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Vyse stuck in a game of numbers Former college star can't find steady time

There isn't much Buffalo Bandits forward Roger Vyse hasn't done during his lacrosse career.

Until he became a pro, sitting was one of them.

Vyse, the second-year man who shattered a 34-year-old NCAA scoring record during his college days, has been a victim of the injury bug and the numbers game since entering the National Lacrosse League.

He and his teammates will be shooting for a second consecutive trip to the Champion's Cup final when the Bandits (11-6) face the top-seeded Rochester Knighthawks (15-2) at 8:05 p.m. Friday in a semifinal at Blue Cross Arena.

Vyse, who was the No. 12 overall pick of the 2006 NLL draft after his record-setting career at Limestone (S.C.) College, played in 12 of the Bandits' 16 games this season and put up 12 goals, 12 assists, 24 points and 46 loose balls.

But down the stretch, he was scratched several times when the Bandits decided to use a rotation of three left-handed shooters instead of four in order to give NLL career scoring leader John Tavares more floor time. The extra work paid off handsomely for the 38-year-old Tavares, who finished with 42 goals, 61 assists and 103 points for the second-most productive season of his 16-year career.

"It does hurt sometimes when you're not in the lineup," said Bandits assistant coach Ron Henry, who runs the offense. "We're just so deep. But Rog has done very well for us when we've needed him. He is the future for this team."

Vyse (pronounced vice), who is from Six Nations, Ont., is used to being the man in the present, not the future.

He set the NCAA Division II scoring record with 71 goals, 29 assists and 100 points as a senior at Limestone, the second straight season he led the Gaffney, S.C., school to the national championship game.

As a junior he tallied 41 goals and 18 assists, helping the Saints go 30-3 during that two-year run.

But before he saw a second of NLL action, Vyse suffered a knee injury while doing conditioning work and was limited to just six games as a rookie, tallying seven goals and eight assists. But during the Bandits' run to last year's championship game, Vyse had three goals and six assists in three postseason games.

"Being just my second year in the league, I'm still learning," said Vyse, who is 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds. "It's hard to sit out but we have so much talent on this team. I'm kind of hard on myself but you have to deal with it as it comes along."

Vyse played in all of the first seven games this season but scored just three times. Since then, he's basically played in every other game and his last three games -- against Chicago, Arizona and Rochester -- produced his best stretch of the year with six goals and three assists.

The decision on whether he plays Friday may be made just before the game. In his favor is the fact that he's been potent against the Knighthawks with seven goals, 12 assists and 19 points in just four career games.

"I think my work ethic has always been strong," said Vyse, who had a goal and two assists in his lone regular-season game against the Knight-hawks this season. "You should always practice like you play. I try to get better every single time I step on the floor and I've probably improved the most with my field awareness. To be next in line to carry the Bandits for the rest of my career would really be a great feat."

Having a teammate who is also a member of the family has helped Vyse's transition to the pros.

"He's a very confident lacrosse player," said Bandits 11th-year veteran forward Cory Bomberry, who is Vyse's uncle.

"When he didn't come in and play right away he concentrated on doing what he needed to. He's 25 years old and really coming into his own. He's going to be a very good player."

Coach and General Manager Darris Kilgour agrees. Another round of NLL expansion may be looming for next season as Boston, Seattle and Vancouver are all possible targets. But Kilgour has no plans to let Vyse end up somewhere else in 2008.

"He's definitely one of the guys we'll be looking to protect," Kilgour said. "He's part of our plans for the future, for sure. I know he wants to be playing. Cory is very level-headed and it's always good to have someone you grew up with around, someone you trust. So I know Cory makes it easier on him.

"But I'm confident Roger would have been OK no matter what."

e-mail: tborrelli@buffnews.com

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