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Bandits try again to take Rochester

OK, maybe the Buffalo Bandits are snake-bitten when they travel to Rochester.

They're 3-11 all-time against the Knighthawks at Blue Cross Arena in the Rochester War Memorial, have lost 10 of the last 11 there, and their last four defeats in that building have all come in overtime. The Bandits had leads as large as two, three, five and six, respectively, in those four sudden-death setbacks.

The next chapter in the one-sided Rochester portion of this rivalry will be written beginning at 8:05 tonight (Radio 1520), with the Bandits (4-4) desperately needing a win to inch closer to the first-place Knighthawks (7-4).

Perhaps the numbers in Rochester are scary enough to make Buffalo boosters consider breaking out the garlic wreaths for the trip down the Thruway. But Bandits midfielder Pat McCready has been through worse. Much worse.

This is the 10th anniversary of the Charlotte Cobras, a one-year Major Indoor Lacrosse League experiment that failed miserably.

"It was a real interesting year, you could say," said McCready, whose spent his rookie season with the Cobras. "You think back and get a pretty empty feeling. People down there were very nice, but not winning made for a very difficult season."

By "not winning," he means losing. Every single game.

The Cobras went 0-10, were outscored, 186-85, and played before mostly empty wooden seats at Independence Arena -- which opened in 1955. They drew 13,802 total patrons (an average of 2,760) to their five home games -- far fewer than the 15,741 at Memorial Auditorium that watched the Bandits spank them, 28-6.

"I remember that game," said Bandits captain Rich Kilgour, referring to the Feb. 24, 1996 carnage. "Darris (Bandits head coach Kilgour) hurt his back before warm-ups and some kid named Gary, I don't remember his last name [Edmands] had a big night and was never heard from again. We were up big and there was this big line fight. What a night."

Edmands had a goal and five assists in the only game he ever dressed for. John Tavares had seven goals and four assists and Rich Kilgour a goal and four assists. The Bandits led, 7-0, after 10 minutes and 16-2 at halftime. McCready, who had 10 loose balls and put seven shots on goaltender Pat O'Toole (who now starts for the Knighthawks), scored his only goal with 4:04 left and the Bandits ahead, 26-4.

"It was a long night," said McCready, who finished that season with 14 goals and 25 points. "Truthfully, coming into Buffalo you wanted to stay positive, but with the numbers the Bandits were putting up that year, we knew what we were in for."

The Cobras' closest game was a 14-10 loss at Baltimore. None of the other six teams in the league that year won fewer than three.

"I guess lacrosse was an experiment that didn't work there," said Minnesota Swarm General Manager Marty O'Neill, who tended goal for two Boston Blazers victories over the Cobras. "I thought it would have been really cool if that big bowl of an arena was ever full for a game, but it absolutely wasn't. Winning may have changed things there, but they never got the chance with one year in and one year out."

When the Cobras folded, things brightened considerably for McCready. He had made it to the last cut with the Bandits in 1996, then was a member of the 1997 Knighthawks -- who won the championship. He spent five seasons in Rochester, making it to the postseason every year, and this is his fifth year with the Bandits, who have missed the playoffs just once since McCready came aboard in 2002.

"I've kept my Charlotte jersey, there aren't too many of them around, plus the ball from my first goal," said McCready, who has six goals, 15 points and a team-leading 87 loose balls this season. "I've gone from one end of the spectrum to the other and it's made me appreciate how special it is to play for quality organizations, like Rochester and Buffalo."

e-mail: tborrelli@buffnews.com

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