The Buffalo Bandits are starting to resemble the team that reached the National Lacrosse League finals last year.
The Bandits (4-5) turned in a solid performance in winning their third game in a row on Friday night. They defeated the Rochester Knighthawks, 13-9, before 14,475 in the KeyBank Center.
“We had some moments where we were really good, and we had some moments when the IQ wasn’t the way it should be,” Buffalo coach Troy Cordingley said. “We’re fighting out of those situations the way we should. You’re going to have moments like that, but there’s no panic. We had some good performances tonight.”
The team had several players contribute on offense. The list starts with Alex Kedoh Hill, who had two goals and four assists. When he’s a dynamic offensive force, good things usually happen to Buffalo.
“Kedoh had two goals for us by grabbing loose balls off the faceoff,” Cordingley said. “Those were huge.”
Brad Self had three goals and three assists. When Hill and Self combine for 12 points, the Bandits are tough to stop.
“It’s huge,” goalie Anthony Cosmo said. “That means their defense can’t focus on one guy. We’ve got a lot of secondary scorers right now. We relied a lot on Dhane Smith last year. This year, we’re still relying on Dhane, but he’s feeding the ball and getting guys open. If they double Dhane, it opens up another guy.”
Self had the added pleasure of having a nice game against the team that traded him to Buffalo in the offseason. He didn’t deny that this win felt extra good for that reason.
“It does. Yeah, it does,” Self said. “But at the end of the day, it’s just another game. It’s important for us as a team, and I’m a Bandit now.”
The list went on from there. Smith actually led the team in scoring with seven points, as he continues to bounce back from an ankle injury suffered early in the new season.
Pat Saunders, playing in his first game since he was acquired from New England, looked like a good fit. The forward had two goals and two assists. More impressively, he had 14 shots on goal.
“It’s the type of offense that’s a five-guy unit,” Saunders said. “As long as all of us are working for each other, you’re going to have two from each guy. It’s not the pressure of having one or two guys scoring, so it was nice to get out there and get familiar with the guys, and get the win.”
Saunders meshed well with Mitch Jones, who had a goal and three assists.
The defense also had plenty of good moments. There wasn’t much to do in the first half, when the Bandits dominated the shot total. But in the final 30 minutes, Buffalo held off the Knighthawks. Cosmo was particularly good when it mattered.
Along the way, Cosmo picked up the 7,000th save of his NLL career. No goalie in league history has ever reached that number.
“I had no idea,” he said. Ryan Benesch “came up to me and said, ‘You look real old tonight.’ I said, ‘I thought I played all right.’ He said, ‘No, you got 7,000.’ It’s a great milestone, and it shows the longevity of my career. I’ve been on some great teams ... and I share it with them.”
There were some other standouts. Steve Priolo had a spirited fight with Andrew Suitor of the Knighthawks in the second quarter. The Bandits seemed to pick up energy from that point, scoring the next two goals to take their first two-goal lead of the game.
Then there was the case of rookie Tim Edwards, who continues to improve as the Bandits’ faceoff specialist. Edwards won 15 of 26 draws. The biggest win came in the third period after Rochester had narrowed the lead to a goal early in the third period, and it led to a Buffalo goal only eight seconds later.
“It’s a credit to Tim,” Cordingley said. “I think he was in the penalty box when they scored. Tim is a competitor, and he was going to do whatever it took to win that faceoff. He drew a man to him and fed it off” to Mitch de Snoo.
The goal started a crucial three-goal run to lead, 9-5. The Knighthawks never got closer than three goals the rest of the night.
The Bandits headed to Rochester for right after the game. The two teams have a quick turnaround, as they meet again Saturday afternoon (1 p.m., Radio 550 AM). About the only player on both teams who didn’t mind the schedule was Cosmo - because he’ll probably get the afternoon off.
“I’m a little sore, so we’ll let Big Fish (Dave DiRuscio) take that one,” Cosmo said. “I hope he has a great game.”