The Buffalo Bandits played superb indoor lacrosse for the first 56 minutes of their game with the Rochester Knighthawks on Saturday night.
The last four minutes almost spoiled it. But not quite.
Buffalo gave up five goals in the last four minutes to make it exciting for the 13,339 in attendance, but the Bandits hung on for a much-less-close-than-it-sounds 11-10 victory in the First Niagara Center to take command in the National Lacrosse League East.
“I’m glad the game was only 60 minutes, and not 60 minutes and 30 seconds,” said a happy and relieved John Tavares of Buffalo after the game.
For the majority of the game, the Bandits were in control as they throttled the formerly undefeated Knighthawks. A major reason why was the play of their goalie, Anthony Cosmo, who was a difference-maker throughout the game.
Cosmo finished the game with 46 saves on 56 shots. He was particularly effective in the first half, when he stopped 22 of 24 shots by the Knighthawks.
“Coz was excellent. That may have been the best I’ve seen him play in a Bandit uniform,” coach Troy Cordingley said. “He’s playing with a lot of confidence right now. From the defense to the goalie, they are all on the same page.”
Cosmo added, “My defense played incredibly well in front of me.”
Some of the netminder’s saves were downright remarkable, the type in which it seems to take the air right out of the other team’s lungs.
“When a goalie is playing like that, it makes everyone more confident. They know they can take more chances because they know he’s back there,” Tavares said.
The 45-year-old forward certainly looked confident. He scored four goals to run his total to nine in his last two games played. Two of them came right after Rochester goals, thus preventing the Knighthawks from starting a good-sized run.
“That’s the way I’ve tried to play in my career, although I like to score goals anytime,” Tavares said. “When you see a team about to go on a run, you try to answer back.”
Cordingley said about Tavares, “I can’t even describe him. When we need a big goal, he seems to get it.”
Meanwhile, Joe Resetarits had his first hat trick in a Buffalo uniform. After his first-ever goal as a Bandit at home, the Hamburg native jumped into the glass in celebration.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “As a little kid I used to watch Steenhuis and Tavares do that.”
Dhane Smith added two goals, running the total for the pair of second-year players to five for the game.
“That was great to see,” Tavares said. “Dhane had a fabulous rookie year, and it was nice to see Joe pick up some goals. They are good, athletic players. Everyone calls us old, but it’s nice to have everyone contribute.”
Ryan Benesch added six assists, and Shawn Williams and Steenhuis had five points each.
The night came close to being spoiled in those last four minutes, as the Knighthawks put on a frantic finish to turn an 11-5 blowout into an 11-10 thriller. Joel McCready had two of those goals for Rochester.
“It was definitely scary,” Resetarits said. “We panicked a bit. We’ve got to get some loose balls in that situation.”
Still, the Bandits ran out the clock to run their winning streak to four games, their longest in almost three years. Buffalo now is in first place in the NLL East, a half-game ahead of Rochester (3-1).
“It sounds better than the last-place Buffalo Bandits,” Tavares said.