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COMEBACK GIVES BANDITS A BIG FINISH

Having nothing at stake didn't keep the Buffalo Bandits from playing like a team primed for another deep playoff run, at least after their fiery head coach read them the riot act.

The Bandits scored the final six goals in a 13-10 win over the cellar-dwelling San Jose Stealth before a season-best crowd of 12,138 in HSBC Arena Saturday night.

"I'll take the credit for this one because at halftime they had to get a fire lit under their butts," said coach Darris Kilgour, whose team appeared to sleep walk through the first 35 minutes of their regular season finale. "I was pretty upset and throwing some stuff around, probably as upset as I've been all year. I think the boys took it to heart. . . . It's all about tonight. You worry about tomorrow tomorrow."

The Bandits (11-5) came back from second-half deficits as large as four despite already knowing their playoff destination, thanks to last weekend's 14-9 road victory over the defending champion Calgary Roughnecks. And they did it behind their backup goaltender, by defeating a netminder they had never conquered before, and with three key cogs in their attack resting minor injuries in preparation for Saturday's 8 p.m. playoff opener at home against the Rochester Knighthawks (10-6).

Anthony Cosmo, who spent the first four years of his National Lacrosse League career with the powerhouse Toronto Rock, came into the game 4-0 against Buffalo but even he couldn't hold the lead despite making 41 saves.

"Our team lacks confidence especially when it becomes a tight game," said Cosmo, whose mates went 3 for 13 on the power play. "When another team strings three or four goals in a row, we just lack that confidence to come back."

As usual, John Tavares came up with the plays that put his Bandits over the hump. Bryan Kazarian, whose first 17 points this season came on assists, poked the rebound of a Tavares shot past Cosmo with 9:11 left for his first goal to bring Buffalo within 10-9. Tavares received an assist, his 100th point of the season, to put him over the century mark for the third time in the last five years. His three goals and two assists gave him 43 goals, 59 assists and 102 points. Mark Steenhuis also had three goals and two assists.

Just 44 seconds after Jon Harasym tied it at 10-10 with 8:53 left, Tavares gave the Bandits -- who reached the championship last season -- their first lead since early in the second quarter at 11-10 when he scored with 8:09 to play. Aime Caines added a power play goal with 1:34 left and Pat McCready added an empty-net tally with 36.1 seconds left.

"We just can't win a lacrosse game scoring 10 goals," said Stealth coach Johnny Mouradian, whose team lost 10 of its last 11 games and finished 4-12.

Backup Derek General made 31 saves for the Bandits, who were without captain Rich Kilgour (heel), rookie Delby Powless (hamstring) and 50-point scorer Jason Crosbie (thumb).
e-mail: tborrelli@buffnews.com

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