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Bandits embrace Dostie

Sometimes it's all about the chemistry.

When Buffalo Bandits head coach and General Manager Darris Kilgour approached National Lacrosse League career scoring leader John Tavares last summer and relayed the news that he was thinking about trading for Kevin Dostie, well . . .

"[Tavares] said, 'Please, do it as soon as you can,' " Kilgour said.

A few weeks later, Kilgour had pulled the trigger on a deal with the Calgary Roughnecks to bring the 5-foot-6, 190-pound forward to Buffalo. The cost was steep -- former first-round draft choice Jeff Shattler and a second-round selection in the 2007 entry draft.

Still, Kilgour didn't hesitate.

"He has good lacrosse sense and sees the entire floor well," said Tavares, who formed a potent 1-2 punch with Dostie this summer with St. Regis in the Ontario Lacrosse Association's Major Division. Dostie scored 35 goals and 65 points in 18 games, out-producing even the 14-time All-Star selection, seven-time league scoring leader and three-time NLL Most Valuable Player -- who had 16 goals and 56 points.

"He's probably one of the best pick-setters I've ever seen," Tavares said. "He'll create a lot of open space for me. He's also great on loose balls and you can never have enough of those guys. Getting loose balls is just as important as scoring goals. We're looking to win."

The Eastern Division champion Bandits will get their first shot at it at 10:30 tonight (Radio 1520 AM) when they open their 16th season in the Rose Garden against the second-year Portland LumberJax, who were the best in the West. Both went a league-best 11-5 last season.

At his height, Dostie is often dwarfed by opposing defensemen. But his bulk and smarts enable him to avoid being pushed around.

"Yeah, he's 5-foot-6, but about 230," said Kilgour, exaggerating slightly. "He's one of those guys who has a low center of gravity. He's a tough guy to move. He's smart. I think we finally found someone who rivals J.T. in terms of lacrosse smarts on offense."

Now that's a compliment you don't hear every day. Kilgour has often said Tavares is the smartest player the NLL has ever produced.

"Maybe I can be the last piece of the puzzle for this team," said Dostie, who scored 18 goals and 38 points for the Roughnecks last winter. "I liked Western Canada, but this team is proven. . . . Maybe I can help free up J.T. a little bit more than in the past."

Dostie spent four seasons with Calgary and was a part of the 2004 team that beat the Bandits in the Champion's Cup final.

A hockey standout and a 2000 NJCAA lacrosse All-American attackman while attending SUNY-Canton, the 25-year-old Dostie relocated from Edmonton to Niagara Falls and is considering enrolling at Niagara University next fall.

But first, he'd like to secure a second championship ring and his new teammates can't wait to see how he fits.

"I think Dostie and J.T. work well together, so I think you'll see both their numbers rise this year," midfielder Mark Steenhuis said.

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Bandit banter

The home opener is Jan. 12 against the expansion New York Titans at HSBC Arena. . . . The Bandits are 10-5 all-time in openers, including 6-0 when the opener is played on the road, and 9-6 in the first road game. . . . Tavares, who begins this season with 1,136 career points, has 50 goals and 97 points in his previous 15 openers, compiling at least three points in every contest. . . . The Jax are coached by ex-Bandit great Derek Keenan, who played on two championship teams and led the team in scoring in 1992. Portland's top player is second-year defenseman Brodie Merrill, last season's rookie of the year and defensive player of the year.

e-mail: tborrelli@buffnews.com

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