Crease call haunts Kelusky, Buffalo Bandits as Toronto Rock keep drive alive, plus links

Nick Rose and Bruce Codd celebrate Toronto's win that sends them to the East final. (Photo: Toronto Rock)
Nick Rose and Bruce Codd celebrate Toronto's win that sends them to the East final. (Photo: Toronto Rock)

The Buffalo Bandits thought they were going to overtime. The Toronto Rock thought they were going to overtime. Everyone at Air Canada Centre thought Saturday’s National Lacrosse League East Division semifinal was going to overtime. When John Tavares scored in the final second, it looked like the teams would be carrying a 7-7 tie into extra time. Instead, after video review of the play, the Rock carried a 7-6 victory into the locker room and the Bandits carried a 7-6 loss on to the bus for a long, quiet ride home. Tavares did indeed score a goal, but Tracey Kelusky’s presence in the crease nullified the goal and numbed Buffalo’s sense of reality. “I got ahead of the defenseman, and he pushed me into the crease. It’s a rule,” Kelusky told The Buffalo News. It was a tough and bitter pill for the Bandits to swallow, but the disappearance of their offense — 0 goals in the second half — was the real culprit.

“It’s real tough. It’s the end of our season. I mean, we just couldn’t get any goals in the second half,” coach Darris Kilgour told Bandits.com. “You do something like that, what do you expect is going to happen? We played too much defense, got too tired and they wore us down. Cosmo, he played unbelievable and we just couldn’t bail him out.”

Anthony Cosmo made 48 saves for Buffalo, but the offense 0-for-21 in shots. As for TK, he didn’t anticipate a sound night of sleep on Saturday and it had as much to do with his offensive performance (1 goal on 12 shots) than it did with being the crease on that final shot.

“I’ll definitely be fighting the pillow. I had the opportunities. They were good looks; I just couldn’t bury them,” he told the News.

And so the Rock’s pursuit of a second straight NLL title remains alive while the Bandits head into an offseason with plenty of questions, including Tavares and his NLL — and MSL — future.

“My thoughts right now are not on next year,” Tavares told Bandits.com. “My thoughts are pretty much thinking about whether I’m going to play summer lacrosse or not. Right now, I’m not sure.”

Plus the links

The Edmonton Rush exhaled a huge sigh of relief with Saturday’s win over rival Calgary, their first win over the Roughnecks since a 2010 playoff game. It was a streak that had reached 8 straight wins for the Riggers until the Rush offense found a way to finally unload in a 19-11 win. “It’s slaying the dragon. They’ve had our number for two years. Ironically we hadn’t beaten them since the playoff game two years ago. For some reason I had a good feeling coming in here though. I just felt that we had a whole lot better in us,” Edmonton GM and coach Derek Keenan said. (Edmonton Journal) … Calgary’s loss was a surprise, as was Colorado’s loss to the Minnesota Swarm, 14-10, on Saturday despite 5 goals from NLL MVP John Grant Jr. “We were so focused on not giving up goals that we weren’t truly in the flow of the offense,” he said. (Denver Post) … Brendan Thenhaus was happy enough to score Toronto’s winning goal on Saturday, but even happier that it came against the team that let him go when the Rock claimed him off of Buffalo’s practice squad earlier this season. “I didn’t get much on it. It just found a lane, hit the post and went in. It couldn’t have worked out much better. I was pretty happy, especially with the goal coming against the team that let me go,” he said. (Toronto Star) … An early-season battle of Junior A heavyweights saw the Coquitlam Adanacs card a 10-7 win over the Victoria Shamrocks on Saturday, and Shamrocks coach Larry Smeltzer is chalking it up to a lesson learned. “It’s early in the year. I thought we rose to the occasion. Let’s give ourselves a C-plus tonight, but we’re going all the way to an A at the end of this year. I’m not upset with the guys. It’s a learning process and we’re on our way up,” he said. (Times Colonist) … Coquitlam coach Neil Dinsdale thought fitness played the biggest role in his team’s win over Victoria. “Fitness is a big part of our program. I think they got tired, and when you get tired you make mistakes. We killed off quite a few penalties in the second because of that,” he said. (Times Colonist) … The Junior B Brampton Excelsiors are off to a 2-4 start this season and Sunday’s 8-5 loss to Owen Sound included an example of what’s been one of the team’s biggest hurdles: Playing man-down ball for 11 of the 20 minutes in the second period. ”It’s been one of our worst problems this year. We’ve been undisciplined and taking stupid penalties. As well as our man short has played, we haven’t been able to get over that. We’ve got some young, immature guys who think they have to be tough playing junior B for the first time and not let anybody give them any (crap),” said Brampton coach Mike Miles. (Owen Sound Sun Times) … The Junior A Nanaimo Timbermen are 0-4 to start the 2012 season following weekend losses to New Westminster (12-7 on Saturday) and Port Coquitlam (8-7 on Sunday) and while many don’t like to use injuries as an excuse, the T-Men probably could. They’re missing Glen Foley (concussion), Cory Koesdibyo (season-ending knee injury), Stu Mills (torn rib cartilage) and Dean Borrelli (knee). (Nanaimo Daily News) … Dhane and Drake Smith are with family on a cruise and no doubt miss playing lacrosse, but the Junior A K-W Braves miss them even more. That was evident in Sunday’s 15-12 season-opening loss to Peterborough, which scored 9 goals in the second period. “We just lost communication half way through. We just broke down (defensively). But it will come,” said forward Jay Lindsay. (The Record) … The Junior C Cornwall Celtics beat the Brockville Ballistic, 8-3 on Saturday night, to open their season. Coach Shawn Lauzon said afterward that while he’s pleased with the win, he was surprised by his team’s lack of conditioning. “We were slow and lazy, and I think our conditioning needs to be a bit better. It’s surprising, because (the start of) the season didn’t catch us by surprise, we knew it was coming,” he said. It may have caught up with the Celtics, who went out on Sunday and dropped a 5-4 decision to Kingston. (Standard Freeholder) … The loss to Kingston was Cornwall’s first in the regular season since last year’s opener and the winning streak that carried the Celtics to the provincial title included an 11-0 shutout of the Kings, but Kingston pointed to goalie David Joseph as a big reason for Sunday’s win. “He’s not just big, he also shows good movement, and those back-to-back saves in the third period … they really picked us up and made us want to show him that he didn’t have to keep bailing us out,” said forward Parker Woolcox. (Whig Standard) … The OLA had to redraw its Junior C schedule for this summer with news that the Kahnawake Hunters will not field a team this summer. The problems for the Hunters started late last season when the team forfeited its final 2 regular-season games, then was fined and ruled not eligible to compete in the playoffs. The Junior C schedule is now 16 games with 8 home and 8 road games for each team. “Kahnawake pulled out of the league for a variety of reasons. We knew they had some player issues, but then there was talk of (a lack of) qualified coaches. I’d be lying if I said I’m surprised,” Kingston GM  Hal Cowie said. (Whig Standard).

Chavez is an avid lacrosse player in Rochester and a journalist for the Democrat and Chronicle as well as a longtime Inside Lacrosse contributor. Email him at bob.chavez@nllinsider.com or go to RochesterSports.com.

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