GURT'S BLOG: BANDITS VS. RUSH COULD BE GAME OF THE YEAR
Blogs | 3/19/2014 1:12:57 PM | John Gurtler

The NLL Trade deadline came and went. The executive desk was left neat with folders placed in order.

The phone cord nary a tether and nobody left on the line.

Bandits general manager Steve Dietrich and the coaching staff like the team they have assembled already and decided to stand pat with the roster. Everybody seems happy and relatively healthy.

“I’ve been through it. Trade deadline, it’s not a fun time,” Bandits head coach Troy Cordingley said.

“Especially here, everybody is happy and enjoy being [a part of the team]. Something would have to be drastic for us to do anything. I like what we have. I really like our dressing room. Our dressing room is very close-knit and when you have something like that, guys will go the extra mile for each other.”

Onward Bandits.

It’s doing the little things that have turned into big plays for the Bandits recently. And it has paid large dividends as the team sits in first place, on a three-game winning streak and poised for their next Litmus test: Facing the 10-0 Edmonton Rush on Friday.

And it’s going to take a lot more as the path to the NLL Champions Cup Playoffs doesn’t get any easier.

Six of the last eight regular season games will be on the road and that includes trips to Edmonton, Minnesota and Vancouver. Not to mention another trip to Minnesota and then stops in Toronto and Rochester as the season winds down.

The small details are so important and the Bandits coaching staff looks to have the team put special focus on them.

“Little thing would be battling for loose balls, pushing the ball and running hard to the bench,” Cordingley said. “Yes, I know it’s a little thing but if we get guys who are sprinting to the bench and making changes to create transition or to get back to the bench so our defense is not chasing numbers. Those are little things.

"Taking a punch in the head is a little thing; it’s a discipline thing and those little things add up in a game and amount to a big thing.”

And too, the Bandits have been doing their “thing” as a team.

“They have bought into our system,” Cordingley emphasized. “You have to build a system around the guys you have – input from players and the coaching staff and everybody that’s involved with the team. Everybody has a role to play and everybody has been doing a good job with it.”

Now everybody in the National Lacrosse League is taking a look at the Bandits. It starts with goaltender Anthony Cosmo and the defense.

“Yes, everybody is taking notice of the style of play [defensively],” said 12-year defenseman Billy Dee Smith during his pregame radio feature last Saturday night. “I think everyone is definitely on the same page. I think the systems are a little bit easier and definitely make us look better when Coz is playing the way he is.

"It gives us some confidence to go out there and maybe take some chances. Just knowing he is back there making the saves is huge.”

The defensive system is pretty straight-forward.

“Our goal is to keep the opponent out of the middle,” Smith said. “So as long as there running down the sides and taking shots from bad angles, it gives Coz an easy angle for himself to make the stop. But if we have guys cutting through the middle, catching and shooting in close, it’s a lot hard for him to react.”

Every member of the Bandits playing roster must employ the systems installed, do the little things and react. In other words, they have to play a complete game against the Edmonton Rush.

They will be facing a very talented and humbled Edmonton squad that embraces the team concept, sheds the star marquee and I would say they are the most complete team the Bandits will face this season. We all know the clinic the Rush put on last year in Buffalo against the Bandits.

Rush coach Derek Keenan, a former Bandit, has this team believing in themselves and each game played, they find something they can improve upon. Rush leading scorer Mark Matthews is one of the future superstars of the NLL but deflects the accolades and places towards his teammates.

And they buy in. Witness the 15 Rush players who contributed on the score sheet last week with their 15-7 win over fierce rival Calgary.  Seventeen players on Edmonton’s roster have three or more points and 10 are in double digits.

Their defense has stymied teams to a league-low 80 goals as teams struggle to average 7.98 goals per game. Like Cosmo, Rush netminder Aaron Bold has been good with a .809 save percentage and a 9-0 record. 

And there are some familiar faces on the Edmonton squad, most notably former Bandits Chris Corbeil (Edmonton’s team captain), Jeremy Thompson and Jeff Cornwall.

But match the Bandits against the Rush and you have an interesting line-up – and now one of the most anticipated games of the 2014 season. The Rush are young, fast and play incredibly well together. The Bandits have a stronger mixture of veteran and younger players and play exceptionally well when their systems are running in sync.

Both have great goaltending, a strong defense and good offense.

The game will come down to who can take the most time and space away, who will make the least amount of mistakes and who best recovers once those mistakes are made. Both teams are confident, but I give the edge to the Bandits. If anything they have a score to settle from last year’s embarrassment. 

“I think with the character we have in the room, the veterans along with the rookies, we really have a good squad this year,” said Smith. “The good thing I like about our team this year is that there is no quit in us. We don’t panic or self-implode. We don’t get on each other. We just stay with the system. Everybody just picks up their socks and plays a bit better.

“Every team we play we have to be up for. Every team we play is on a role or they are desperate. Every team we play is dangerous.” 

The John Tavares milestone watch is on. The 23-year, all-time leading scorer in the NLL is one point away from 1,700 career points and three goals to reach 800 career goals.

Congratulations to Chad Culp for recording his 400th NLL point with his fifth goal of the season at 1:01 of last Saturday night’s game.

Friday night’s radio coverage on ESPN 1520 AM starts at 9 p.m. EST with the pre-game show. The game is scheduled for 9:30 p.m.  Sunday, the Bandits travel to St. Paul, Minn. for an afternoon game against the Swarm. Our pre-game starts at 1:30 p.m. EST and the game follows at 2 p.m.

VS.  New England Black Wolves
 January 02, 2015 - 07:00 PM 1 2 3 4 F
 Buffalo Bandits 0 0 0 0 0
 New England Black Wolves 0 0 0 0 0