News | 12/9/2013 9:39:04 AM | Alex Pagliano
The Bandits must have their 20-man roster in place by Monday, Dec. 16 and general manager Steve Dietrich emphasized the importance of the upcoming scrimmage dates.
Buffalo will next travel to Hagerstown, Ont. on Saturday to scrimmage the Edmonton Rush at Iroquois Lacrosse Arena at 7:00 p.m.
“These games are going to be real important. I think we’re going to let some guys go tomorrow, [but] I don’t think we’re going to let everybody go,” Dietrich said. “We will maybe get another look at some guys next Saturday [against Edmonton], but, between this week and next week, everyone [who has not made the team] will be let go.”
“Players that we really want to look at will be playing full games [over the course of the next two weeks],” head coach Troy Cordingley said. “It is easy to pick the first six or seven guys because they have separated themselves and have a proven track record. It is the next lot of players where everybody is at the same level and the battle [in practice] for [spots] has been unbelievable, which makes it more difficult.”
Edit: The date for rosters to be cut to 20 was originally December 12, but has since been changed to December 16.
The team announced Saturday that Billy Dee Smith had agreed to terms on a two-year contract, pending league approval. Smith, the 2009 NLL Defenseman of the Year, intervened in negotiations to expedite the process.
“I kind of wanted to be locked in [for two years],” Smith said. “I got involved [in negotiations] this time and [the negotiations] seemed to go a lot quicker as soon as I got involved.”
Smith brings a tenacious style of play to the team’s defense. But this year, Smith is also expected to take up a leadership role within the dressing room. As a 12-year veteran of the league, Smith looks forward to being able to work with some of the team’s younger players.
“I think that is how it should be. I have no problem with that and I accept the challenge,” he said.
The team has been impressed with the level of competition in practice, but Dietrich singled out one player who has surprised the coaching staff thus far.
“Mitch Wilde has been the guy that has come in and shocked a lot of people,” he said. “He’s been great for us […] and we’re real excited to see him today.”
During the scrimmage, Wilde made an excellent pass to a wide-open Shawn Williams in front of the net that led to a goal. The Robert Morris University graduate is expected to add speed and youth to the Bandits’ transition game.
After spending five seasons in Minnesota, transition player Andrew Watt was moved to Buffalo during the summer with teammate Ryan Benesch in exchange for two first-round selections (2015, 2016) and a third-round selection (2017). Watt looks to continue his two-way style of play in Buffalo.
“I just hope to keep bringing what I brought to Minnesota,” Watt said. “Whether that’s running the ball up the floor or pressuring on defense, […] I’m really looking forward to it. I just want to show the Bandits fans and everybody in the league that transition [players] remain very prevalent in this league.”
Watt scored a career-high 21 points (16G, 5A) in 2011.