score just six seconds later. Chad Culp closed out a low-scoring opening quarter at 6:19 for the Bandits.
Though the lack of explosive offensive outputs from both sides continued in the second quarter, Buffalo maintained the upper hand on the scoreboard.
Wiles and Tracey Kelusky – back after missing three games with an injury – scored less than a minute apart with Mat Giles picking up the primary assist on both markers.
Rookie Stephen Keogh notched Rochester’s second goal at 3:06 before Steenhuis came back 27 seconds later with his 300th career tally.
Neither team could get a ball past Cosmo nor Rochester’s Matt Vinc for almost nine minutes before Jay Thorimbert scored the final goal of the half, giving the Bandits a 6-2 lead at the break.
Cosmo stopped 22 of 24 shots while Vinc made 19 saves on 25 shots in the opening 30 minutes.
After Giles gave the Bandits a five-goal lead very early in the third quarter, the Knighthawks seemed to get to Cosmo in short order. Johnny Powless, Vitarelli and Cody Jamieson scored 61 seconds apart as Rochester made it a 7-5 game with 12:27 to play in the frame.
But the 2007 NLL Goaltender of the Year bore down and Buffalo’s offense recovered.
Cosmo kept the Knighthawks from scoring again as Wiles, Steenhuis, Kevin Buchanan and Kelusky had consecutive tallies to give the Bandits their biggest lead of the game, 11-5 heading into the final quarter.
The Bandits continued the surge early in the final quarter with Steenhuis sandwiching goals around one from Giles. Steenhuis’ fourth goal ended the night for Vinc, who stopped 24 of 38 shots and was replaced by Jake Henhawk.
The change may have perked up Rochester’s sagging offense, but it wasn’t enough. Vitarelli finally beat Cosmo short-handed to end a team scoreless streak of 17 minutes, 40 seconds. Jarrett Davis then scored twice and Vitarelli capped off his hat trick to make it 14-9 with 4:35 remaining.