Blogs | 2/26/2013 3:59:29 PM | John Gurtler
It was a good week to take off, allowing the Bandits’ players to heal their mid-season bumps and bruises. And to give John Tavares one more week before he is evaluated to return.
There’s not much time to rest as the Bandits approach a pivotal point in their season with back-to-back games: a rare Thursday night encounter in Toronto the ACC; and on Friday night at home with Philadelphia.
It was quite a whirlwind of activity last week: the changing of the Sabres’ coaching guard; the Bills’ evaluating draft prospects at the combine in Indianapolis; Major League Baseball getting the exhibition season underway; the Daytona 500 and Danica; and UFC’s Ronda Rousey won her main event card, too. Not to mention that more news swirled about the sequester that is supposed to create economic havoc at the end of this week.
All the more to bring the Buffalo Bandits back in the mix to see what they can stir up this week with their two games. A great deal is at stake, with a chance to be 6-3 and take over the Eastern Division. But let’s not get ahead of the calendar.
First things first. The game against the Rock on Thursday night in the Air Canada Centre comes at a perfect time for the Bandits. While it’s considered one of the best event venues around, the floor has played havoc with the Bandits and bad memories float though the flutter of the playing turf.
More importantly as the Bandits make the turn at the half-way part of the season, the team is coming off a giant victory over Rochester and their confidence should be in cadence with their ability in facing the top club in the National Lacrosse League.
But the Rock have shown to play consistent against the Bandits, as both teams employ similar systems, with every bit of coachmanship between Rock head coach Troy Cordingly and Bandits Darris Kilgour. The competitive challenge between the two makes this the rivalry it has become today: A battle between two fierce leaders and extremely competitive and talented players.
Toronto has a very experienced club with, too, crafty veterans, a good defense and solid goaltending. The two teams match-up very nicely and, as I said, this is exactly the opponent the Bandits need right now.
It also gives them a chance to tune-up for the Friday night home encounter with the Philadelphia Wings, who had a good weekend last week with wins over Rochester and Colorado. That gives them the same 4-3 record as the Bandits, good for second place in the East.
Bandits’ goaltender Anthony Cosmo has found the shooting lanes and carries his defensive player of the week honors with confidence; a vital cog in the Bandits success in this two-game set.
The Bandits reorganized defense will face a swift set of Rock movement in the likes of playmakers Garrett Billings (15+36=51) and Colin Doyle (12+31=43). Josh Sanderson quietly pivots the attack with an even-balanced 36 points (18+18), as does Bandits nemesis Kasey Beirns with 14 goals and 14 assist on the stat sheet through eight games. Toronto will come in waves with tic-tac-toe passing as Stephan Leblanc averages four points a game, followed by Scott Evans and Blaine Manning.
To counter, Buffalo will attempt to slice the Rock’s collapsing defense under the direction of John Tavares, if he is cleared to play. It’s the playmaking vision that Tavares has in effort to get players like Luke Wiles, Aaron Wilson and Shawn Williams to burn the twine. You’ll also be able to count on the waves of rookie Dhane Smith (points in every game), Chad Culp and Mark Steenhuis with playmaking and goals combined. Newcomers David Brock, Nick Cotter and Mike Hominuk also add a nice element to the Bandits game.
Jay Thorimbert’s draw chores and playmaking has ignited the Buffalo attack. The faceoff expert is fourth overall (103 draws won for 57%) in the NLL, behind the Snider brothers and Minnesota’s Jordan Macintosh.
The 10-6 victory over Rochester gave the Bandits some much needed momentum. With the one weekend break, this week’s Thursday and Friday games are a perfect way to get back into the swing of things, with the continued challenge to play as a team and believe in the system.
This is indeed, an important two-game set for the Bandits.
Radio broadcast coverage Thursday night from Toronto will start at 7 p.m. with the pre-game show on News Radio 930AM and 107.7FM WBEN. Dave Buchanan will be covering for Randy Mearns. Friday night, at home vs. Philadelphia, our radio coverage returns to the flagship KB 1520. Randy returns in time for the pre-game show starting at 7 p.m.