The Buffalo Bandits have lost their last three games. That’s enough for Bandits’ forward Aaron Wilson.
“We’ve got to turn it around right now,” he said. “Time is running out. It’s whoever is playing the best from now on.”
Buffalo will host the Edmonton Rush tonight at the First Niagara Center (7:30 p.m., nll.com, Radio 1520 AM), and the Bandits know that they must turn around their fortunes in a hurry.
It seemed as if it were only a moment ago when the Bandits were battling for first place in the East Division of the National Lacrosse League. Then Buffalo blew a lead in the final three seconds to Philadelphia on March 1, and went on to lose in overtime. Then the Bandits lost two straight to Colorado.
“Confidence plays a role in it,” Wilson said about the skid. “That Philadelphia loss, we lost confidence. I thought we deserved that win. ... We got absolutely no bounces.”
All of a sudden, the Bandits are at 5-6, and only a game ahead of Colorado and Minnesota (both 4-7) in the overall standings. Rochester is in-between at 4-6. That’s important to know, since only one team misses the playoffs.
Therefore, Buffalo is only a game out of the basement with five games to go. The Bandits do not want to get into must-win situations down the stretch in order to simply qualify for the postseason. They have to start winning, and soon.
That could be a tough assignment against an Edmonton team that is getting better by the week. Wilson knows all about the Rush, since he played for them in 2012.
“It was a weird year. We didn’t win a lot in the regular season, and I didn’t have much success personally,” the forward said. “It was frustrating until the playoffs, and then somehow we made it to the championship game” when Edmonton lost to Rochester.
“I’m sure that gave them confidence going into this year,” Wilson continued. “They probably have some unfinished business. They were that close to winning it all, and that’s on their minds.”
Edmonton is 6-5 and only a half-game behind Washington in the West Division. Mark Matthews has made a huge difference for the Rush, as the first-year player already has a team-leading 31 goals and is the top candidate for the NLL’s rookie of the year award.
“I’ve seen some games, and he’s obviously a great player,” Wilson said. “We’re going to have our hands full stopping him.”
Wilson missed out on playing with Matthews when he was traded to the Bandits for transition player Jeremy Thompson. The 32-year-old is now on his fourth team in five years, and he is enjoying the chance to be near his Ontario residence.
“It’s a lot closer to home, which makes it easier on the body and the mind. It’s a drive instead of a flight,” he said. “Hopefully I can spend multiple years here.”
The veteran isn’t the biggest player on the field at 5-foot-9, 180 pounds. Despite having five 30-goal seasons in his 10-year career, he still had to prove to the team’s coaching staff that he could contribute.
“I’m not a fan of little O [offense] guys, but he came in and earned his way on the team,” assistant coach Rich Kilgour said. “He’s great working without the ball on his stick. He can set picks, work his way around, and the next thing you know he’s open in the crease. We weren’t sure about him, we wanted our offense to get younger, but he’s earned his way. It’s a great tribute to him.”
Wilson comes into the game tonight tied with rookie Dhane Smith for the team lead in goals with 16. The veteran has been a consistent scorer as a Bandit.
“I expect a lot out of myself. I’m never satisfied, which is a good thing,” he said. “Looking at my career, I know I need to score to help the team.
“I don’t think I’ve played my best lacrosse this year. I’m trying to push myself to do as much as I can offensively.”
Wilson, who hasn’t missed a game since 2004, has been one of the few forwards to play every week this season. The Bandits’ coaching staff has frequently changed the offensive players in an attempt to find the right mix.
“It is a little different from week to week,” he said. “Everyone was thinking about what they were going to do. They’d say, is this guy going to play? Guys do think about that, and it does mess with the chemistry a little bit.
“It’s a matter of finding the right guys who can play together. It’s a tough task, but we did well against Colorado last week. Hopefully we’ve found a good combination.”