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BANDITS POST BIG COMEBACK, SNAP STREAK

That ripple you felt coming from downtown Saturday night was just the Buffalo Bandits, who dropped the weight of the world off their shoulders.

Captain Mike Accursi's goal with 24.7 seconds remaining gave the Bandits a wild, 22-21 National Lacrosse League victory over the Syracuse Smash before an announced crowd of 7,311 at Marine Midland Arena. It came exactly one year after the Bandits' last home win and ended a pair of franchise-longest losing streaks.

One of the most dramatic comebacks in the nine-year history of the team snapped a six-game overall losing streak and a five-game home dry spell, both dating back to last season.

"We just rode that wave of momentum at the right time," said Bandits rookie head coach Ted Sawicki, who notched his first victory just two days shy of his 37th birthday. "It's that snowball effect that sometimes happens. My last couple speeches to the guys stressed hard work and they did that tonight. We rose together."

The Bandits trailed, 20-15, with 2 1/2 minutes gone in the fourth quarter before scoring seven of the contest's final eight goals.

Accursi's score came on the rebound of a shot by John Tavares and was the fifth shot on goal in the winning Buffalo possession.

"John took the shot, the rebound came from behind the net and I came off the boards," said Accursi, who finished with two goals and five points. "I fought hard out in front to get position, I got the ball and just threw it at the net. It was all like in slow motion as it was going in. Once it went in, it was such an unbelieveable adrenaline rush."

"The last goal took five shots to get but we pulled it off," said Tavares, who had four goals and a game-high 10 points. "I think I had two shots in that sequence. He (Syracuse's Ross Cowie) made a great save on me, then Mike got the rebound and buried it."

The Bandits (1-1) had one more piece of business.

Syracuse had one last chance to force overtime, but the Bandits put pressure on the ball and all the Smash could manage was Paul Gait's long, weak shot that Buffalo goalie Matt Disher easily deflected with his right side. That triggered a victory lap by the Bandits, a tradition that began back in Memorial Auditorium when the team was winning championships.

"We pressured hard and they didn't know what to do with it," Tavares said. "It looked like they were trying to run the 30-second (shot) clock and weren't really sure what they were doing."

Said Gait, who led Syracuse (0-3) with four goals and nine points: "I knew we had a long way to go even with that five-goal lead. . . . This team just hasn't proven it can win the close games yet."

One of the wildest games in team history saw Sawicki change goalies not once, but twice.

Disher started but was pulled early in the third quarter with Syracuse ahead, 13-12. To that point, he had saved only 17 of 30 shots. Marty O'Neill came on but fared no better, allowing seven goals on 12 shots.

Re-enter Disher with 12:42 to play and the Smash ahead, 20-15.

"Ted wanted to shake things up and there's no point getting upset at it," said Disher, who finished with 23 saves. "I needed to clear my head, play more instinctively and not think as much. I went back out there nice and angry. I was definitely more aggressive when I went back in. . . . Five-goal leads are nothing in this game. I knew we could come back."

Cowie, an ex-Bandit, made 48 saves, many in spectacular fashion. "The loss takes a lot of the sweetness out of my own performance," he said.

The Bandits' season-opening three-game homestand concludes at 3:30 next Saturday against the expansion Albany Attack (1-2).

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