News | 12/16/2013 11:21:04 AM | Alex Pagliano
Akin to the remainder of the NLL, the Buffalo Bandits were faced with some tough roster decisions on Monday morning.
“We released players who are good enough to play in this league,” Buffalo Bandits General Manager Steve Dietrich said. “With the amount of roster spots that we are given, we had to make some tough decisions.”
The team announced the release of defenseman Michael McNamara and forward Derek Hopcroft today. McNamara made 13 appearances over the past two seasons. Acquired from Colorado last December, Hopcroft recorded 11 points (4+7) in four appearances last season.
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“I feel [bad] for [Mike] McNamara and [Derek] Hopcroft,” Dietrich said. “They did everything to earn a job in camp and we just did not have enough room. They were both with us last season and the move to release them [really] hurt us.”
The release of Hopcroft indicates the amount of depth that the team has at forward. John Tavares, Mark Steenhuis, Shawn Williams, Jamie Rooney, Aaron Wilson and Chad Culp return from last season. Acquisitions Ryan Benesch and Joe Resetarits are also expected to contribute.
Three players from the start of last season return to the team at transition. Jay Thorimbert, David Brock and Dhane Smith return for their second consecutive season together. Kevin Brownell made seven appearances for the team last season and made the active roster for the first time in his second-year career. Brownell recorded four goals over three scrimmage dates. Acquired from Minnesota, Andrew Watt rounds out the group of players.
The defense from the end of the last season remains almost unchanged headed into the new season. Steve Priolo, Derek Suddons, Glen Bryan and Billy Dee Smith return from the previous season. 2012 NLL West Division All-Star Rory Smith joins the roster after being acquired from Colorado during the summer.
“We had a group of guys that we had in mind [at the start of camp],” Dietrich said. “And [during camp], they distinguished themselves. [Suddons] is an excellent guy to have in the dressing room and to get Billy Dee [Smith] back is special, because he is one of the best players of the league.”
When the Bandits host Philadelphia in their season opener at home on Saturday, December 28, expect to see Anthony Cosmo in net for Buffalo.
“We all expect [Cosmo] to have a bounce-back year and be the [goalie] that we all expect him to be,” he said.
Veteran goalie Kurtis Wagar returns after 15 appearances for the team last season. Steven Fryer, who made 10 appearances in goal for Philadelphia in 2012, was released today.
Second-round selection Mitch Wilde continued to impress the management, and he earned a spot on the practice roster.
“He just kept on getting better every weekend in camp,” Dietrich said. “I had the opportunity to work with him in the summer and he impressed the coaching staff, as well.”
Wilde is joined by teammates Hayden Smith, Jordan Critch and Colin Boucher. “The guys we put on our practice squad are guys that we believe in,” he said. “We made a commitment to the guys that we placed on the practice squad [Saturday night]. Unless something jumps out at us [on the open market], I think we are going to start the season with the roster that we have.”
The expansion of the regular season from 16 games to 18 games underscores the importance of a competent practice squad.
“I would believe that the practice [squad] players are going to be very crucial to this league,” head coach Troy Cordingley said. “Injuries are going to happen. Even though the practice squad is dubbed the practice squad, it really is not. [The players] will be suiting up sooner or later.”
The Bandits traveled to Iroquois Lacrosse Arena on Saturday night to scrimmage Edmonton. The Rush came out on top, 12-11. Veteran Mark Steenhuis recorded three goals to lead the team; teammate Dhane Smith also recorded two goals.
The scrimmage marked the first appearance from Steenhuis this pre-season. The veteran returned from an injury on Dec. 3, but was held out of the scrimmage against Philadelphia by Cordingley.
The team had been impressed with the performance of 2013 fifth-round selection Eric Penney in goal. The native of Rexdale, Ont., competed in consecutive scrimmages for the team and received the start on Saturday.
“Eric had a good camp [for us],” Dietrich said. “But, Eric suffered [what we believe to be] a significant hamstring pull.”
The Bandits host the Philadelphia Wings on December 28 at home to open the 2014 NLL season. Game time is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at First Niagara Center.