Mike Hominuck’s lacrosse career has been a story of trying to take advantage of opportunities.
It goes back to his first chance to play in the National Lacrosse League. Then he got a chance to be a regular. From there he received a second opportunity at the sport, and a second chance at playing for the Buffalo Bandits.
Tonight, Hominuck and the Bandits have an opportunity to put some distance between themselves and the Rochester Knighthawks in the standings when the teams meet in First Niagara Center (7:30 p.m., nll.com, Radio 1520 AM).
Buffalo comes into the game with a 3-2 record, while Rochester improved to 2-3 by beating Philadelphia, 20-10, on Friday. It was the Knighthawks’ best game of the season by far. They come into the game with two straight wins. The Bandits would like to keep Rochester looking up at them this season, so a win tonight would be a big step toward that goal.
“These divisional games are so important, you have to find a way to win,” Hominuck said. “There’s not much difference between us. It’s doing well on special teams, playing smart, and staying disciplined. If we concentrate on them, our chances of winning are great.”
The 31-year-old knows all about the rivalries in the East Division of the NLL. He grew up, and still lives, in Welland, Ont. Hominuck played lacrosse growing up, and jumped at the chance to see the pros across the bridge.
“I think my first game that I watched was to see the Buffalo Bandits – Richie and Darris Kilgour, Chugger (Steve Dietrich),” he said. “It was pretty amazing to see indoor lacrosse played in such a big venue.”
Hominuck was drafted in the third round by Philadelphia in 2001, but he was attending Brock University in pursuit of a career in teaching. Eventually his rights were traded to Buffalo. After some time on the practice squad, Hominuck played parts of two seasons, 2004 and 2005, with the Bandits. He remembers it as a good education, since he “weighed 150 pounds soaking wet, going up against grown men.”
Hominuck was picked up in the expansion draft by Portland before the 2006 season. There he had a chance to play regularly, and capitalized. In 2006, Hominuck finished with a career-high 28 goals to go with 25 assists.
“I think it was a blessing in disguise,” he said. “That was a team that give me a chance to flourish and find my way. It was a great experience to play in Portland.”
That chance lasted fewer than two seasons, as he was sent to Minnesota in 2007. Then it was off to Edmonton in 2008, and to Toronto in 2010. The 2011 season is a blank one on Hominuck’s NLL resume, due to an unexpected vacation.
“It’s an interesting story,” he said. “After playing with Toronto, I was pretty banged up. I needed a little time away from the game. I took the summer off, and Toronto placed me on waivers, which was a real blow and a shocker. My mentality was, maybe it’s time to hang them up, maybe it’s time to explore other avenues and focus on teaching. No teams contacted me, and I was lost in the shuffle.”
Then in the summer of 2011, Hominuck was invited to join a summer team in Brampton, Ont., and that squad won the Mann Cup as the Canadian champion. It earned him an invitation to play for the Philadelphia Wings, who signed him to a two-year contract.
Hominuck made it through one year, then again was sent packing ... but at least this time it was close to home. He arrived in Buffalo as part of the deal that sent Kevin Buchanan to Philadelphia. Buffalo was much closer to Welland, and not far from Niagara Falls, Ont., where he works as an eighth-grade teacher (“I teach just about everything but French,” he said).
Still, Hominuck was part of a big crowd of new faces on the Bandits’ roster, and was scratched for two games while trying to show he deserved playing time. The veteran finally played in his first game of the season Jan. 19 in Rochester, and scored three goals. He’s added four goals in two games since then.
“He was one-dimensional when he first came into the league,” Bandits coach Darris Kilgour said. “We talked to him in training camp about defense. He’s done a great job of evolving his game to be less one-dimensional. He’s been a good two-way player. That’s made it tough to get him out of the lineup. He’s done a great job for us.”
Hominuck added, “As long as I give 100 percent on defense, I’m doing my job. It’s a team defense, and game-day preparation is more difficult because I have to think about defense. But once you get out there, you play like you practice. It’s becoming a bit easier.”
While Hominuck is happy to make a contribution, he’s still thinking about the chances that got away and the opportunities that will come up in the remainder of the season.
“You can contribute more than just scoring, but at the end of the day if your team doesn’t score as many goals as the other team, then the offense isn’t doing its job,” he said. “If I don’t score, I feel like I haven’t contributed. Now I’m focusing on getting other people open.
“But when I do get my chance, I’ve got to bury the ball. In the last couple of games, I’ve had a lot of looks. In the last game, there were opportunities that I missed that I wish I had back.”
John Tavares again will be out of the Bandits’ lineup tonight. He has a calf injury.