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WEEKEND WRAP: Bandits put it together again while Wings fall twice - and out of first place

04/08/2012, 9:26pm EDT
By Andy Lefkowitz, Associate Editor for NLL.com

Rose keeps Rock-ing, Swarm on verge of playoffs, Riggers survive


The Buffalo Bandits defeated the Philadelphia Wings 17-7 on Saturday night in a game aired on the CBS Sports Network. (Photo Credit: Larry Palumbo)

Perhaps Buffalo Bandits head coach Darris Kilgour’s message finally got through after 14 weeks. On the other hand, maybe the players knew a national television audience would be tuning in for the first time.

Whatever the reason, the Bandits on Saturday night looked nothing like a team that appeared frustrated for much of the season.

Buffalo avoided its third straight loss and moved into a tie for third in the East Division with a 17-7 rout of Philadelphia in the first National Lacrosse League game to be broadcast on the CBS Sports Network.

“That’s the team we thought we had,” Kilgour said.

The 5-8 Bandits, who had been called out by Kilgour more than once this season for everything from lackluster play to poor attitude on the floor, put together 60 strong minutes all around. Four players recorded at least three goals with Luke Wiles getting his hat trick in the first quarter, and the seven goals allowed were a season low.

“It’s a big game for us,” goaltender Anthony Cosmo told Budd Bailey of the Buffalo News. “That’s a team we’re competing with. We need to be on top.”

Amid the offensive fireworks, Cosmo was arguably the star of the game after he stopped 46 of 53 shots and allowed just one goal in the second half. That was what Kilgour and the Bandits were expecting from the 2007 NLL Goaltender of the Year after getting him a trade in February.

"We played defense in front of him," Kilgour told Bailey. "That's the first effort we've had in front of Anthony all year."

Saturday’s loss was Philadelphia’s second in just over 24 hours and third in a row overall.  On Friday, the playoff-bound Wings opened play in Week 14 with a 13-9 loss to a short-handed Minnesota team that’s scrapping to get into the postseason.

“We were rusty, very rusty in the first half,” head coach and general manager Johnny Mouradian said following the loss to the Swarm. “… we just made of a lot of poor decisions with the ball.”

Philadelphia could have clinched the East Division with a pair of wins and some help. Instead, Mouradian’s club fell into second place behind a resurgent Toronto club.  

The Wings will have some time to regroup before taking the floor again. Philadelphia has a rematch with Minnesota on April 21 in St. Paul before closing out the regular season a week later at Rochester.

If there was something positive taken out of the Wings’ lost weekend, it was Dan Dawson setting the single-season record for assists. The second of Dawson’s three helpers Saturday was his 75th of the year, breaking the record shared with Josh Sanderson and set in 2009.

As for the Swarm, their win snapped a season-high four game skid and pushed them to the brink of a playoff spot.

“It couldn’t have come at a better time,” head coach and associate general manager Joe Sullivan said. “These guys played such smart ball and didn’t get rattled. The game was close all the way through.”

With top goal-scorer Ryan Benesch out for a third straight game with a concussion, the Swarm got three goals each from Corbyn Tao and Kevin Ross and a career-best four from transition player Tyler Hass.

Hass, who has battled injuries for a good chunk of the season, had just two goals coming into the contest.

“Statistically, it’s a breakout game, but this is something we knew he could do from the get-go,” Sullivan said.

Minnesota can reach .500 and punch its postseason ticket with a win over Washington next Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center.

Three games with Nick Rose in net has resulted in three wins for the Toronto Rock and a return to the top of the East Division.

Rose stopped 36 of 44 shots during his home debut in a 12-8 win over Edmonton on Saturday night that ensured the reigning NLL champions will defend their title.

“It’s nice to play in front of family and friends,” Rose told Bill Lankhof of the Toronto Sun. “But in this league, you can go from hero to zero in a week.”

Rose was buried behind Mike Poulin and Frankie Scigliano on Calgary’s roster before coming east in a deal prior to last month’s trading deadline. All Rose has done since then is post an 8.01 goals-against average and .805 save percentage.

“Nothing fazes him,” Rock head coach Troy Cordingley told Lankhof. “He’s amazing for a 24-year-old kid.  He’s just been so steady for us and that’s really helped our defense.”

With Rose, Toronto has surrendered just 24 goals during its winning streak after yielding a season-high 21 in a loss to Buffalo on March 16.

Saturday’s win resulted in Toronto becoming the second team from the East to clinch a playoff spot.  The Rock will wrap up the regular season with three straight on the road starting Saturday night in Colorado in a game that will be aired on the CBS Sports Network.

The latest loss dropped Edmonton to 0-6 all-time at the Air Canada Centre.

As has been the case for much of the season, the Rush failed to pile up goals. Edmonton, which has scored a league-low 125 goals through 12 games, was held to single-digits for the third straight game and seventh time overall this year.

The latest dry spell Saturday came as Edmonton was held off the score sheet for 15:38 span in the second and third quarters while Toronto went on a 9-0 run.

“Our offense went cold for far too long, and against a team like Toronto, you just can’t do that,” head coach and general manager Derek Keenan told Jason Hills of the Edmonton Sun. “Our biggest problem this year is we’re not consistent enough … and it showed up again in spades (Saturday night).”

The Rush are fourth in the West and have a game in hand on last-place Washington, which was idle in Week 14.  Edmonton will next face Buffalo on Saturday night.

The Calgary Roughnecks tied a franchise record with their sixth straight win Friday, but what appeared to be shaping up as a blowout turned into a nailbiter down to the final buzzer.

The Riggers, who led by six at halftime, withstood a furious rally and a lengthy review late in a 15-14 win over the Knighthawks and moved alone into first place in the West.

In the final minute, Poulin turned aside everything the Knighthawks could throw at him, even losing his stick when Cory Vitarelli tried to wing a wicked backhander with time running out. That forced officials to take several looks on the in-house monitors before deciding no goal – and no overtime.

“Pouly won that game for us in that last 30 seconds,” forward Scott Ranger told Ian Busby of the Calgary Sun.

The loss was particularly difficult for Rochester to stomach after chipping away against the team that now holds the NLL’s best record.

“We were just trying to throw everything at the net to get that last one,” Knighthawks forward Mike Accursi said of the late flurry against Poulin. “I made the pass (to Vitarelli) and pretty much had my hands up in the air thinking it was a goal, but we had two more opportunities to score.

“It was a tough loss.”

One player who probably relished the win more than anyone was Calgary’s Shawn Evans, who seemed to take a dig at his former team after finishing with three goals and six assists

Evans was dealt from Rochester for the fifth overall pick in the 2011 NLL Entry Draft, which the Knighthawks used to select Johnny Powless.

“We had that one won early,” Evans told Busby. “After the first half, we just had to keep playing it. We had costly turnovers and let them transition the ball to get back into it.”

Powless had the best game of his young career with seven points (three goals, four assists).

Calgary wraps up the season with road games against Rochester and Edmonton before hosting a playoff game on May 5. 

 

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