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Bandits turn that beat around <br> Down Rochester to extend streak, reach .500 mark

The Buffalo Bandits' startling revival continues.

The Bandits won their fourth straight game on Saturday night, beating the Rochester Knighthawks, 14-7, before a sellout crowd of 10,652 at Blue Cross Arena.

It's a turnaround that is as unexpected as it is dramatic.

About a month ago, the Bandits were 2-6 and looking up at four teams that were occupying the playoff spots in the National Lacrosse League's East Division. Since that time, Buffalo has rampaged through those four teams in order -- Orlando, Toronto, Boston and now Rochester -- to improve to 6-6. The spurt has left the Bandits in a three-way tie for second in the East with Toronto and Boston, and a half-game ahead of Rochester (5-6).

"Life was so bad for us for so long," Bandits forward Mark Steenhuis said. "We were getting sick of questions like, 'How come you aren't winning?' We had to battle through it.

"It's a cliche, but the season came down to the point where every game was a playoff game. Everything we have has to be directed toward this particular game. That philosophy worked its way around the room."

In this latest win, the list of good points from a Buffalo perspective was a lengthy one. Start with a very balanced offense that featured contributions from practically every source possible.

"We talked about that in the locker room," Bandits coach Darris Kilgour said. "We needed everyone to step up. A lot guys on the team took it upon themselves to do that. There are a lot of people around the league that think we are a two-man team, but we're not a two-man team."

Those two guys -- Steenhuis (three goals and five assists) and John Tavares (four assists) -- contributed plenty. But they had a great deal of help on this night. Mike Accursi had four goals, most of them coming from directly in front of the net.

"They were packing it in on defense," Accursi said. "When the ball was on the side, they'd fall off. We couldn't do the back door, but I was setting up in the middle."

Then there were two-goal games from Frank Resetarits, Brett Bucktooth and Tom Montour, with the latter's goals coming on breakaways in transition.

"We were like a pack of rapid dogs out there," Accursi said.

At the other end, goalie Mike Thompson continued his great play of late. He stopped 32 of 39 shots in winning his third straight.

"He's been absolutely awesome," Kilgour said. "I can't say enough about him. He was really struggling, and his game has turned around on a dime. It's unbelievable."
"The defense has been really playing well in front of me," Thompson said. "We've had some injuries, but we stuck together. . . . I've been seeing the ball really well."

The Bandits took little time to control the game. Steenhuis and Montour scored in the first two minutes on breakaways, and Buffalo carried that wave throughout the rest of the first half. They were up, 10-4, at the end of 30 minutes and firmly in control.

"You never want to say that's the best we can play, but it's the best we've played so far this year," Kilgour said. "It took a while, but the guys are understanding their roles. The boys were really going in the first half."

Buffalo put it on cruise control to a certain extent in the second half, but played well when it had to do so -- such as when it killed off a five-on-three Rochester power play. The Knighthawks didn't play with much energy for most of the fourth quarter as they lost their third straight home game for only the second time in team history.

John Grant of Rochester, who was the offensive star of his team's two wins over Buffalo at the start of the season, was held to two goals and two assists. Shawn Williams did have three goals and two assists for the Knighthawks. Next up for the Bandits is a break from division competition, as Colorado comes into HSBC Arena next Saturday. Steenhuis doesn't need a reminder that this is no time to take the foot off the gas pedal.

"If we go in and lose the next couple of games, we'll be right back where we were," he said. "We have to enjoy this one for a while, and then forget about it and start all over."

e-mail: bbailey@buffnews.com

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