Features | 4/2/2010 9:18:52 AM | Jackie Lewandowski
In this league you are only as strong as your defense.
The NLL is packing an offensive power punch this season across the board. With 11 teams boasting great scoring abilities, a strong defense is becoming evermore necessary.
Boasting the 2009 NLL Defenseman of the Year in Billy Dee Smith, the Bandits are no exception.
After dropping the first four games of the season and fighting back to reach the .500 level mark in a fight for fourth place, the Bandits defense has played a major role.
“Well I think from the beginning the coaches have been telling us to transition the ball more, and we are now trying to add more pressure to their guys and transition our fresh guys,” Smith said. “It just leads to more goals for us, which helps win games.”
The defense’s performance certainly played a huge part in the team’s victory over the Rochester Knighthawks last Saturday as the defense held the Rochester offense to just 10 shots in the final quarter of the game. It has also given stellar performances at key points throughout the season to continue the push for the playoffs.
However, the defense has had its fair share of difficulties this season.
After incorporating two rookies into the mix at the beginning of the season, the veteran defensemen worked to mentor the younger players and help them adjust to the majors.
“Billy, Chris White, and a lot of the other guys are taking us under their wings, and it’s a great way to learn the system,” Chris Corbeil said. “Billy is not afraid to pull us aside and tell us what we are doing wrong and show us things we don’t normally see out there that comes with experience.”
That mentoring paid off after Corbeil registered two goals and four assists (2+4) in just nine games and Steve Priolo registered seven assists in the same time frame.
“It’s weird because I was always the young guy on the team and it’s the first time the tides are turning,” Smith said. “They (the rookies) hold their own and they deserve every point they are getting.”
Even after incorporating rookies into the mix, the defense had to readjust again after both Priolo and Corbeil suffered injuries on March 6th against the Orlando Titans. Both rookie defenseman have missed the last three games.
Since then, Smith along with Kyle Schmelzle and White have worked to keep the defense strong and have come out with strong individual performances of their own.
Smith now has four goals and two assists for six points on the season (4+2) and Schmelzle earned two assists in last weeks’ contest against Rochester.
Going forward with the last four games of the 2010 season, the defenses’ focus is on continuing their efforts despite the injuries and strong offensive power they are going to face from their opposing teams.
“It comes down to who runs their systems the best and that will give the chances away,” Smith said.
“We are also just looking to take away time and space, and force the other team to make good plays and make them earn their chances,” Corbeil added.
The next chance to control the game and continue to strive for that fourth and final playoff spot commences this Saturday night against the Colorado Mammoth at the HSBC Arena. Game time is 7:30 p.m.