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Bandits punch playoff ticket

Sighs of relief were mixed with shouts of triumph when the buzzer sounded to end Saturday's indoor lacrosse game in First Niagara Center.

The Buffalo Bandits were finally in the playoffs.

The Bandits captured the eighth and last spot in the National Lacrosse League's postseason when they defeated the Rochester Knighthawks, 14-9, before 18,690 on Fan Appreciation Night. Combined with Washington's loss to Toronto late Friday night, the Bandits wrapped up a playoff ticket with a week to spare.

"The first goal of any team is to make the playoffs. The second goal is to win a championship," Bandits coach Darris Kilgour said. "We just completed one of our goals. Overall it was a good night for us."

The Bandits suffered through one of their most inconsistent seasons in memory. The win only improved their record to 6-9, and missing the postseason when eight of nine teams qualified would have been a major embarrassment.

"It's been a lot more frustrating for Darris than it's been for the players," Mat Giles said. "We believe in ourselves. And we see what we can do on nights like this."

This was a good night for some relatively new Bandits as well as a few veterans. Anthony Cosmo was extremely sharp in goal, making several breathtaking saves that helped Buffalo hold the lead for the entire game. Cosmo was acquired from Minnesota in a midseason trade.

Cosmo, who had 46 saves, believes the rust is just about gone from his game.

"It's taken some time, but I think the guys have learned to trust me," he said.

The goalie and his defensive teammates limited Rochester to only two goals in the first half, setting the tone for the game. The Knighthawks scored the game's last four goals to make the score respectable.

"He played really well," Kilgour said about Cosmo. "He gave them some bad angles on shots. We got contributions from good defense and a really, really good goaltender."

On the offensive side of the field, Mark Steenhuis had his 300th goal as a Bandit. He added three more goals and four assists for an eight-point night.

Steenhuis had plenty of help. Luke Wiles scored three goals, while Giles added two goals and four assists.

"He's been a good addition," Kilgour said about Giles. "I'm glad he won the [team's] unsung hero award [Saturday night] because he really does a lot of the dirty work that the other guys won't do."

The Bandits now know their season will not end next week with a road game at Washington. The details of their postseason otherwise are quite cloudy.

Buffalo and Rochester are both 6-9, while Philadelphia is 7-8 and Toronto is 8-7. That means there are all sorts of possibilities over what the playoff matchups might look like.

But no one on the Bandits particularly cared where they might play in the first weekend in May. They just wanted to play somewhere, and now they will.

"Now we're focused on what's ahead. We have to build on what we've done, starting next week," Cosmo said.

email: bbailey@buffnews.com