GURT'S BLOG: MATINEE IDOLSBlogs | 3/29/2011 11:50:21 AM | John Gurtler
It was certainly a good weekend for the Bandits in St. Paul, Minnesota. A rare afternoon matinee performance in the land of milk and honey, which just happened to be dominated by a biker’s accessory and riding wear show and the glamour of the Mary Kay Cosmetics & Skin Care convention.
Generating in the middle of this hive of activity was a regularly scheduled home game of the NLL’s Swarm, which reaped a bounty of a playoff spot for the Bandits.
To tell you the truth, I did not see as many ZZ Top impersonators and Sorority sisters dressed in pink suits at the game like I thought I would. It seemed everybody attending these two separate shows had long grey beards and pink dress suits.
While the Bandit players did not have a chance to really soak it all in, speaking for the rather diverse atmosphere around the beautiful setting of the Xcel Energy Center and supporting pavilions, my Saturday afternoon was spent just watching the two busy groups going from one place to another. It was rather interesting and the groups were quite the opposite in appearance, but complimentary to each other.
Why, even having lunch at the fine pub in the Hotel St. Paul, the two groups got to know one another while they washed down an early-afternoon cocktail of the same brand.
The Mary Kay attendees were from a small town, closer to Fargo, yaa, and the two biker guys, a father and son tandem, were from Vegas, burp.
Sitting at the same rail, having a burger at the bar, I was the line judge of the conversation as the vocal volleys went back and forth. I got a kick out of it all – and they did, too, having a nice chat with each other and learning a thing or two about skin care and Harleys.
St. Paul is an absolutely charming city and the downtown is perfectly laid out, with large stately buildings nestled close to each other. Yes, it can be wicked cold, but for the day-and-a-half we were there, the weather was just above freezing with blue sunny skies.
Saturday night was quite nice as the Bandits organization took the team to one of those prominent addresses within the city proper for a fine dinner in appreciation and preparation of the game(s) ahead.
Speaking of nice, the Xcel Energy Center is very impressive and a good home for the Swarm. It’s a true hockey building dedicated to their NHL Wild and high school hockey, with every team sweater hung nicely on the main concourse wall. College hockey colors were represented as well, and even more so this year as the Frozen Four starts in St. Paul on April 7.
But they are serious about lacrosse as the state of Minnesota is one of the fastest growing lacrosse playing populations in the country, numbering some 10,000 players!
The Swarm house played well to the national TV audience on Versus and the two teams out on the turf did not disappoint, although the Bandits seem to have the winning ticket in this venue, going 6-0 there since they started, and 13-2 overall in the regular season series.
Like the two shows (Bikers & Mary Kay) going on in the adjoining event centers, the Bandits had their own version of eclectic mix, with everybody getting involved in the scoring. John Harasym scored from his harvest of hard work at midfield when he confronted, controlled and possessed the ball all the way to Swam goaltender Nick Patterson, finding net on a nifty shot.
Tom Montour made a blazing play from his own zone, which included looking to an assisting Bandit player in full stride, only to beat Patterson with a beauty. He said he didn’t know where it went, but I beg to differ; he had his mark and knew exactly where he wanted to shoot it, even though he didn’t look.
Great, too, was Tracey Kelusky becoming a matinee idol with a hat trick. One of the goals was a perfectly timed, behind-the-net, flight-to-front pattern, with a sweeping stick swipe releasing the ball past a jolted Patterson.
Former Swarmer Chad Culp had a pair of nice goals and goaltender Mike Thompson was very solid with 39 saves, many of which were key.
Big weekend coming up for the Bandits as the reigning NLL champion Washington Stealth come to HSBC Arena Saturday night. There is still plenty at stake with first place in sight and tiebreakers for home field advantage in play. A few unsettled scores as well, yaa.
And the ‘tough buds’ and color pink come together again Saturday night at home for the Bandits with “Cancer Awareness Night” as the team will play with pink helmets and pink sticks. The equipment will then be auctioned off on April 16 when the Bandits host the Blazers. All proceeds from the auction will benefit the WNY affiliate of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation.
This Saturday’s radio pre-game show starts at 7 p.m. followed by the play-by-play on WWKB 1520 AM and Time-Warner Cable Sportsnet Television (channel 13).