BUFFALO, N.Y. — With 12 minutes to go in the fourth quarter of Saturday night’s NLL East Division Final, the visiting Toronto Rock had cut an 8-3 lead the Bandits all the way down to 8-7 in just 9 minutes, 23 seconds.
At the bench, co-head coach Rich Kilgour told his team, “Define the moment, don’t let the moment define you.”
“I’ve been pushing him for a couple years now to start a T-shirt business," confessed Bandits captain Steve Priolo. "Like I don’t know why he doesn’t. Everything that guy says should go on a T-shirt. It’s just so motivational, I don’t know. Man, he’s such a good leader, right?
"That’s what he does, these pep talks. Takes a lot of weight off my shoulders. I’m like Richie just said everything, right? It sounds great. Let’s do what he said.”
After the game, Kilgour beamed about a team of players he said he's been preaching to simply to be good teammates.
“I tell them all the time, coaches talk and players walk, and they’ve been walking pretty … Dewey Cox, they’ve been walking hard,” he said.
Buffalo netted the next three goals and pulled away to win its ninth division title, 12-8. Forward Chase Fraser almost scored the prettiest goal of the night in the first half, but his spectacular dive was waived off for a crease violation after video review.
“Yeah I thought I had that," Fraser said. "I don’t know what happened there, just getting tackled, and planted my feet, and just launched. It’s too bad my toe came down or that would have been a really nice one for 'SportsCenter' there. We can keep dreaming.”
Undaunted, he ended up scoring two of the biggest goals of the game in the second half as the Bandits pulled away.
“I was just going with the flow of the game. They came back, we went man down there, and they got within one or two, and the transition came up and took advantage of my opportunity and put it in the back of the net," Fraser said.
Buffalo next advances to play Calgary in a best-of-three series, trying to win its fifth NLL Championship and first since 2008.
“It’s all I think about," Priolo said. "It’s honestly all I think about, and I think it’s the same thing for everybody else in that room. You get a chance like that in 2016, and it grabbed a hold of you, and that’s all you want to do is take it to that next level, and you don’t want to have that feeling you had in 2016 ever again, so we’re going to keep pushing.”
That push will bring them back to the carpet of KeyBank Center at least once more, as they take on the Roughnecks at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Should it be necessary, the deciding Game 3 would be played Friday, May 31 in Buffalo.
“This is the best place to play in the world. These fans are incredible. You saw them out there, they’re on their feet the entire time, and that’s what it is," Priolo said. "You don’t want to win a championship for yourself.
"You want to win it for everybody else around you, all those boys in the locker room, and it carries through that locker room right into those stands, and you want to bring a championship back to this city. You want to take that cup through the streets and you want to have a party.”
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