Blogs | 1/22/2013 1:56:07 PM | John Gurtler
The definition of character from Webster’s Dictionary details: “Of mental and ethical traits marking and often individualizing a person, group, or nation (i.e. the character of the Buffalo Bandits); a group or kind so separated; of distinctive qualities; main or essential nature especially as strongly marked and serving to distinguish.”
Just three games into the 2013 Buffalo Bandits regular season, I see a tremendous amount of character in this club. And that includes every player on the various roster lists, which includes the 23-man, practice, injured reserve and player unable to perform roster.
It is character when a player who has not made the active roster emails the rest of his teammates, wishing them well; to play through the whistle and play tough.
It is character when an injured player stands with his team on the bench during warm-ups before a game, keeping the enthusiasm going with chants of encouragement.
It is character when a player who practices tough and tunes-up those who have made it to the 18 runners and two goaltender game night roster, driving them as hard as he can, in hopes they will be better than the opposition. And then, when it’s his turn to play (Mike Hominuck), he scores a hat trick.
Character in a player like Aaron Wilson, who starts his 11th NLL campaign, has a couple of league titles, and has averaged 57 points per season, explains his role as a Bandit.
“I just want to contribute every game and win, this stage in my career,” said the feisty forward who has played in all 16 regular season games since 2005. “I’ve won a couple of championships and I want to win one more before I’m done. I see this team doing that this year, so I just what to contribute and win with this team; a great bunch of guys.”
It is character when it comes to goaltender, Anthony Cosmo, who never flinched or scoffed at the two tugs out of the Bandits first two games. He was right there helping his back-up Kurtis Wagar and fueling enthusiasm to his teammate from the bench.
“Cosmo is our starter,” head coach Darris Kilgour said Saturday night before the warm-ups in Rochester. “We did not play well in front of him (against Philadelphia and Minnesota). Not only did we not play well in front of him, we took dumb penalties and put Cosmo out in front of everything. Saturday night (vs. Minnesota) started the same way and I did not want to crush his confidence this early in the season, so I wanted to get him out of there pretty early and then (we’ll) go right back to him. He’s gonna have to get hurt or something drastic has to happen for him to get pulled.”
The end result from Saturday’s 14-13 win over Rochester showed. Cosmo turned in a solid performance with 34 saves.
How does a head coach handle his goaltender? “I have no idea,” said the winningest coach in the NLL. “Cosmo is a very confident guy. He is very well prepared. He reminds me of Steve Dietrich in the way he prepares. And I have all the confidence in the world in him. I think if we can get that effort in front of Cosmo, I think we’ll get a good result.”
If you were at the game Saturday night, watched it on television or listened on the radio, you could just sense the character of the Buffalo defense. And that was a real challenge when you have that much firepower from the talented roster of the Knighthawks.
The whole group of Bandit defenders showed character in their effort to post victory. “We’re getting better, every shift,” said Kilgour. “When you continue to do that throughout the season, you’re going to be a pretty good team going into the playoffs. It’s a building process, especially in all the new faces and young guys we have. As long as we keep improving and they go out there and get the effort, we’ll be all right.”
It is character when each forward backs each other up – right down to the end.
“We just got to bear down. I think we can still shoot better,” Kilgour said.
And how about the character in the veteran players like Shawn Williams (2+6 on Saturday) and John Tavares who are helping rookie Dhane Smith.
“We definitely want to get him out there with Johnny and Shawn; they are great passers,” noted Kilgour. “Dhane is going to be playing a lot with every combination possible. He can do it all. He can one-on-one, he can shoot from the outside, he can score on the inside and he can play defense.
“We want to get him out there in as many different situations as we can early in the season; get him comfortable and hopefully as the season wears on, he’ll be comfortable in any situation.”
In the closing 12 seconds of Saturday’s game in Rochester, you could see that character shine throughout the roster when Tracey Kelusky scored the eventual game winner.
The entire team boasted in celebration, not only for Tracey but for each other, a testimony of character this team has developed.
The trail does not get any easier with the undefeated Philadelphia Wings (2-0) coming to town for a Saturday night showdown. They have a lot of confidence and like any team in this loop, are very talented. You will see an entirely different Bandits team approach for this 7:30 p.m. game at First Niagara.
Thank you to WGR’s Dave Buchanan for his color analyst job Saturday night on the radio broadcast. I thought he did a terrific job filling in for Randy Mearns who was wearing his head coaching hat with Team Canada, evaluating talent, which included Bandits’ Derek Hopcroft and Kevin Brownell in a scrimmage against the Buckeyes of Ohio State on Sunday.
Randy will be back with me for the next four games, which include the three game home stand starting Saturday night against the Wings. The half-hour pre-game show will start at 7 p.m. on WWKB 1520 AM.