Point switches sides in rivalry to Bandits - The Buffalo News

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Point switches sides in rivalry to Bandits

Craig Point played for the Rochester Knighthawks for almost eight full seasons. He didn't score every important goal for the Knighthawks when they beat the Buffalo Bandits, but sometimes it seemed that way.

Now Point is on the other side of one of the best rivalries in the National Lacrosse League, signing with the Buffalo Bandits in the offseason.

"It's a change," he said. "It's closer to home, and that's always a positive. It's good for my family and friends. They can come watch."

Point and the rest of the Bandits return to work Saturday night after a bye week. They play the Georgia Swarm at the KeyBank Center (7:30 p.m., Radio 1520 AM).

The 30-year-old Point (he'll be 31 on Thursday) started his NLL career with the Minnesota Swarm in 2008. He was traded to Rochester in 2009, and found a role as a regular forward.

Point scored as many as 31 goals in a season for the Knighthawks (2010), and once had 47 points (2011). The veteran almost matched his career high in points when he had 46 of them in 2015.

But in 2016, Point only played in four games - although he did score 18 points in those games.

"I had some injuries and went on injured reserve," he said. "When I got better, sometimes they went with the flow and stuck with the healthy guys in the lineup. I stuck with it and tried to be a team player as much as I could. I wasn't playing much, and they obviously thought they were going with the team that was going to win - the most athletic lineup. I just tried to do my part."

The Knighthawks suffered through a 7-11 season and missed the playoffs. That wasn't acceptable for a team that won three straight championships earlier in the decade. Change figured to be coming for 2017, and Point became part of that when he was released.

"I wasn't expecting it," he said. "Everyone asked me what happened, and I wasn't exactly sure. Curt Styles, the general manager, called me and told me about it. I wasn't mad about it; I took it how it was. You can't do much if your coach doesn't use you.

"You can have a pout, or you can step up, train harder and do what you have to do. I did that."

The Bandits were paying attention when Point became available. Buffalo assistant coach Rich Kilgour was very familiar with the forward from coaching him in summer lacrosse in Ontario as well as watching him with the Knighthawks.

"When I heard the news that Rochester was letting him go, I thought he could help our team," Kilgour said. "He's a great shooter, he's been around the league ... and he's great in the locker room."

Bandits General Manager Steve Dietrich "got a hold of me, and another team got a hold of me, and I went with the odds" to sign with the Bandits, Point said. "I wanted to play here. They keep pushing you in workouts and on the floor here, but it's only going to make you a better player and a better team."

Point won a tough training camp battle for a roster spot, and the veteran won't be a dominant player on the Bandits' lineup when he plays. However, he can throw his weight around and create some space for players such as Dhane Smith and Ryan Benesch. What's more, if defenses pay too much attention to those two, Point knows how to capitalize on offensive opportunities.

He also brings something else to the Bandits: three championship rings.

"Three or four teams have been in the finals the last few years and not gotten it done," Kilgour said. "Craig has been there and gotten it done. Knowing the little things to get over the hump are invaluable. We want Craig to let the guys know what it takes. When his number gets called, he'll be ready to go."

The Bandits got a three-game homestand off to a poor start two weeks ago with a dreary loss to Colorado. Now they play a Georgia team that is coming off a one-sided win over Saskatchewan, the defending NLL champions.

Point knows that his new team needs to feed on the emotion supplied by the home crowd when it has the chance. After all, he has first-hand knowledge of what it's like to be here as a visiting player.

"It's tough to play here," he said. "Even when you are an opposing player, it gives you energy. I'm hoping to do something good and hear the yelling."

bbailey@buffnews.com

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