There’s nothing wrong with a little personal affirmation. I mean, no one needs to tell Kate Upton she’s a smoke show but I’m sure she smiled to herself anyway as she flipped through the latest SI Swimsuit Edition. Anthony Cosmo knows he’s still one of the best goaltenders in the National Lacrosse League but after a so-so season to date by his standards, Saturday’s performance against division rival Rochester had to put a big grin on his mug. A week after a 15-7 home loss to the K-Hawks, Cosmo stopped 54 of the 60 shots he faced from the red-hot offence of the defending champs as the Bandits posted a huge 10-6 victory in Rochester.
“It was good to get the confidence back,” agreed Cosmo. “For the two games before I was seeing the ball well but it was squeaking through somehow and finding it’s way into the net. “This past weekend it seemed those ones that normally squeak through stayed out for me. It just seemed like the ball was moving that much slower as the game progressed and our defence did a great job of keeping that ball to the outside and allowing me to get on a roll.”
If you listened closely, you would have likely heard a large sigh of relief come from the Buffalo dressing room following the win. While the team was 3-3 going into the tilt, the win over the K-Hawks was their most convincing W of the season and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
“The past three games (prior) we haven’t played well,” said Cosmo. “We’re still trying to find our identity. This game was a good turning point, but it’s only a stepping stone. We identified what type of team we are and how we’re going to battle. With our defence, we switched things up, too, showing we are adaptable. Darris and the rest of the coaching staff are doing a great job at adapting to whatever team we are playing with our defence.”
Cosmo admits the club has heard all the negative talk about their squad this season: They’re too old, too slow, not as talented as other clubs, and stuck playing a style more suited to the ‘old NLL.’ Some of the criticism is warranted and a good argument can be made for some of the points. Moreover, the Bandits are under the microscope more than some other NLL clubs due to their large and rabid fan base. The Bandits’ faithful expect their team to be more than competitive, they expect them to be a perennial title contender.
At the end of the day, said the veteran goaltender, all he and the rest of the people in the organization can do to answer any doubts about them is simple: Win games.
“There’s a lot of non-believers,” said Cosmo. “But, at the same time, it’s great motivation. There’s a lot of people that thought we were too old, we’re out of time. In a league with such great parity, I think we’re doing just fine. Our job it to make these non-believers start to believe.”
While ‘old’ is a word that seems to come up often when people talk about the Bandits, the club did inject quite a bit of youth in the off-season under the new leadership of former goalie and now GM Steve Dietrich. And when you overhaul a team, it can take awhile for chemistry to form and that most used of all sports terms to happen:The club to gel.
“We got a lot of young guys and a lot of older guys — not too many in the middle,” said Cosmo. “We’re still trying to find our identity with this group and what works best with the players we have. Younger players are trying to find their roles and older players are trying to find their roles again on this team. There was a lot of turnover from last year. But, at the same time, it’s the Buffalo Bandits. We’re playing hard-nosed lacrosse and that’s how we want to be identified.”
Of course, it’s easy for players to try and one-man-show it when the team is struggling and that’s the exact opposite of what they need.
“There’s no one person who’s going to win a game for us,” said Cosmo. “We have to be 23 deep, no matter if you’re playing or not. We have to be the sum of all of our parts — that’s the best way to put it.”
Cosmo also addressed two of his teammates who have taken the most heat this season for their play: Tracey Kelusky and Luke Wiles. Both forwards have been criticized for not producing enough on the scoresheet.
“Tracey has been snake-bitten on the offensive door with points, but he brings so much more to the table than just burying goals for us,” said Cosmo. “And Luke had a breakthrough game this week (he scored a hat-trick). But, you know, we don’t need six goals from a guy to win. We need everyone to chip in, guys to score one or two, so we spread out our offence and other defences can’t key on one player.”
In a league all about momentum, the Bandits unfortunately find themselves with a bye week now. Perhaps the extra time to continue to find ‘their identity,’ as Cosmo said, will be a good thing.
Next up for the team is a rather unusual back-to-back when they take on the Rock in Toronto on Thursday, Feb. 28 before hosting the Wings the following night. The pair of tilts will go a long way to showing if the changes the club has made on the fly to their style of play this season have solved their woes.
“Both of these games are huge,” said Cosmo. “They can either swing us in the right direction or swing us in the wrong direction.”
It didn’t seem possible for Argo Adriano Belli to embarrass himself any worse given his past actions, but pouring some beer over the head of Roughnecks captain Andrew McBride before the opening face-off of Friday’s game in Toronto takes the cake. There simply are no words for what a pathetic display that was by Belli. He said sorry after. Doesn’t matter one bit in my book … Scott Ranger had a big breakout game vs. the Swarm, notching six goals and eight points. In his two games previous to Saturday, he was held without a point in the win over Edmonton and had just one goal and three points in the loss to Toronto Friday night … Has Andrew Suitor surpassed Brodie Merrill as the most complete player in the NLL? You sure could have a healthy debate on that … Awful weekend for Geoff Snider. His seven minutes of penalties against Toronto for going after Scott Evans (still subject to league review) cost Calgary a chance to win. The next night he loses a fight to Suitor and collects two majors (the latter for an elbow) to get tossed from the game (and gave the Swarm a big chance to seal a win but was bailed out by Mike Poulin and the team’s penalty killers). Calgary needs face-off wins and transition goals from him, not PIMs … Wow, is Kiel Matisz ever money in tight … With all the talk about young players such as Billings, Duch, Evans, Dickson and Benesch, to name a few, worth noting Colin Doyle is third in league scoring with 43 points. The consummate pro and future Hall of Famer is still very much one of the top offensive guys in the league and he’s showing it after a slow start … Speaking of Matthews, he’s now leading the league in goals with 23. Definitely living up to all his hype … Now you see the Knighthawks offence, now you don’t. Impressive job by Buffalo holding Rochester to just six goals. Cody Jamieson (15), Craig Point (11) and Dan Dawson (9) combined for 35 shots but scored just one goal each … Needless to say, it was huge weekend for the Edmonton Rush. Going 2-0 put them back in the hunt in the West and gave a much needed confidence boost after losing back-to-back to the Roughnecks.The assistant managing editor of the Calgary Sun, Pilson began covering the NLL when the Roughnecks started in 2000. The longtime lacrosse player has been contributing to Inside Lacrosse ever since. Email him at email@example.com or go to CalgarySun.com.
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