11/27/2017 3:52:00 PM / John Gurtler
Week 3 of the Bandits training camp is in the books as the team continues to refine the systems being installed for the 2017-2018 season.
The roster has been pared down to those who will start the season as active members of the club, and those who will be in reserve on the practice squad.
The sessions included the team's annual open practice Saturday morning inside KeyBank Center, where over 1,000 loyal fans watched the squad go through drills and breakouts on offense and defense.
In addition to the on-field morning workout, Bandit fans were treated to a full-team autograph session, and an open fan forum with the team's director of lacrosse operations Scott Loffler, general manager Steve Dietrich, head coach Troy Cordingley and assistant coach Rich Kilgour. There was a good crowd who asked questions ranging from equipment, rules, team leadership, player performance and expansion.
The late-afternoon closed session included specific drills geared towards game-type situations, which were pretty intense.
Sunday morning, the team continued to define their systems with 5-on-5 action and specific power-play formations. This is where everything with the Bandits approach is outlined - and retraced - so everybody understands. It's tightening the nuts and bolts as well as getting the timing down with positioning and movement.
I would say, with the restlessness out on the turf, the Bandits are ready for an audience and eager for opening night.
And you are going to see a new approach, especially on offense.
"Offensively, we have a very creative bunch this year," Cordingley said. "In the past we've been very structured. You are going to see remarkable ball movement.
"Callum Crawford is probably one of the most amazing feeders of the game. You’re going to see some of the passes he's going to make that you're not even going to believe how it gets through. They are still gelling. It's familiarity [right now].
"Defensively, we want to get back to being a fast team and pushing the ball up the floor. Two years ago, we lead the league in transition goals, and we have to get back to that."
The jersey numbers have been assigned with name plates being sewn on the backs, equipment brands selected and issued, and, on December 8, the Bandits hit the KeyBank Center floor in full team colors for Game 1 against the Toronto Rock.
But there is still plenty of work to be done, which includes more intense practices in preparation.
Saturday's open practice gave me a chance to talk with some of the fans in the seats while they watched the Bandits. I was interested in their impressions from last year and the personnel changes the team made for this season.
When you do a 'man on the street' reporter approach, you tend to receive more of an honest and emotional response. Thank you to the Bandit fans who agreed to participate.
Bill from Buffalo: "They seemed to be a little slow before, so this year I hope they get a lot of speed. Speed wins. Young and fast guys seem to do well out there. I like the roster this year. We’ve got Josh Bryne, Callum Crawford - some big guys; it should help our lineup."
Kevin from Depew: "I am very excited to see [Jordan] Durston out there in a Bandits uniform this year. He is a very good playmaker."
Joe from North Tonawanda: "They couldn't score and played little defense last year but, I love 'em, man, they are awesome."
Tom from Akron: "While they didn't make the playoffs, we are first-year season ticket holders, and, so far so good. I absolutely love it, very exciting. I can't wait till they start."
John from Welland: "It's going to be a big change this year. There are a lot of openings, you know, with Billy Dee Smith leaving and David Brock gone. There are a lot of chances for new guys to come on the team. It’s a pretty even league now; there are a lot of good teams."
Bradley from Hamburg: "Good to get some new talent, faster guys moving. Sometimes [last season], they would just give up near the end of the game. Hopefully with these new guys we just keep fighting for more wins."
Kyle from Lancaster: "They look pretty sharp today."
Brian from Elma: "Just the way they looked last year, it wasn't a good representation of the product that is usually on the field. They look pretty good, nice solid defense and offense."
Jason from Sloan: "Last season, they were standing around a lot, no speed, and the physicality went down. They look younger, faster; it's going to be a more fast-paced game this season."
Mike from Tonawanda: "I wasn't mad, I was disappointed, what with the injuries and the fact that it didn't seem enough guys would step up and fill those positions and get us back to the playoffs. I definitely think they have a chance of making the playoffs with a lot of new guys."
Kevin from Corfu: "They just couldn't get over the hump; Goals let in at the wrong time, the defense struggled - I think the team on the backend was a little slow, and then of course Dhane Smith was hurt for a lot of the time. I like it so far. I'd like to see how Josh Byrne does and the new guys; just to see how they work in with the team."
Chris from West Seneca: "It's a younger, faster team for sure. We are hopeful for a better season this year.”
Matt from West Seneca: "It was horrible last season, they should have been able to do a much better job. I don't think they gelled; their lines just didn't click. They are looking good, even better than last year."
Brian from Buffalo: "Inconsistency, just not connecting, hopefully they can clear that up. I went to the Six Nations [preseason] games and they looked pretty good. Buque looked great. I'd like to see how Callum Crawford plays. Yeah, they all look pretty good.”
Jason from Cheektowaga: "It seemed they weren't that motivated and their defense was struggling quite a bit with different players coming in and out. There are a lot of new players and I am excited to see how they are going to play together."
Linda from Cheektowaga: "That new goalie looks good; fits right in the spot."
Derek from Buffalo: "I think they are going to do pretty good with their new players."
Brian from Buffalo: "There was not enough discipline, too many penalties, untimely penalties, breakdowns at bad times. Good to see some nice young players come in. It’s hard that they had to trade away some of the other guys, but I think youth will help them out. It seems to be the way the league is going."
Jack from Fort Erie: "Just not moving the ball on offense last season. I love the new look, the Bandits are my team. I've liked them for who knows how long."
Mark from Lockport: "Well, I am hoping they are a little bit faster - they seem to be - and a little bit younger. Hoping for the best."
The Bandits will move back to the ILA on Six Nations with more closed practices on the schedule before returning to Buffalo the week of December 4, in preparation of the home opener December 8 against Toronto.