GURT'S BLOG: BIG WINS, NO WHAMMIESBlogs | 1/15/2014 2:37:15 PM | John Gurtler
If water boils at 212 degrees, then the Bandits were cookin’ this past weekend!
This was good news for head coach Troy Cordingley who is using “212” as the team’s mantra this season. Water is in its normal state at 211 degrees, but it boils at 212. Cordingley is asking each Bandits player to give that one extra degree to make a difference, making sure that every player is committed to “212” all season long.
Strangely, things started to finally heat up at the 11:02 mark of the third quarter last Friday night.
Down 6-2, the team put together a six-goal run with six different Bandits finding net. By game’s end, they were well over the 212-degree mark. In fact, they were scalding hot.
Yes, you can make a pretty good batch of cream of wheat when the water is 212 degrees. But you must keep a continued stir in order to make it perfect for serving. And in perspective, the Bandits did just that for the two-game weekend by continuing to stir things up with a total team effort.
The Bandits registered two six-goal runs in their victories, which is the result of the above meaning.
It was in fitting fashion Friday night the Bandits not only stormed back, but snapped their seven-game losing streak at home – almost a year, save 16 days.
Buffalo GM Steve Dietrich remarked after the game that “it was great walking past the Bandits dressing room hearing music blaring after the game. That hadn’t happened in a long time.”
While the Bandits might have been charged for “too much swagger” going into their first game against Philadelphia, they had a new kind of confident swagger Saturday morning while in wait for their flight to the City of Brotherly Love. As a team, you could tell the victory, some 10 hours before, did a world of good. They were all coming together for the first road trip of the season and the focus was on the next day’s challenge ahead: beating the Wings in their home opener.
Along the way, there was good banter back and forth, along with the mid-plane card game that keeps the competitive fires burning. The team was also introduced to their newest fan down at the airport baggage claim in Philadelphia. In town for a comedy stand-up show, iconic “Anchorman” sportscaster Champ Kind (actor David Koechner), greeted the team with a big “whammy” and joined in a casual team photo that immediately went viral and was received with positive remarks.
Sunday’s display of offensive and defensive synchronicity was well over the 212 mark. Even while being down 3-2 at the end of the first quarter, I could sense this was just getting going. In the first frame, the Bandits were playing as a unit on both ends of the floor. The defense had their position, Anthony Cosmo was making big saves (13 of them) and the offense was just beginning to dominate the game, young and veteran alike.
Sunday’s game was only fitting to see two dominate players on the floor in the form of John Tavares and Dhane Smith.
While Tavares was right on with his shot that produced five goals, including the game-winner in the NLL’s first overtime game this season, the second-year pro Smith had a break out game (3+6) – and breakout weekend for that matter, with three goals and 10 assists.
The sophomore is now tied for third in NLL scoring with 17 points heading into this weekend’s action. Smith can push the ball up the floor in a flash off running strides the opponents just can’t match. When he gets the ball in transition, you just know something is going to happen at the other end, and it did last weekend.
But Tavares’ and Smith’s success comes only with the team responding in fashion from their “212” definition. And that was on display in the second half on Friday, and all of Sunday.
Defensively, the pairings and transition trios worked well. The team also scooped up 150 loose balls: Thorimbert had 26, while Priolo, Benesch and Andrew Watt had 10 each in one game. Steenhuis led the weekend with takeaways with 10.
Goaltender Anthony Cosmo turned aside 84 percent of the Rock/Wings shots he faced; while faceoff and transition expert Thorimbert won 66 percent of his draws, including and outstanding 77 percent on Friday against the Rock.
Emotions were on high earlier in the week when goaltender Kurtis Wagar’s wife, Shanna, delivered their first child. Baby girl Levi Rose arrived on Tuesday, Jan. 7. You can really tell the personality of a team when events like that happens, displaying the true “family atmosphere.”
All the little things can make a difference.
Now that the Bandits know they can achieve success, at home and one the road, a big challenge waits in the mile-high city of Denver on Saturday, where the Colorado Mammoth will be looking to improve their record. Like last weekend, the Bandits will be a team in waiting, as the Mammoth play Friday night in Vancouver.
The city should be rockin’ as the Broncos and New England Patriots will play the AFC Title game Sunday at Sports Authority Field, kitty corner from the Pepsi Center.
The game also features a matchup of the league’s top faceoff men, as Bob Snider (61.1%) and Thorimbert (60%) are one-two respectively in NLL faceoff wins.
The Mammoth are coming off a 17-6 drubbing last Saturday by Edmonton. And even with their game Friday night in Vancouver, you can bet they will be ready to go.
Fortunately, water boils faster when your 5,285 feet above sea level.
Broadcast coverage of the Bandits/Mammoth game on Saturday starts with the pre-game show beginning at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN1520 AM. The faceoff will follow at 9 p.m. ET.
Post Note: Ran into former Bandits coach Darris Kilgour in Philadelphia on Saturday. He was involved with the U.S. Lacrosse convention and coaching in an amateur tournament with teams from all over the East. He coached two teams in different age brackets from the Native American communities here in Western New York and won both championship games. He was also planning to attend the Bandits/Wings game on Sunday afternoon.