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The Bandits at Midseason – It Ain’t Pretty

ROCHESTER – Half of the 2012 National Lacrosse League season is in the books, and for the Buffalo Bandits and their fans, the team is staring at the abyss.

This afternoon at Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, a crowd of 7254 fans, which included a healthy presence of black and orange garbed Banditland supporters, watched the Rochester Knighthawks dispatch the Buffalo Bandits, 13-10, ending their four game home losing streak. For the Bandits, it was an ignonimous losing streak of their own, setting a franchise record of six straight losses.

13-10 does not in any way reflect the tone of this game, as the Bandits were outhit, out defended, out goal tended and out classed in almost every aspect of this game. They held the lead but once, a 2-1 advantage early on thanks to two picture perfect goals by John Tavares. At the end of the first quarter the teams were tied at three.

In the second quarter the wheels came off for the Bandits. Rochester outscored Buffalo 7-0 to take a 10-3 lead into the dressing room. At one point the Knighthawks had scored 8 goals on just 15 shots. Starting goalie Mike Thompson was chased in favor of newest Buffalo goalie Anthony Cosmo, who the Bandits acquired at a steep price just weeks ago. Cosmo would not fare much better. Meantime at the other end of the field Knighthawk’s goalie Matt Vinc was stellar, stopping 49 of 59 Bandits shots. Much of the Bandits goal production came late in the game, thanks to a late 5 minute major penalty to Rochester for spearing. “The second quarter was completely unacceptable,” said a dejected coach Darris Kilgour after the game. “It’s very, very, very frustrating. We have very good practices and it’s just not going into the game. in the second quarter we didn’t focus, we didn’t cover (Knighthawks forward) Cody Jamieson, Its just bad lacrosse.”

“Every game is a little bit different. I wish I could just say ‘this is what’s wrong’. Right now we’re making mistakes on every shift. We got to be smarter, as a lacrosse team, just be smarter. If we could do that we’d eliminate four goals a game against,” Kilgour added.

Mike Accursi, who was an integral part of the Buffalo Bandits 2008 championship squad, saying at that time that he wished he could remain a Bandit forever, was today’s Banditkiller in a Rochester uniform, tallying six assists, also reaching a milestone of 400 career assists.

Luke Wiles was the leading scorer for the Bandits with six points (1G, 5A). Mark Steenhuis also tallied two Bandits goals and spoke to the media. “Coming in here with the big ‘5’ n our back was pretty weird. We normally don’t have slides like this and now we turn that ‘5’ into a ‘6’. It hurts a great deal. It’s frustrating when you’re down right now, but we’re halfway through the season and we just can’t put our heads down. We got to work our way out of this, and to see where this takes us,” said Steenhuis.

The bad news is the Bandits are tied for dead last in the league at 2-6. The good news, for what it’s worth, is that 8 teams qualify for the playoffs in the 9 team league. “We’re just half a game out,” said Steenhuis.

Dedicated Bandits fans can also take heart that the team was 2-6 at the midpoint a couple seasons ago. Billy Dee Smith, one of the Bandit fan favorites and a team leader then proclaimed, “In this league things can turn around in a hurry. We are capable of running the table and going 10-6 on the year it could happen.” While that squad did not run the table, they still managed to salvage the season at a respectable 8-8 and qualify for the playoffs. We were hoping to get a similar prognostication from Smith after today’s game, but he was not available to be interviewed.

It all continues next week – the Bandits travel to the Air Canada Centre next Friday to take on the Toronto Rock, who have stumbled themselves these past couple weeks. They then come home Saturday to face the Minnesota Swarm at 7:30PM at First Niagara Center.