Just who were those guys in Buffalo Bandits' uniforms on Saturday night?
"That's the team we thought we had," Bandits coach Darris Kilgour said.
Those guys may have looked the same as the ones who lost their last two games, but they didn't play like it in the First Niagara Center. Instead, Buffalo put together an impressive two-way performance in defeating the Philadelphia Wings, 17-7, before 15,060.
"We were disciplined in all areas," Kilgour said. "We still took a couple of bad penalties, but we didn't have a whole lot of them. We played really smart on offense, controlled the game, and on defense we were a lot smarter on how we attacked them."
There were plenty of heroes and no goats as the Bandits knocked the Wings out of first place in the National Lacrosse League's East Division. The list probably starts with Mat Giles, who had four goals on only five shots. Along the way he picked up his 500th career point in the NLL.
"That means I've been playing for a long time," Giles said about the milestone. "The ball was moving well for us. We had a good game plan going against that defense, we stuck to it and had some success with it."
John Tavares also had four goals and added four assists for an eight-point night. Luke Wiles and Mark Steenhuis added three goals each. The other goals were scored by Ian Llord, Kevin Buchanan and Jeremy Thompson, worth noting because they all were of highlight-video quality.
"I haven't looked at the score sheet, but the power play numbers must have been great," Wiles said.
He was right; Buffalo finished the game 5 for 7 with the man advantage.
At the other end, Anthony Cosmo played like the goaltender the Bandits thought they were getting when they acquired him from Minnesota earlier in the season. He had 46 saves, some of them of the sparkling variety. It was the first time this season that Cosmo had finished what he started, as he had been pulled in each of his three previous starts.
"I felt good, the boys trusted me, the coaching staff trusted me and the fans trusted me," Cosmo said. "About time I got it done."
"We played defense in front of him," Kilgour said. "That's the first effort we've had in front of Anthony all year. That's what we expected from him all year."
This game featured an early and emphatic turning point. Buffalo's Tom Montour took a five-minute major in the first two minutes of the game, causing memories of last week's meltdown by the short-handed unit against Toronto [six goals during two major penalties].
"I just thought, 'Oh my God, here we go again.' But the man short was absolutely tremendous tonight," Kilgour said.
The Bandits came out of that penalty tied, 1-1. Then Buffalo went on a run that saw it score four goals in a minute, 43 seconds. Wiles had two of the goals, and his team was never threatened the rest of the way.
The Bandits improved to 5-8 on the season, moving into a tie for third with Rochester in the NLL's East Division. They have one more win than Edmonton and Washington, important in a league where all but one team qualifies for the playoffs. Next up for the Bandits is a trip to Edmonton to play the Rush on Saturday.
"It's a big game for us, it's almost a must-win," Cosmo said. "That's a team we're competing with. We need to be on top."