Blogs | 3/26/2014 1:27:34 PM | John Gurtler
A funny thing happened on the way to Edmonton and Minnesota. The Buffalo Bandits were handed their hats and humbly went home.
It was the best thing that could have happened to this talented team. It’s good they were defeated from both ends of the standings. It shows that on any given game day or night in this league, you can be beat.
We can armchair the past weekend until they take the Lake Erie Ice Boom out. There were some good things and some bad things.
Like Bandits head coach Troy Cordingley responding on what the team learned from Friday night’s loss to Edmonton: “That we can’t take things for granted,” said Cordingley. “We’re not a superstar team, we’re a blue collar team, and we need to work to be successful and we did not do that. We’re on the road; good teams find a way to win on the road. Doesn’t matter if you’re tired, if you played the night before, or two nights before. That’s no excuse.
“We’ve got to play the way the Buffalo Bandits can play and if we don’t do that, we are going to behind the eight ball again. We played emotional and not with emotion.”
Then there was the fast and furious end-to-end fest Sunday afternoon in Minnesota. Who would have thought the game would feature the first scoreless first quarter ever in the 28-year history of the NLL?
“We’ve just got to go back to what makes us successful,” said Cordingley, the two-time coach of the year. “We need to work and earn things and dominate the little things.”
The prowler needs a jump.
“We have to be able to bounce back,” said Bandits goaltender Anthony Cosmo. “Good teams bounce back after a little bit of a snot-kicking. We need to show people what we are and we need to show ourselves that we are capable of doing it.”
I don’t think this team for a minute will wonder why the lug nuts fell off the wheels over the weekend in Edmonton and Minnesota. They know exactly what it will take to gain traction and be competitive in the games ahead.
They all were thinking on the same page while waiting in the gate area for the flight out of Minnesota: What do they need to do as a team next week in Vancouver, and for the next five games after that?
“In the NLL, I still believe the top team can lose to the bottom team,” said John Tavares, who recorded his 1,700th career NLL point on Friday with an assist on Joe Resetarits’ goal. “We’re in a good position to make the playoffs but we’re not there yet. We have to take it one-game at a time and try to maintain the top (part) of the Eastern Division.”
The 23-year pro feels very good about this team.
“I think we’re just now starting to gel as a family a lot more than in the past,” said Tavares. “We have a lot of guys who seem to get along with each other. We have a lot of fun with each other; obviously it’s a lot more fun when you’re winning. So, it seems like a lot of the guys are gelling. We’re having a lot of fun both on and off the floor.”
The NLL game this season has experienced some high-scoring and some low-scoring games, which means speed and transition is changing to make it even more exciting.
“I think if you ask any lacrosse player in the NLL what our league is like, they would probably tell you there is a lot of parity,” said Tavares. “But this year it seems like, Edmonton in particular the few games they beat teams pretty bad. And most of it is because of their speed and transition.”
The two-game road trip was non-stop for the team. It included long travel, zero-dark early mornings and long delays in customs. Saturday at 5:30 a.m. just happened to be Edmonton’s first day of spring break and everybody in town and surrounding Alberta met at the airport. All were off to the warmer climate, heading most likely to the home that Mickey built.
In queue line after queue line, I saw four different Clark Griswold-like families. All worthy of escaping what has been a tough winter up there – too.
Saturday was spent counting – and watching – the people inside the massive city known on the map as The Mall of America. Think of it as the Walden Galleria on steroids, covering most of Cheektowaga and Sloan. There are some mall walkers who never made the turn and still out there – walking.
The team’s hotel was right next to the massive retail center that attracts shoppers from all over the country. The site was the former home of the Met Center arena and Metropolitan Stadium. They say you can still find some of the green and yellow seats from the Met Center left scattered around.
Saturday night, the Bandits management arranged for a team dinner in a restaurant located on the first level of the mall. I had the honor of attending and consuming the fine food that was served and enjoyed being a part of the camaraderie. It was a very enjoyable evening as the team was secluded in a snug place, with the hum of conversation from the thousands upon thousands of people mall visitors.
I had a brief conversation with one of the mall security officers, asking him the number of people in attendance on a given day, say at 2 p.m. in the afternoon: 25,000! And what would the full-day total be – including all the shoppers, diners and those who have spent time in the mall’s amusement park that is complete with a ferris wheel and full-sized roller coaster?
“Ah, today we’ll do 45,000 people.” And we’re talking about people from all over the country. Most of the hotel guests came on shopping packages from the airlines, as the airport is just across the way. The Mall of America annually draws more people than Disney World.
I’ve said this before but Minnesota’s Xcel Energy Center is the best building in the NLL. Also home to the NHL’s Wild, they spared no expense or attention to detail on the concourses and throughout the arena.
Like the Rush operation, the Swarm does a great job in presenting the game, and both teams work incredibly hard to promote the game in their communities.
From a fans perspective in the seats, Sunday’s game was indeed exciting as they were looking for their first home win of the season. There were several end-to-end rushes with the defenses playing strong, as well as the goalies. But Bandits netminder Anthony Cosmo was again outstanding, turning aside 49 Minnesota shots.
This followed up Friday night’s performance in Edmonton where he made the save of the year, by twisting around with his stick over his left shoulder preventing the ball to enter the top right corner of the net as it bounced off his stick and away from the inside twine.
This is without a doubt the best season of Cosmo’s 14-year career.
“This year I’ve really focused on playing and making the game fun,” said Cosmo, who has recorded eight 40-plus save games. “I was in the gym quite a bit with Wayne Burk, and doing some mental stuff with Dr. Chris Siuta (the Bandits’ mental strength coach) on our team. I would say there has been more effort towards the intangibles of a game. That is what I have been focusing on, and its translating to what is going on now.”
The Bandits defense this year has played a bruising style, allowing Cosmo to see the ball. “I am only as good as the defense in front of me,” said Cosmo, whose nine assists make him the league’s top scoring goaltender. “If my defense is playing well, then I have a better success at playing well. They are making teams not want to come to the middle.”
The Bandits travel to Vancouver this week for a Saturday night encounter with the Stealth. This time their hats will be steamed and on tight.
Our radio coverage on ESPN 1520 AM and WGWE 105.9 FM will begin at 9:30 p.m. with the pre-game show. The game follows at 10 p.m.