News | 4/22/2014 1:16:24 PM | Chris Ryndak
The Buffalo Bandits have already clinched a playoff berth and know they will face the Toronto Rock in the first round. However, one thing that’s still to be decided is where that playoff game will be held.
Buffalo has had numerous opportunities over the past few weeks to clinch home-field advantage with a victory, but have struggled through a losing streak that has reached a franchise-record seven games. A Bandits win or a Toronto loss this weekend will ensure that a postseason game will be played in Banditland for the first time since 2011.
The Bandits (8-9) host the Rochester Knighthawks (13-4) on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at First Niagara Center for Fan Appreciation Night. Buffalo fell to Rochester 8-4 this past weekend at BlueCross Arena.
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Toronto (8-9) closes out the season on Saturday in Minnesota. Rochester has already clinched both a first-round bye and home field in the second round.
The last time the Bandits were in the postseason, it was back in 2012 in Toronto. In that game – a nail-biter that came down to the last possession – Buffalo allowed just seven goals, a franchise record. However, they only scored six in the game and saw their season come to an end.
On that night, John Tavares appeared to have scored the game-tying goal as time expired. However, upon review, the officiating crew determined that Bandits forward Tracey Kelusky stepped into the crease, thus negating the goal, ending the game and adding yet another chapter to the already intense Bandits-Rock rivalry.
Tavares is the NLL’s all-time leading scorer in the playoffs. No one has recorded more postseason goals (77), assists (106) or points (183) than the 45-year-old Bandits captain.
There’s another player on the Bandits roster that has also come up big for the Bandits in the playoffs. Mark Steenhuis is second in franchise history in both playoff goals with 41 and in points with 67. He is also Buffalo’s all-time leader with six game-winning goals.
One of those game-winners came in the 2008 NLL Finals against Portland. In front of a sellout crowd in Buffalo, the Bandits won their third championship. Steenhuis had five goals in that game and was named the Most Valuable Player.
Steenhuis leads the Bandits this season with 27 goals. Ryan Benesch has a team-high 69 points (22+47).
They’ll hope for a chance at the Champions Cup this year with a first-round playoff game. The Bandits last had home-field advantage back in 2011 and defeated Boston in the NLL Quarterfinals. However, it was Toronto that spoiled their season once again. The Rock defeated Buffalo 12-11 on May 7, 2011 at First Niagara Center in the NLL Semifinals.
However, before they can look ahead to the playoffs, the Bandits will look to finish the regular season on a positive note. They’ll have one more chance to do that on Saturday against the Knighthawks.