Every National Lacrosse League team gets to be real weekend warriors once every season. This weekend, it's the Buffalo Bandits' turn.
Buffalo (2-2) will complete its odyssey of two games in two nights in two cities tonight on Long Island against the New York Saints (1-1). The NLL's unbalanced schedule forces all seven teams to endure one rugged weekend of that nature once each season.
"At the beginning of the season I dreaded it, but now, because it's like a playoff atmosphere for us, I'm looking forward to it," said Troy Cordingley. "We've had a lot of success against New York, we seem to have their number."
The Saints have indeed struggled against the Bandits. Buffalo earned the fourth and final playoff spot last season with a 6-6 record and won both games against New York, which finished 5-7.
"I don't think New York has ever liked us to begin with," said Travis Kilgour. "They have a little extra incentive against us because we pretty much put them out of the playoffs last season."
The Saints opened the season with a 12-11 victory at Rochester before dropping a heartbreaking 15-14 decision to unbeaten (4-0) Baltimore at home. No other team has come closer than seven goals against the Thunder.
"They're the only team in the league that's given Baltimore a real battle so far," Cordingley said. "We'll definitely have our work cut out for us."
"These guys have enough in them for two games," Bandits coach Les Wakeling said. "I don't really feel back-to-back is as detrimental as everybody thinks it is. I think it would be a little rougher having the road game first."
Not all the Bandits agree with their coach on that point.
"It's a little harder to play at home first and then go away," captain Rich Kilgour said. "You have to get up early, a little bit sore, then catch an airplane. But what can you do?"
Wakeling said Marty O'Neill will start in goal tonight.
The Rochester Knighthawks have signed three-year Bandits starting goaltender Pat O'Toole, whom Buffalo released when O'Neill was signed. Rochester needed a backup for Derek General when Steve Dietrich suffered a season-ending knee injury last week against Philadelphia.
Darris Kilgour will serve as an assistant coach at Canisius College under Randy Mearns, who is also the captain of the Knighthawks. Kilgour, who is questionable for tonight's game because of a hamstring injury suffered Friday night against Syracuse, coached the Buffalo Gamblers last summer and has served as an assistant coach at Niagara-Wheatfield High School. . . . Rich Kilgour, who was the Gamblers' general manager last summer, said Friday night the Gamblers will no longer play in Buffalo's Marine Midland Arena. Instead, an Ontario Lacrosse League Major Division team will play in St. Catharines' Garden City Arena and serve as home base for Niagara Peninsula-area players. The Gamblers had a two-year history, playing at Niagara Falls (Ont.) Memorial Arena in 1997 before moving to the MMA.