Niagara Gazette

Sports

January 25, 2014

Bandits host Rochester tonight

Niagara Gazette — The Buffalo Bandits welcome the defending champs to town at the right time.

The Rochester Knighthawks come to First Niagara Center tonight for a 7:30 p.m. faceoff to square off with a Bandits team that has won three straight since dropping their season opener. It’s also a rematch of last year’s win-or-go-home regular season finale in which the winner advanced to the playoffs and the loser took the next eight months off.

It was Rochester coming out on the right side of a 10-9 decision. The Knighthawks haven’t lost since as they went on to capture their second consecutive National Lacrosse League title in 2013. They are winners of their first three games this year, making it seven straight victories dating back to that last go-around with Buffalo.

In a matchup of perhaps the two hottest teams in the NLL, the Bandits (3-1) can gauge how much improvement they’ve really made since Rochester (3-0) kept them out of the postseason. The winner will also assume first place in the East.

“It’s a litmus test, I guess,” Bandits General Manager Steve Dietrich said. “Rochester is the best in the league, back-to-back champs. This is going to let us know how far we still have to go, you could say, before we can be talked about in the same sentence as teams like that.”

Buffalo’s latest victory was a 16-9 thumping of Colorado last week. Each passing game has represented a more complete game for the Bandits, and Dietrich believes the play of the back end has been key to early success. Especially that of Anthony Cosmo, who sports an 11.50 goals against average while going 3-0.

“I think our defense and our transition game is really starting to gel,” Dietrich said. “Coz is playing like we know Coz can play. We’re hoping that our offense is eventually going to catch up to the ‘D’ and the transition and play to their capabilities.”

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