SHAKING OFF THE RUST
Features | 3/1/2012 3:50:20 PM | Chris Ryndak

It’s been 10 months since Anthony Cosmo has suited up for a National Lacrosse League game. He’s ready to get back at it and may have the chance to start for the Buffalo Bandits as soon as Saturday night when they host Colorado at 7:30 p.m. at First Niagara Center.

Cosmo’s last game was in a playoff loss with the Boston Blazers in April 2011 against the Bandits. After the season, the Blazers ceased operations and their players were placed in a league-wide dispersal draft. Cosmo was picked third overall by the Minnesota Swarm but did not report. The Bandits acquired the 2007 Goaltender of the Year in a trade on February 17 in an effort to shore up their goaltending.

“I’m looking forward to getting back at it. It’s been a long time since I’ve played,” Cosmo said. “When you’ve been playing all your life – that passion – and when you’re sitting on the sidelines watching everyone else go, it kind of struck home and struck a chord in me. That fire is burning in the heart of my belly and I can’t wait to get back at it.”

In 11 seasons, the 34-year-old netminder has a career goals against average of 10.32 and a career save percentage of .781. With a young family in Mississauga, Ont., and another child on the way, Cosmo knew that playing for the Swarm in the Western Division would mean a lot of travel and that he would have to spend a lot of time away from his family.

“Nothing against Minnesota themselves, it was just the situation of family that kind of came first,” Cosmo said. “It was a situation where I had to pick family over lacrosse and that was an easy decision for me.”

Cosmo played four seasons in San Jose from 2005-08, and said that the experience of previously playing out west helped factor into his decision to stay home after being selected by the Swarm. It was in San Jose that he won the Goaltender of the Year Award and was named to two All-Star teams.

“That experience, again, was one of the greatest experiences of my life because I was young and I still had that energy and I didn’t have a family really to look after,” he explained. “It was still really only about me and my life and now that you have a family, you realize that there’s a lot more to life than just yourself.

“Going to Minnesota and having that experience in San Jose taught me it’s good to be home and it’s nice to be home. I sure am glad that Buffalo picked me up.”

In the midst of a four-game losing streak, the Bandits swapped two first-round picks for Cosmo. Minnesota has two young goaltenders in Evan Kirk and Tyler Carlson who were fighting for playing time. That depth at the goaltender position made it easier for the Swarm to part with Cosmo.

“It's also time for Anthony to get back on the floor,” said Swarm Owner and President John Arlotta in a statement at the time of the trade.  “He's a star player in this league, and I know that he is anxious to get going again. We wish him all the best.”

The Bandits have not played a game since their February 12 loss in Philadelphia. That has given Cosmo time to fine-tune his skills and get acclimated with his new teammates. He already knows forward Kevin Buchanan from his days in Boston, and grew up in the same town as John Tavares. He’s had a decade-long relationship with head coach Darris Kilgour, and he played with transition player Jon Harasym and assistant coach Dan Teat over the summer. A good number of the Bandits are from Peterborough, Ont. as well, so Cosmo has crossed paths with quite a few of them in various summer leagues.

Already having that familiarity has helped him settle in. Now it’s a matter of playing the game and getting the Bandits back on the winning side of things.

“I don’t know if I’m the [missing] piece to the puzzle. I think the guys just had a wavering in their confidence,” Cosmo said. “They’ve had some unlucky situations and hopefully these three weeks off and me coming in kind of shook things up and maybe steered us on the right path.”

Bandits Associate General Manager Derek Graham said that although Cosmo is a “bit rusty,” he’s looked good in practice. No decision has yet been made as to who will start Saturday against the Colorado Mammoth. Incumbent starter Mike Thompson played in the NLL All-Star Game last weekend in Buffalo, stopping 30 of 38 shots.

“I’m not quite sure if [Cosmo’s] ready to go Saturday night yet. We want to be fair to him and fair to the rest of the guys,” Graham said. “We still feel we have an excellent goaltender in Mikey Thompson so we don’t feel a ton of pressure to have to play him. But at the same time, we’re going to make a game-time decision and after shootaround, we’ll basically decide who’s going to get the nod for Saturday night.”

That situation works just fine for Cosmo as he gets back into game shape.

“I think it’s a healthy competition between Mikey and I,” he said. “I have full respect for Mike and I think he’s an incredible goalie. Whoever’s hot goes into the playoffs and that’s great for me. I want to win and if that’s me in net, great. If that’s Mikey in net, it’s just as good.”

 

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