Blogs | 4/24/2012 2:01:43 PM | John Gurtler
|Anthony Cosmo (Photo: Bill Wippert)|
OK, here we go!
Just one more week to go before the best time in sports: the playoffs. The last couple of weeks, it was just “get me to the playoffs, baby.” Now, this is for real.
The Bandits enter their 18th postseason, and if it’s one year they could use a fresh start, it’s this one. I admit, Saturday’s game in Washington is a long way to go – and this team doesn’t travel well – but it’s very important to keep up what they’ve been building on the last few games.
Last Saturday night, with just four defensemen in the lineup, the Bandits welcomed Roger Vyse and Tracey Kelusky back to the lineup. The two combined for six points, adding intangibles along the way as well.
While the three- and six-goal Bandit runs were good, the defense played exceptionally well and they most impressively held Rochester to just two goals in the first half – just one in each of the first two quarters.
It was also a perfect example of how this sport, like basketball, can be a game of runs, as Rochester put on quite a show in the fourth quarter with a four-goal run.
Anthony Cosmo, the proud father of a baby born earlier in the week, was solid in those late-in-the-game shots and rebounds by the K-Hawks. He turned in another solid performance, making 46 saves along the way.
Probably the coolest part of the night was after the Bandits had celebrated their 14-9 victory. The players lined up at midfield and walked to the goal line closest to the Zamboni entrance where there they met their fan counterpart and the players gave the fan their game-worn jersey – right off their back. It was a great moment to witness how close a relationship the fans have with this team, and the players loved it.
One of the Bandits whose been spreading the love lately is Luke Wiles. While netting his 36th, 37th and 38th goals of the season Saturday night, Wiles has now recorded four three-goal games in the last five outings; and has eight games of three or more goals this season.
Wiles sees this team being a total powerhouse in the playoffs.
“I totally do. I don’t think any other team wants to play us in the playoffs,” said Wiles. “We have two awesome, proven goalies. Every guy on our team has proven they can get it done in crunch time. Everybody’s got championships. The playoffs are a new season, and it stops from everybody yelling at us so much.”
This team has been through some tough times but they have also grown very close.
“I love these guys,” said Wiles. “Coming from a new team, you never really know what to expect. Because we had such a close group in Washington, you’re always kind of like, ‘Ah, new team again.’ Especially because this has been my fourth or fifth time doing it. It’s been a lot of fun. It’s been a great journey just to get to know these men. It’s funny, every team I’ve played for there have been no kids running around. But on this team everybody has kids. It’s just great. It make me take a step back and realize that lacrosse, at the end of the day, is about building relationships and camaraderie.”
One of the main reasons Luke and his wife like Buffalo? The fans.
“They’re just great. They always say the sixth man, especially here. Some barns you go to, there’s not many people up there. But playing at home, in front of all these people, it’s an incredible experience. These are the best fans in the league by far.”
General manager and head coach Darris Kilgour was happy the team won in front of the great Buffalo fans and feels they have helped with their goals.
“The crowd always brings us a lot of energy,” said Kilgour.
“And at the same time, we still could reach our goals if we get on a little bit of a roll and play with some confidence,” Kilgour stated. “We have to find that middle ground. We don’t need to score 17 every game, but we need to score 11. And the same thing with the defense; we can’t give up 15, and on the other hand just hold them to 10.
“If we could do those things and just be consistent out of the offensive and defensive door, I think we’ll be fine.”
The long and winding road starts Saturday with the final game of the regular season in Everett, Washington, home of the Stealth. While their season will be done, you can guarantee they’ll give the Bandits a good game.
It’s a late night this Saturday, with the 10:30 p.m. ET start on the west coast. Our pre-game coverage gets underway at 10 p.m. on KB 1520 AM.