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Chad Culp finds his lacrosse home with Buffalo Bandits

When Chad Culp signed with the Buffalo Bandits in November 2010, he wondered if it was going to be just another stop on the lacrosse merry- go-round.

The forward had played on four teams in his eight years in the league, bouncing from New York to Arizona to Minnesota to Colorado.

Now, in 2016, Culp is still a Bandit. He’ll be on the roster for the team’s weekend games in Toronto on Friday night (8 p.m., Radio 1520 AM) and against Georgia at home on Saturday night (7:30 p.m., Radio 1520 AM).

“Time flies, definitely,” Culp said. “It doesn’t seem like it’s been six years, but it does feel like home now. You never know how things will work out.”

Culp didn’t have much luck in finding a long-term spot in the National Lacrosse League at first. He was drafted ninth overall by New York in 2003, but stayed only a year there. The stop at Arizona was no longer.

Then it was on to Minnesota, beginning with the team’s inaugural season in 2005. Culp averaged better than a goal per game there, and was set in a routine that lasted for a few years. But the landscape shifted before the start of the 2009 season.

“John Arlotta had moved in as the owner,” Culp said. “It was a bit of a change-over, and not quite as comfortable that last year.”

The forward got caught in a numbers game with the Swarm, so the lefty shooter was swapped to Colorado. Culp lasted a season there and was released.

“I had the choice between Toronto and Buffalo,” he said. “Both of them called me. I felt like I had a little better shot to play in Buffalo. It was my gut feeling.

“So I came to Buffalo. I was starting a young family, and being closer to home (in Ontario) helped. Flying to Colorado every weekend and for training camp was difficult.”

Culp jumped into the lineup starting in the 2011 season, when he had 21 goals and 19 assists, and hasn’t looked back. He just turned 34.

Culp has survived with the Bandits because of an ability to do what is needed. He’s always taken a back seat on offense to such talented players as John Tavares, Mark Steenhuis, Dhane Smith and Ryan Benesch over the years. And that’s fine with him.

“I’m definitely not the key player on offense; I’m just a role player,” he said.

“You try to chip in where you can. My job is definitely about getting other guys open, fighting for loose balls, doing the hard work.”

Unlike most forwards drafted in the first round, Culp’s never been a superstar scorer at any level. He’s a solid workman who could wear a construction hat on the floor.

Along the way, Culp has picked up a few penalties for his actions. It all comes from playing hard, and sometimes rubbing up against the edge of what’s legal and what’s not.

“I’m the one banging and crashing against other defenses,” he said. “They’re the ones who aren’t happy, but they aren’t cheap-shotting me back. They’re just trying to get back at me. There’s a fine line there.”

Culp was part of a Bandits offense that is coming off its best performance of the season − 21 goals in Georgia last week. Dhane Smith had 13 points on the day, and even Culp is impressed by how Smith has become one of the league’s best players.

“He’s definitely a tough guy to stop with his foot speed,” the veteran said. “He can stutter-step or go either way. You give him the ball and let him keep going. If they slide two guys over, we have to be ready to get the ball and hopefully put the ball in the net. He’s on a torrid pace.”

Smith and the Bandits will try to keep up that offensive pace against a Toronto team that still hasn’t won (0-6). That’s stunning for a team that went 14-4 last season.

“They’re definitely not what their record shows,” Culp said. “They’ve lost a couple of close games. They are desperate. They need a win in the worst way. We have to stick to our system and stay out of the box.”

email: bbailey@buffnews.com