CHASING THAT TITLEFeatures | 4/12/2012 10:09:21 PM | Chris Ryndak
Chad Culp is still looking for that one defining career highlight.
Despite scoring 365 points in his 10 seasons, the Buffalo Bandits forward isn’t quite satisfied with the way his career has gone. Sure, he scored a few Minto Cup championships while playing Junior ‘A’ lacrosse in Canada and won a championship in Junior ‘B,’ but that was all before he joined the NLL.
“As far as professional [lacrosse goes], I really haven’t had any huge highlights yet because I haven’t won an NLL championship,” Culp said. “I’m still waiting for that. Hopefully this year is the year.”
Culp is in his second season for the Bandits and has had a lot of success on the score sheet. Last season he finished with 21 goals and 40 points in 15 games. In two playoffs games, he was the team’s fourth-highest scorer, putting up three goals and three assists.
Through 13 games this year, Culp has 14 goals and 40 points. He’s fourth on the Bandits in scoring and is on pace for his best offensive season since he scored 55 points with Minnesota in 2008.
However, he can’t quite put his finger on what’s made him successful this year.
“I don’t know, just working hard, I guess. When I get open and get chances, just trying to capitalize on them and finish my chances,” he said.
He signed on with the Bandits before the 2011 season as a free agent. He’d previously spent time in New York, Arizona, Minnesota and Colorado. Having some consistency in staying with Buffalo seems to have helped improve his game.
“You get used to the players and the coaching staff and what they expect from you,” he said. “Coming in, you kind of don’t know what to expect so after that first year getting your feet wet, you know what to expect and what the expect from you and you know your role. You just try to go out and accomplish it.”
This year has also been a bit different for Culp as he became a new father in mid-March.
“It’s good. Maybe a little less sleep at night but it’s good,” Culp said with a laugh. “It’s exciting. Hopefully one day he can see me play for the Bandits.”
Before spending the 2010 season in Colorado, he was a member of the Swarm and played in the franchise’s inaugural season. He was with the Swarm for five seasons, living in Minnesota for the first two before commuting from his home back in Ontario for the final three.
“I was there for the first five years and it was interesting,” Culp said. “We had a young group of guys. Being an expansion team, usually they are fairly young, the teams, but we were young and a close group.”
As he was commuting from the East Coast each week, Culp eventually decided he didn’t want to travel as much and that weighed in his decision to sign with the Bandits.
“Definitely being able to drive to your home games is nice,” he explained. “I feel like it saves on your body too, a lot of wear and tear, from just being exhausted and the flying and having to show up early to the airport and all that.”
While he’s now in his 10th season in the NLL, he really didn’t know the opportunity to play lacrosse professionally was available to him until he was drafted. The New York Saints took him ninth overall in 2002. He had been playing Junior ‘B’ with the Orangeville Northmen.
“I played a big part in their success for them and then finally getting drafted was surreal, I guess,” Culp remembered. “And finally, it was like OK, I guess I have an opportunity. And you have to go and try out obviously, you’re not a guarantee after you get drafted, but that was the first step.”
In chasing that elusive championship, Culp knows that there is still a lot of work the Bandits have to do this year. Currently third in their division with three games to play, this final stretch of games will determine whether the Bandits could be hosting a playoff game or missing out completely.
“It’s definitely as tight as it’s been because you can just take the records in the East for example. Everybody’s right within two games of first and last,” Culp said. “That tells you anybody can win any night. It’s really strong and it’s good. It’s good for the league and hopefully it stays that way.”
Despite the team’s struggles this season – a 5-8 record that includes a franchise-record six-game losing streak – the idea of hosting a playoff game isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
“Obviously our record’s not as good as we would like it to be,” Culp said. “For the times we’ve struggled there still is a possibility that we can host a playoff game and hopefully we win these next three games and we accomplish it.”
That would certainly be a big step on the way to achieving that career highlight Culp’s searching for.