Features | 1/14/2014 9:46:02 AM | Alex Pagliano
| Steve Priolo (Photo Credit: Bill Wippert)|
Steve Priolo is not necessarily regarded as a typical goal scorer. Heading into the 2014 season, he had scored only four times in his first four seasons in the NLL. But last Friday, the 6-foot-5, 232-pound defenseman looked like a natural, posting two key goals in the Buffalo Bandits’ 12-10 win over the Toronto Rock at home.
“The game is changing,” he said after the game. “It’s all becoming transition. We have some guys on offense that can put the ball in the back of the net. Today, they were just falling for me.”
Priolo scored at opportune times. He started the streak of six unanswered Buffalo goals in the second half and helped expand a tenuous Bandits lead to two goals late in the fourth quarter, a mark that Toronto would never be able to overcome.
Priolo also turned in an excellent defensive performance. Leading defensemen with a game-high 10 loose balls on the night, Priolo made sure that Toronto players felt uncomfortable with the ball.
“We pressured the ball. We got out on our man and cut down on some of the east-west passes,” he said. “We made sure that each time that they got the ball that they were not comfortable to make a nice pass or make a nice shot. Our defense made them very much do what we wanted them to do.”
Priolo, 25, has been growing as a defenseman since he entered the league in 2010. In 2012, the defenseman ranked second on the team in loose balls (76), a mark that almost doubled his previous career-high set back in 2011. Priolo also ranked fifth on the team in penalty minutes (46) and is known as someone who is not afraid to drop the gloves when necessary.
But fighting may no longer appeal to Priolo. His frequent dance partner Rory Smith now plays alongside him this year on the back end.
“He’s a great guy,” Priolo said. “He’s tough and plays physical. It’s nice to have him [on the team].”
Fights can rile a crowd, but end-to-end goals can elicit a similar emotion of excitement, an excitement that Priolo and the rest of the team feeds off of when playing in Banditland.
“We feed off of the fans when they come,” he said. “When we win games at home and run around like that, [our fans] feel included. And hopefully, more people will come out next game.”