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GURTLER - EAST DIVISION TITLE RACE REMAINS TIGHT AS BUFFALO HEADS TO CALGARY

4/11/2018 4:24:00 PM / John Gurtler

Three more regular season games for the Bandits laid out over the course of three straight weeks, and the games begin on Saturday in Calgary. 

And the East Division remains logjammed at the top with the Bandits, Rochester, Georgia all tied for that top seed. All three are 6-4 in their last 10. Georgia is on a three-game winning streak while the Bandits and K-Hawks have won two in a row. 

That will change starting Friday night, and by late Saturday night, the standings will look entirely different as every East Division team is scheduled to play. 

If you want start figuring tiebreakers, Evan Schemenauer, who writes a weekly blog called Random Thoughts on laxallstars.com, goes deep into the three-way tie scenarios. Evan does a great job reviewing the NLL action on the floor and the business off. The scenarios are worth a look, but don't get confused – there still three weeks left.

 

Saturday's matchup

Saturday night's game in Calgary is going to be a good one, and I would say a perfect opponent for the Bandits as they need a good slap in the face after coming off a bye week. 

The Roughnecks have rebounded from a shaky first half of the season to earn the third playoff spot in the West, standing at 5-5 in their last 10. They lost to New England last Sunday in overtime 13-12.

Not only is Calgary a good team, but they are well coached, and they are strong at every position. 

Twenty-year-old goaltender Christian Del Bianco has performed beyond expectations. He leads the NLL with a .795 save percentage, stands 5-5 on the season, and has 10 assists.

The Roughnecks are loaded on defense with experienced players including Dan McRae, Curtis Manning and Creighton Reid. In addition, rookie Tyler Pace, former Bandit Mitch Wilde and Tyson Bell have been solid at both ends of the floor. 

And rookie Zach Currier is having a stellar season in transitioning the ball. He leads the league in loose balls with 161 and is fifth in the loop with 26 caused turnovers. In addition, the first-year pro out of Princeton has scored seven goals and earned 10 assists. 

Out the front door, Calgary's top five are racking up the points with Wesley Berg (32+36) Curtis Dickson (38+29) and Dhane Dobbie (29+37) going one, two, three respectively. They’re all in the top 15 of league scoring. Former Roughnecks ballboy and the pride of Alberta Holden Cattoni has been most impressive scoring 24 goals and 31 assists for 55 points. Riley Lowen (15+25) rounds out the scoring. 

This is the second meeting of the season between the Bandits and Roughnecks. The Bandits prevailed 13-8 January 6 on the floor of KeyBank Center. Dhane Smith and Jordan Durston each had five points and goaltender Alex Buque was stellar turning aside 44 Roughneck shots, registering an .846 save percentage. 

The Bandits in uniform are just as strong, if not better. Dhane Smith (33+58) is second in league scoring and has 32 points in his last five games. Shawn Evans (27+46) is tied for eighth and has 22 points since joining the Bandits. Mitch Jones (29+38) is tied with Dickson for 12th. 

Rookie Josh Byrne (24+33), coming off a four goal two assist night against New England, holds a 13-point edge over Austin Shanks of the Knighthawks. Vaughn Harris (15+12) starts the week in fourth. Chase Fraser (8+5 in seven games) scored a hat trick and two assists against New England after sitting four games to fill-in for the injured Craig England. 

Defenseman and captain Steve Priolo has 114 loose balls and 24 caused turnovers. Kevin Brownell has 94 loose balls. Mark Steenhuis has four points since his return, adding efficiency to the transition. The rest of the defense/transition continues to play strong. In the last five games, the crew has added 27 points in scoring. 

Goaltender Alex Buque, coming off a 54-save performance against New England, is 2-2 in his last four games with an impressive .801 save percentage. 

The Bandits power play is 14-for-20 in the last four games for 70 percent efficiency. The team is third overall in the league in goals scored (13.27) and lead the loop in fourth quarter scoring, and too, tied for goals against (44) with Colorado and Saskatchewan.  

Ok, enough. Bandits on three, with three left! 


NLL broadcast updates

I had a good phone conversation last week with Joel Feld, broadcast consultant for the NLL, regarding next seasons step into real broadcast coverage and the new relationship with Bleacher Report-Turner Sports, a.k.a. B/R Live. 

Starting next season, every NLL team will have made a significant investment into upgrading their broadcast facilities in effort to produce broadcast quality high definition (HD) games. This includes dedicated cameras (with the right lenses), new NLL graphics throughout the game, mixed sound with effects, PA and referee channels, and improved production equipment to support a network quality presentation.

Most importantly – and this goes for the Bandits – no more following arena feeds! Every team will have a producer, director and production team specifically for the NLL games.

Once the game leaves the arena in HD digital format, it will be supported with robust transmitting quality, which will eliminate video freezing and buffering. The new relationship with B/R Live is supported by the latest technology in streaming live events. Granted, this technology is not perfect yet, but it will be much better. 

B/R Live will be the exclusive carrier of NLL content, which include all games, features and supported video vignettes. 

Right now, their sporting content is free to view, with the paywall starting in early June. Too, by mid-summer, they will have services available for Canadian users. 

Pricing for NLL packages and games will be released sometime this summer. Flexible pricing will also be available. 

I hope flexible pricing will be like what the NBA is doing through the directive of their commissioner Adam Silver, allowing fans to "snack" on games that are in progress, for as little as 99 cents. There is a feature set-up where B/R-Live will text you informing of an exciting game going on and the ability to "snack" on a portion of the broadcast for the small fee. 

You can start your relationship with B/R Live by going to bleacherreport.com. There you can read through the services available, sign-up for the app, and follow on Twitter (@brlive). 

Good things in store next season for watching NLL action on your devices. 


How to catch Saturday’s game

Our radio broadcast coverage Saturday night from Calgary will be on ESPN 1520AM in Buffalo and WGWE 105.9FM in Salamanca, which also has streaming. 

The pre-game show starts at 8:30 p.m. Mark Steenhuis will join me in the Player’s Perspective segment, and, I go 1-on-1 with coach Troy Cordingley. 

Faceoff is set for 9 p.m. ET. The game will also be carried on NLLTV.com and CBS Sports Digital through subscription service. 
 

GAME CENTER
4/28/2018 7:30 PM / Buffalo, NY
Rochester Knighthawks vs. Buffalo Bandits