Blogs | 2/19/2013 10:12:26 AM | John Gurtler
I really didn’t know what to expect with the Bandits/Knighthawks game last Saturday night in Rochester.
How did the team react to head coach Darris Kilgour in Tuesday night’s practice? What would their confidence be like? Would they react positively, picking themselves back up, dusting off and starting all over again?
You know, clean the barrel with a putty knife from that terrible home loss a couple of weeks ago. Get all the bad stuff; throw it off to the side and “fuh-get about it.”
I was heading down the thruway around 4 p.m. Saturday, listening to The Allman Brothers “Whipping Post,” just wondering what to expect. You’ve got to think about something while driving Thunder Alley, one of the most boring stretches of highway in the land.
Thankfully, there were some wicked snow squalls that snuck up just outside Batavia that helped me turned the page on my thoughts.
I arrived in Rochester around 5:30 p.m. While pulling into the arena parking lot, I was amazed at the number of Bandit fans who had already arrived. They were all dressed in their Bandit colors, building a small contingent, and I suppose, getting ready to head up the street to the Dinosaur BBQ restaurant.
By the time I crossed the street to the Blue Cross Arena backdoor, there was a full flock of Bandit fans. And they were all buzzed about the game, feeling good and very excited.
That was a positive sign, so I felt good walking through the arena doors and down the hallway to the Bandits team rooms. The closer I got to the Bandits side of the hallway, I could see and hear the Bandits player talking as they were noticeably at ease. That uncanny character I mentioned a couple of weeks ago was the aura, permeated with confidence.
The building had just hosted an indoor soccer game in the afternoon and the lacrosse configuration was not quite set so the players waited in the hallway for the green light for access to the turf. I could tell there was a sense of urgency amongst the team.
But in all fairness, it resembled a group of guys who were just asked a simple question: Why do you play the game? And the expressions on their faces gave the answer. Plain and simple: Because they have passion, incredibly competitive, gifted and plain just love to play lacrosse.
This is the uniqueness about this team. They knew exactly what they had to do in the game ahead and they were going to have fun doing it.
As head coach Darris Kilgour said, it was time to shut up and go out there and compete. “We’ve done enough talking, we need guys doing it,” said Kilgour before the start of Saturday night’s game.
“We had a really, really good team practice on Tuesday,” said Bandits defenseman Billy Dee Smith. “It was a little more intense than usual. Guys were getting into it with each other. We practiced like a game. We practiced really hard. The intensity and fire was definitely there.
We fixed a couple of mistakes and it was just an overall better attitude. You’re always going to have that one bad game, and I don’t think we could have played any worse. It’s just a matter of sticking to our game plan and going out there and executing it.”
And the Bandits did just that, by boxing out on defense, forcing shots to the outside and the offense moved their feet all the time. Something Smith said the Bandits worked on in practice.
And, indeed, it paid off.
I was wondering about Darris and how he would approach the game in Rochester. Did he get there early, staying in the basement for seven hours drinking coffee? Then explode into the dressing room with “you’re not going to amount to jack squat!” Or did he take the calm and collective approach? It was the latter, obviously. He knows this team understands as they have been attentive to his coaching.
“It’s not one player that going to make a difference,” said Kilgour. “It’s everybody. Everybody has to take it upon themselves and do their part. If we get 18 guys working harder than the other 18 guys across from them, we’ll probably get a win.”
And they got it convincingly.
I thought goaltender Anthony Cosmo was amazing, making 54 saves. He didn’t need any antler spray or anything. He was seeing the ball like a hawk. “We’re going with Anthony Cosmo. He’s been our starter. He is going to be our starter, period,” said Kilgour.
The Bandits got off to one of the best starts all season, controlling the ball down in the Knighthawks zone for one minute and 15 seconds, taking three quality shots.
That fanned the flames for the game’s first goal by Shawn Williams, an objective Kilgour mentioned on the pre-game show. “To get off to a good start is very important for us and hopefully the guys can come out with the fire,” said Kilgour.
David Brock’s fight with Stephen Keogh was a good match up and I feel it stoked the Bandits bench up. While Brock landed some good rights, he also took one of the top Knighthawks scorers out of the game for seven minutes in the second quarter.
And, too, talk about keeping your composure. After a Bandits goal in the second quarter was waved off that could have tied the game at three, they rattled off two straight in 13 seconds, and another in one minute and 36 seconds.
It was good to watch Luke Wiles score a hat trick, his first of the year. Mark Steenhuis had a strong game defensively and offensively, recording three assists. He has points in every game this season.
Entering the bye week, everybody gets some time to heal. John Tavares should be cleared for the Bandits back-to-back games February 28 in Toronto and March 1 at home against Philadelphia. Veteran forward Matt Giles is close to returning as well.
The road schedule is going to be tough come Mid-March and into April, with the Bandits three trips to Colorado, Minnesota and Washington respectively.
Buffalo’s next game will be one week from this Thursday - February 28 - in Toronto. We will have the game for you on WBEN News Radio with the pre-game show starting at 7 p.m. from the Air Canada Centre. WGR’s Dave Buchanan will join me as Randy Mearns will be gearing up his Canisius College Griffs for their field season.
The National Lacrosse League released their monthly E-newsletter last Friday with some interesting notes, including NLL Commissioner George Daniel hosting a live video chat Wednesday, February 20 at 8:30 p.m. ET on Google+.
The league also has a survey segment, which includes questions on the timing of the NLL season, number of games, ticket pricing and more. Check it out. You could win a pair of seasons when you fill it out. Go to NLL.com and join the mailing list.