The Rochester Knighthawks managed to pull within a pair early in the third quarter, but a second-half surge by the Buffalo Bandits saw the home team score 12 of the game’s next 13 goals on their way to a 20-8 win in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals Saturday at KeyBank Center.
With the defeat, the Knighthawks, who made their franchise playoff debut, saw their historic season come to an end. The club finished the slate with a 10-8 mark and fourth in the Eastern Conference after combining for just six wins through their first two seasons.
Holden Cattoni (4+2), who posted a natural hat trick in the second quarter, paced the Knighthawks offense with six points while Connor Fields (1+4) and Ryan Smith (1+3) each turned in a multi-point effort. Curtis Knight and Thomas Hoggarth both scored a goal while Turner Evans, Austin Hasen and Matt Gilray all notched an assist.
Netminder Rylan Hartley made his 19th consecutive start between the pipes, which included the regular season, making 32 saves in 51 minutes. Riley Hutchcraft replaced Hartley twice during the contest, stopping six of the 11 shots he faced in nine minutes of relief.
Dhane Smith (3+7), Josh Byrne (4+5), Chris Cloutier (3+4) and Kyle Buchanan (3+2) all scored a hat trick for Buffalo, who repeated as Eastern Conference champions with a 14-4 record for the second straight year and third time in the last five years. Tehoka Nanticoke (2+2), Ian MacKay (2+3), Steve Priolo (1+1), and Chase Fraser (1+2) each produced a multi-point effort. Brad McCulley and Nick Weiss completed the scoring with a goal and assist, respectively.
Veteran goaltender Matt Vinc made 44 saves in 54 minutes while Devlin Shanahan stopped six of seven in six minutes of relief.
Three minutes after seeing Rochester pull within a pair of goals, Buffalo countered back with five straight to build a 13-6 lead with 3:44 left in the third quarter.
After Smith completed his hat trick as he snuck in the backdoor, MacKay and Priolo both capitalized on a breakaway goal less than a minute apart, shifting the momentum in favor of the home crowd.
Buchanan and Byrne both scored before the two clubs exchanged goals to close out the third quarter, which saw the two teams score seven goals in 5:35.
Early in the fourth quarter, Buffalo stormed out with six unanswered tallies to put the game out of reach before Cattoni added his fourth of the night in the final minute of regulation.
Despite being narrowly outshot 16-15 in the first quarter of play, the Knighthawks trailed by three goals but had several grade-A chances denied by Vinc.
In the second frame, though, Rochester’s offense came alive as Cattoni completed a hat trick in less than four minutes to even the score.
Following Cattoni’s third of the frame, two of which came off an assist by Fields, the duo connected once more along with Ryan Smith with just under six minutes to play.
The Bandits did not flinch after seeing Rochester knot the score for the second time of the quarter as they closed out the first half on a four-goal run.
Ryan Smith and Hoggarth trimmed the Buffalo lead to 8-6 with 10:44 left in the third quarter, but the Bandits outscored the Knighthawks 12-3 over the final 26 minutes of regulation to finish the 20-8 win.