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BANDITS ROOKIE MAKING NET GAINS WHILE LEARNING ON JOB

Nobody said it was going to be a breeze, certainly not Ryan Powell.

The Buffalo Bandits' first-round draft choice entered the National Lacrosse League having played only a handful of box lacrosse games. He's getting his training on the job and going through what all rookies encounter -- peaks and valleys.

"I knew it was going to take me a while to adjust to this league, and it's about what I expected," said the 22-year-old former Syracuse University field lacrosse standout, who was the NCAA Player of the Year while leading the Orangemen to the national title last spring.

"It's much harder to score on these cages and I've gone through the frustrations with that part of it," said Powell, who leads the Bandits (4-2) into Ottawa tonight to face the Rebel (0-9). "Once I can start scoring a bit better I think it will be a big boost for my confidence."

Powell, like most American lacrosse players, grew up mastering his shot on a goal 6 feet wide and 6 feet high. That's fine until you come indoors, where NLL goals are 4 feet high and 4 feet, 6 inches wide.

Picking the corner suddenly becomes clanging the goal post.

"He's never shot on the smaller net before and it definitely takes some getting used to," said 10-year veteran Bandit Rich Kilgour. "Once he gets fully acclimated to the league and style of play, I don't see anyone stopping him. He can pass, run and score."

In the Powell family, the bar is set higher when it comes to lacrosse. Ryan and older brother Casey, who played two years with the Rochester Knighthawks, are the co-leading career scorers in Syracuse history. Younger brother Mike, also an All-American at Carthage High School near Watertown, followed his brothers to "The Hill." The freshman had two goals and three assists Sunday in his first taste of college lacrosse, a scrimmage against Navy.

"My vision comes from playing with Casey," Ryan Powell said. "Out in the backyard I was always operating behind him, looking for him, so he could always shoot the ball because he's a couple years older. Plus, having played lacrosse my whole life I think I'm really starting to understand the game."

So when Ryan Powell pouts about struggling, it's all relative.

He has seven goals and 11 assists in his first six games, despite scoring just three points in the last three games. Only two rookies have outscored him -- Ottawa's Kris Bryde (30 points) and Philadelphia's Jeff Ratcliffe (24). Both are Canadians who grew up playing box lacrosse, like most of Powell's Bandits teammates.

"He's a great player, one of the best field players I've seen in terms of having so little (box) experience and adjusting so well," said John Tavares, an original Bandit. "That's because he sees the floor so well. He doesn't just go to the net, he sees everything. When he's back on defense, he does a good job. He's been really easy to accept on the team."

Coach Ted Sawicki says he'd like to see Powell create more opportunities for himself by driving hard to the net. "I think maybe he's still looking at himself as a secondary player, trying to get other guys open rather than himself more involved," Sawicki said.

Powell has already brought an infusion of emotion and enthusiasm. He says he loves to play to the crowd and is the first one to try to pump up the fans at HSBC Arena, whether it's during the pregame introductions or when he's on the floor for a Buffalo score.

"I think that's my best ability in a lacrosse game, to feed off the momentum. I'm just trying to be the guy who's starting it because it's a team game and everybody has to step up their emotions."

That idea suits even the most hardened Bandits veteran.

"I love it," Tavares said. "I'm very conservative and quiet but I love to see his energy. And he gets me going. It's fun, it keeps everybody loose."

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