Suddenly the spirits of the Buffalo Bandits have picked up a few notches.
The acquisition of forward Pat Saunders from New England this week and a two-game winning streak will do that.
Buffalo goes into this weekend's home-and-home series with Rochester, which starts Friday night at the KeyBank Center (7 p.m., Radio 550 AM), with a little momentum for a change. Saunders' acquisition certainly added to that.
"I've been playing against Pat for quite a while," said veteran defender/transition player David Brock of the Bandits. "He's a tough check. He's an active player, never stops moving his feet. He's got a heck of a shot. He just craves the net.
"I'm certainly glad he's on our side."
Saunders was acquired from New England for a second-round draft choice later this year. The Bandits have been struggling with the left side of their offense for quite a while, and it's hoped that the 27-year-old veteran can help solve that.
"I know we may a run at him as a free agent in 2015, and New England matched the offer," Brock said. "We've had an eye on him for some time. Talented lefty forwards are a hot commodity."
Brock also considers the deal a sign that the front office is working to improve the team, and doesn't consider the 2017 season a lost cause in spite of the 3-5 start.
"When you see moves like that being made, that's for today," he said. "That will help us solidify our team. I think we're a better team this week that we were last week. It's nice to have fresh blood around. And it's good for Pat. A change of scenery might help him."
It's been an eventful season for the Bandits already, and they'll reach the halfway point of the 18-game schedule only on Friday night. Expectations were high after a 2016 season that saw the team reach the finals of the National Lacrosse League playoffs.
But no two seasons are alike in pro sports. The cast of characters usually changes a bit, and it can be difficult to recreate the magic. It was for the Bandits for much of the start of the season.
"We lost some guys to free agency, but early in the year we weren't showing up," Brock said. "We didn't remember how much effort it took to play well. We were just expecting to win."
The team's frequent slow starts were particularly upsetting to the Bandits' veteran, because it was a big part of the early-season problems.
"We've always been a team that starts off hot," Brock said. "We usually scored the first goal, especially at home. We haven't been doing that.
"We were searching for answers. But we've got a great coach and great management, and those guys never let us quit. I think we stayed positive, and it brought us closer together."
Brock, 30, was happy to see his team put two wins together entering this weekend, and they came with a couple of good signs. The defense settled down in the second half against Toronto and played its best 30 minutes of the season in many ways.
"Anthony Cosmo was fantastic," he said about the win over the Rock. "Last year, he was arguably our MVP, and against Toronto he was our MVP. It just helps the whole defense when we get a couple of those key saves. We changed a couple of things - simplified things a bit. We're playing a tighter defense that's not so spread out. Now we have to build on that."
Brock also has been pleased by the contributions of some of the young players. Tim Edwards has been a good fit on faceoffs lately, and Blaze Riorden scored some clutch goals in the last two games.
The two straight wins won't mean much unless the Bandits have some success this weekend. Buffalo is in third place in the NLL East, but only a half-game ahead of New England and Rochester. Two wins would get the Bandits back to .500 and put them firmly in the playoff picture. Two losses and Buffalo would be 3-7 and back in a difficult situation.
Bandits forward Ryan Benesch did not fully participate in practice on Tuesday, but has done some physical training this week. He continues to recover from a hit to the head, although he appears to be healing.
Buffalo also has a difficult physical challenge of playing two games in less than a day, as Saturday's game in Blue Cross Arena in Rochester starts at 1 p.m. That's not much recovery time, although - as Brock points out - at least both teams have to deal with it.
"That's the silver lining," he said. "They have to deal with the same thing. It's not like we're traveling far between games, but it's still home-and-home in less than 24 hours. It's a rivalry, and they're hungry for wins too."