Professional lacrosse players can get senioritis, too. In the last game of the season Saturday, the Buffalo Bandits were in firm possession of first place in the East and could not change the playoff seeding with a win. The result of the game was meaningless. Therefore, the most important thing for the Bandits in their final regular season game was to come away without injuries.
They did just that, which was a positive for the Bandits, who lost 15-9 to the Rochester Knighthawks in front of a sellout crowd in HSBC Arena.
"With today being a nothing game in the standings, not to make excuses, it is tougher to get up for than a playoff game," star forward John Tavares said.
The Bandits came out flat in the first quarter, especially on defense and let the Knighthawks jump out to a 6-0 lead in the first seven minutes. They did get it together after the first quarter and made a game of it, getting within three goals at one point. The final score could have easily been a Buffalo win with the multitude of quality scoring opportunities they had, but the Bandits just could not bury the ball in the net.
Buffalo got through this game unscathed and will bring an all-out effort on Saturday's playoff matchup with the Boston Blazers.
"We've beaten everyone in our division twice, so we've got to get mentally tough and remember what got us to first place as opposed to the last two games," said Tavares. "We worked really hard to get first place and we fought hard and really well as a team. We backed down a little bit in the last couple games, but we've got to go back to what we were doing well."
The Bandits will come out to play in front of a home crowd in a do-or-die situation. They will have to go back to the tough defense that helped goaltender Mike Thompson have a stellar season, allowing the fewest goals in the National Lacrosse League. Chief thing they need to crack down on is not losing the weak side man, which burned them Saturday, and 2010 most valuable player Casey Powell will certainly exploit this in the playoffs.
On offense, the Bandits have a lot of talent. They just need to keep moving and drive hard to create opportunities. If they do that, it will work out. Their core of forwards are too talented to have another night where nothing goes.
The Bandits should come out with a win when they faceoff against the Blazers at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in HSBC Arena.
Derik Wagner is a senior at Canisius High School.