Blogs | 5/1/2012 2:11:15 PM | John Gurtler
As the late, great Rod Serling would say, with his jaw gritted: “And so ends another episode of the twilight zone.”
I was thinking Saturday of signing off the radio broadcast in similar fashion, after the Buffalo Bandits finished off the fifth-longest game in the 26-year history of the National Lacrosse League with a 17-16 overtime win over the Washington Stealth.
Strange, too, with the Bandits and Stealth taking both their games into overtime this season.
Talk about a game of runs, highs and lows, near misses and high heaters, like the one John Tavares fired at 9:55 of overtime to find net, getting us out of the land Boeing built.
Two wins in a row is a good launching pad for the Bandits to start a mini-run of three games. That’s all it takes to win it all in this second season.
Nobody is happier to see the postseason than general manager and head coach Darris Kilgour. Yes, they completed one of their most important goals of the season: qualifying for the playoffs. But it’s been a very strange year, and hard on the winningest coach in the NLL.
No more going a solid month and half without a victory. No more wondering what group of Bandits will ride into town. It’s all for one and one for the next two.
“It may be said with a degree of assurance that not everything that meets the eye is as it appears.”-Rod Serling.
And I have noticed a swagger in this club that potentially can be the forward to a Cinderella story of the postseason. It’s certainly not out of the question. Having won three of their last four, and five of eight, the Bandits appear to be primed and ready for the playoffs.
Goaltenders Anthony Cosmo and Michael Thompson have the most important jobs in these next series of games. Championships are won with great goaltending. Cosmo feels this team can rally in front of both of them.
“Our focus going into the playoffs is being on a high, making sure we are firing on all cylinders because it not something we can turn on and off, as you have seen all year,” said Cosmo, who has turned in three performances of 45 saves or more in his last four games, including Saturday night when he stopped 47 of 63 Stealth shots. “It’s something we have to ride and that momentum needs to carry us into the playoffs.
So, what exactly is the goaltending strategy of this 12-year pro?
“It’s just basically game knowledge,” said Cosmo. “I watch a lot of game tape; I watch a lot of guys the way they shoot and their tendencies. I am not fast enough to stop the ball straight on with reaction time, so I need to pick up on what they kind of do prior and what they are used to doing, kinda guess if you will. One of my big things is confidence and try and make sure when I have that confidence balls are hitting me when they don’t even mean to.”
From Cosmo’s perspective, is there more to see from the Bandits? “I definitely think so. I think we can turn it up another gear. There are times where fans have seen glimpses of championship team and times where fans have seen the opposite. I hope going forward that championship caliber team steps forward.”
Yes, every fan of the Bandits is hoping for the same thought. And not some strange rerun of one of the twilight zone games from this year. “Imagine if you will … Submitted for your approval.”
Ah, let me think … no.
The Bandits covered some 10,530 air miles in the last month, which included single runs to Calgary, Edmonton and Seattle. The overtime frame of 9:55 didn’t seem to bother the team, considering the time of travel the day before.
And here is the kicker. Once the players emerged from their dressing room en route to the backdoor of the arena, the hotel shuttle driver ended his shift without picking the team up and many of the players had to walk more than a mile back to the hotel, pulling their equipment bags up and over one of the bridges in Everett.
Here I was walking with John Tavares, who had just scored the game winner in a high-scoring event that featured several end-to-end rushes. Not one complaint, other than “this might do me some good after a game like that,” said the greatest player of the game. Spoken like a true champ.
The Bandits will collectively bring more than 200 games of playoff experience to the floor this Saturday when they travel up the QEW to face the Toronto Rock in their Divisional Semifinal at the Air Canada Centre.
Finishing out the regular season on top of the Eastern Division with a 9-7 record, the Rock’s Colin Doyle has been a welcomed return, averaging five or more points over his last seven games. Garrett Billings finished the regular season with 114 points, including an eight-point performance last Saturday night against Edmonton. Stephan Leblanc has been playing strong down the stretch as well.
But then again, so too have the Bandits. John Tavares finished second in the league in goals with 41, and number one in power play goals with 21. That’s also 163 straight games of at least one point or more for Tavares, a remarkable streak that remains intact. In addition, the always-dangerous Mark Steenhuis has recorded 28 points in his last six games (12+16-28). And congratulations to Roger Vyse for scoring his 100th career goal Saturday night.
Radio coverage of Saturday’s game from Toronto will be on WGR Sports Radio 550. Pre-game starts at 6:30 p.m., with the game scheduled for a 7 p.m. start. Mike Lines joins me in the booth as guest analyst, as Randy Mearns will be coaching his Canisius Golden Griffs at this weekend’s MAAC Tournament in Poughkeepsie, NY.
“Imagination... its limits are only those of the mind itself.”-Rod Serling.