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Weekend Wrap: Tough Night for the Home Teams; Kilgour Boils Over after 5th Straight Loss

03/04/2012, 7:38pm EST
By Andy Lefkowitz, Associate Editor for NLL.com

Another milestone for Grant and Minnesota continues turnaround under Sullivan

The Buffalo Bandits saw their losing streak reach a franchise-worst five straight after falling to Colorado 16-13 on Saturday. (Photo Credit: Bill Wippert)

The Buffalo Bandits season is spiraling out of control, and Darris Kilgour can’t take any more.

Kilgour lit into his team during his post-game media session as Buffalo’s skid reached a franchise-worst five straight games following a 16-13 home loss to Colorado on Saturday night.

The Bandits season appeared to be off to a promising start to 2012 with wins over regional rivals Toronto and Rochester. Since then, five straight losses and the Bandits are looking up from the bottom of the East Division.

In the latest loss, Buffalo allowed four power-play goals and no one on the Bandits was safe from the wrath of their coach and general manager.

"I said to Chris White, 'What are you doing?' That's a bad penalty, and he's our captain. Jeremy Thompson, bad penalty. Mark [Steenhuis], bad penalty. Travis Irving, bad penalty,” Kilgour told Budd Bailey of the Buffalo News in a story here.

Not even NLL royalty John Tavares escaped Kilgour’s anger.

“We’re pulling the goalie and we’re going to take a dive-shot from behind the net,” Kilgour told Alan Rosenhoch of NLL.com.  “To have a veteran of 21 years take that shot is inexcusable.  

“That just shows that he has no trust in the offense to score a goal without him trying to do something spectacular.  We don’t need spectacular, we need steady offensive plays and we didn’t get it in the fourth quarter.” 

The addition of veteran Anthony Cosmo did nothing to stop the Bandits’ woes. The 2007 NLL Goaltender of the Year was pulled in the fourth quarter after stopping just 31 of 46 shots in his Buffalo debut. Kilgour, though, didn’t single out Cosmo, but fired more blame at the remainder of the defensive unit.  

Four of the losses during Buffalo’s skid have come by a total of eight goals, and two of the defeats were one-goal setbacks.

"Our defense was terrible, and until we fix the defense we're going to be a bad team, and we are a bad team right now,” Kilgour said.

The Bandits’ next chance to snap their losing streak comes Saturday afternoon when they travel to Rochester to face the Knighthawks.

On the other side of the floor at the First Niagara Center, there was another chance to celebrate a milestone in what’s becoming a season to remember for Colorado’s John Grant Jr.

Grant became the third player in NLL history with 500 career regular-season goals, joining Tavares and Gary Gait, after scoring his fourth and final one of the contest late in the third quarter. Earlier this season, the reigning two-time NLL Player of the Month was the fifth player ever to reach 1,000 points.

“He’s a great lacrosse player and an ever better person,” Mammoth head coach Bob Hamley said.

While the accolades are nice, Grant’s bigger concern remains putting the team first.

“I don’t really concentrate on those types of personal (accomplishments),” said Grant, who added five assists and continues to lead the league with 31 goals and 68 points. “We needed to get off the schneid from last week.”

Indeed, Colorado bounced back nicely against the Bandits after the worst home loss in franchise history. The Mammoth’s season-opening six-game winning streak came to an abrupt with a 21-10 loss to Calgary on Feb. 24.

As for the Roughnecks, they failed to build off their biggest win of the year, dropping a 15-11 decision to Minnesota.

“We played like crap. It was a stinker,” head coach Dave Pym told John Down of the Calgary Herald. “Every guy in that room is going to reflect on that performance, good and bad. There was some good stuff out there, but obviously it was more bad than good.”

The loss dropped Calgary into a second-place tie in the West with Minnesota heading into next weekend’s home-and-home Battle of Alberta series with Edmonton, who were idle this past weekend. The Roughnecks defeated the Rush 12-8 on Feb. 18 in Calgary.

Minnesota was a .500 club when it promoted Joe Sullivan to head coach last month. The change seems to have stirred up the Swarm.

While going 2-0 under Sullivan, Minnesota has outscored its opponents 30-18.

“We seem to put challenges in front of them, and I don’t know if they’re too young to realize the size of these challenges, but they keep overcoming them,” Sullivan told Down in a story here.

One player who has thrived in the early going under Sullivan is Ryan Benesch. Last season’s scoring champion has six goals and nine assists over the last two contests after totaling nine points in the previous three games.

In a rematch of the last two NLL championship games, the Washington Stealth came away with a win – and perhaps the spark needed at both ends of the floor to turn around their season.

Newcomer Kevin Croswell was the star of Washington’s 14-9 win over Toronto at the Air Canada Centre. Signed earlier in the week with Tyler Richards nursing an injury, Crosswell turned aside 41 of 50 shots to help the Stealth snap a three-game slide.

“It’s so uplifting for the entire team for a goalie to make some big saves early on,” head coach Chris Hall told the Everett (Wash.) Herald. “Croswell got comfortable in the first quarter and he was solid throughout the game.”

Read more from the Herald on the Stealth’s win here.

With leading scorer Rhys Duch also sidelined, Washington got two goals each from Dean Hill, Eric Martin, Lewis Ratcliff and Jeff Zywicki en route to their highest-scoring game of the season. The return of Zywicki after missing much of the season with a lingering injury provided a boost for Hall’s club.

“You need three blue-chip players on offense to really be effective in this league,” Hall said. “Having Zywicki back really opened things up front.”

The Stealth will face a huge challenge next week with a home-and-home set against Colorado, starting Saturday night in Denver.

For Toronto, the loss was a disappointment – especially since it came against the team with the league’s worst record.

“We talked about the fact that this wasn’t a 1-6 team,” Rock head coach Troy Cordingley told Daniel Girard of the Toronto Star.  “They didn’t go to the finals two years in a row (for nothing). They came and played their ‘A’ game.”

Read Girard’s account of the game here.

Despite the defeat, Toronto remained tied with Philadelphia atop the East at 4-4. One of those clubs will be alone in first on Friday night after they meet at the Air Canada Centre.

In Philadelphia, the Knighthawks halted a three-game skid with an 11-8 win over Wings.  Rochester has scored 33 of its 113 goals this season in two wins at the Wells Fargo Center.

“Huge win,” said the Knighthawks’ second-year star, Cody Jamieson. “It’s the first game of the second half for us. It’s important for us to string some wins together and pick up steam headed to the playoffs.”

Jamieson had two goals and four assists – including the 100th point of his pro indoor career – but longtime veteran Mike Accursi provided the difference. He scored two goals early in the fourth quarter to snap a 7-all tie and put Rochester up for good.

Accursi totaled three goals and four assists.

On the night they retired Hall of Fame goaltender Dallas Eliuk’s No. 35, the Wings’ Brandon Miller made 39 saves on 50 shots.  Rookie Kevin Crowley, who may one day find his number hanging beside Eliuk’s in the rafters, had three goals and two assists.

The top overall pick in the 2011 Entry Draft, Crowley leads all rookies and is second in the NLL with 24 goals.

Finally, it was a good weekend to be the road team. This past Saturday, with all four games won by the road teams, marked just the second time in league history that every game on the schedule was won by the road team (minimum of four games). On April 3, 2010, all five visiting teams walked out with victories under their belts.  

One of those teams was Colorado, which got past Buffalo in overtime.

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