Niagara Gazette

Pro Sports

January 7, 2010

LACROSSE: Bandits hope to start drive for five

Their best player — and one of the league’s best — is locked into a new five-year deal. The circuit’s all-time scoring leader has determined he’s ready for at least one more shot at glory.

And their coach, who made overtures after an abrupt ending to last season that he might be looking to step aside, has regained a coaching focus after handing off the general manager’s duties.

The big question that remains is this — who’ll show up for the Buffalo Bandits this year, the team that stormed out to a dominating 6-1 start last season or the one that limped home with a 3-5 mark down the stretch and allowed upstart New York to steal the East Division final away?

Here’s a look ahead as the Bandits open their 19th season of play with a distinct chance to capture their fifth championship.

The good

It’s hard to knock an offense that led the National Lacrosse League last year with 223 goals, especially when Mark Steenhuis and John Tavares lead the charge. All Steenhuis did last season with lead the league in points with 101, and the Bandits’ offense primarily ran through him.

His contract proves the franchise intends to be one of the league’s power players for years to come.

“Obviously, it’s a huge signing for the team and the organization,” Bandits assistant coach Duane Jacobs said. “The team has made a statement to the fans and the players, Buffalo is committed to winning. To lock up a player like Mark for such a significant amount of time is huge. We know he’s going to be there for five years.”

Tavares, who contemplated retirement after the playoff loss, also had 51 goals and despite turning 41 in the off-season, he’s yet to show signs he can’t play at an elite level. He’s a three-time league MVP and would likely prefer to end his spectacular run with another title. That’s how he started his reign, helping the franchise win the crown in its inaugural season.

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