Niagara Gazette

Sports

April 26, 2014

Bandits host regular season finale tonight

Niagara Gazette — The Buffalo Bandits are limping into their regular season finale tonight. That’s the bad news.

The good news is they were one the National Lacrosse League’s biggest success stories the first half of the year. Thus, the Bandits (8-9) have clinched a playoff berth amidst their current seven-game losing skid, becoming the first team in league history to endure such a stretch and still extend its year.

Buffalo’s hopes of earning a first-round bye in the postseason — a plausible scenario following an 8-2 start — have faded drastically as the seven straight defeats proceeded. The Bandits look to regain that winning feeling tonight at First Niagara Center against East Division champs and controller of that first-round bye, the Rochester Knighthawks (13-4). It’s a rematch of last Saturday’s 8-4 Knighthawks victory at Blue Cross Arena.

“We have to get a win. It’s pretty simple,” Bandits general manager Steve Dietrich said during a conference call this week. “The seven in a row is pretty amazing because we’re a better team than that.”

With three teams making the postseason in the five-team East, the Toronto Rock (8-9) represent the other representative, meaning it’ll square off against the Bandits in the first round. All that’s left to be decided is the location of that game.

A Buffalo win tonight would help cure an alarmingly lethargic second half, as it would clinch home field for the matchup. Toronto travels to Minnesota tonight for its finale, and a Rock loss would also etch Banditland as host of the contest since Buffalo owns any tiebreaker by winning the season series, 2-1.

The Bandits’ last win came against Colorado on March 15 when they were still atop the East.

Much of the contrast between the start and finish to the season has to do with Buffalo playing six of its last seven games on the road. The Bandits went 6-1 at home in their first 10 games. Once they played extended stretches away, their shortcomings crept to the forefront.

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