Actions speak louder than words. Or maybe the other way around.
With this medium, a word is better with the current state of affairs of the 3-3 Bandits.
No need for a “30 for 30” special or top story on “SportsCenter.” Nope, in this niche of a sport in the loyal breadbasket of Banditland, it’s time to evaluate this team.
It’s nothing personal, it’s business.
“This game of lacrosse is a strange animal sometimes. You can be dominant for five minutes, and then the other team can be dominant for five minutes,” said Bandits coach John Tavares. “You just never know what’s going to happen. It’s good to be consistent.”
And that’s what the Bandits are trying to achieve: to play consistently throughout the four quarters with equal energy and expectations to win. Yes, there have been quarters and halves of brilliance, but everyone must achieve and play a level above when you’re the best.
“I thought we did some good things (last Friday night). We were a lot better in the second half but couldn’t finally get over the hump after we tied it,” said Steve Dietrich, Bandits GM and defensive coordinator.
“Defensively, that is two weeks in a row that we struggled in the first half only to regroup and improve in the second. We will need that at the start against Toronto.”
Getting back into games takes a lot of energy, and the Bandits have made comebacks a part of their repertoire. They did it 11 times last year, and so far this year, save the Colorado game, they have been involved in 26 lead changes.
Everyone believes in what they are doing to help win games.
Opposing teams are coming out hot against the champs; they’re supposed to. Coupled with playing in front of huge Buffalo crowds, filtered with family and friends, I would expect nothing less. Georgia and New York showed it, and other teams will, too.
This is another caveat the Bandits are adjusting to, and it will take time. The comeback-scoring quarters and strong defensive segments will all come together, but the opposition will be relentless.
“It’s just a little adversity, and sometimes that’s a good thing for a team, and quite honestly, I think it’s a great thing for us,” said Chase Fraser. “It brings us closer together and puts that fight in us a little more. Then we come out hot for the next shift, the next play, and the next goal. Then going out and doing it again.”
This team can score goals, and the wealth is starting to spread. Dhane Smith and Josh Byrne lead the NLL in scoring, respectively, and the secondary units are also surging, with framers Fraser, Nanticoke, Buchanan, Cloutier, and Brandon Robinson.
“It’s been a roller coaster of a start. We do well, we don’t, do well, we don’t. It’s weird, we’re digging ourselves a hole right off the top,” said Smith. “I have a long way to go and a lot more to give.”
On the other side of the ball.
The contributions of Ian MacKay, Nick Weiss, Steve Priolo, and Matt Spanger have become an essential mix in defending and creating transition.
Priolo is second to Georgia’s Adam Wiedemann in goals prevented, per LaxMetrics. MacKay follows at fifth, Weiss eighth, and Spanger 17th rounding out the top 20.
The defense and goaltending are adjusting to the spirited opposition’s shelling, shedding, and soaking what they can. That includes rookie Cam Wyers, who has been learning under live ammo since the start of the season and getting help on the fly.
“The vets helped me to get comfortable and adjust to the speed of the game,” said Wyers, who earned his first NLL point with an assist in the Rochester game.
“We have a lot of leaders and voices on the backend, and that helps a lot. It’s easy to get a feel for the game by talking through things and getting a better understanding of what we want to see on our left side of the floor.”
Goaltender Matt Vinc is in the top tier of LaxMetrics’ various categories. Vinc’s numbers improved dramatically in last Friday’s second half. He made 17 saves and allowed just three goals.
Like a Rock, with changes?
“No, everything remains the same, and we will prepare the same way. The record won’t dictate how we prepare or how we play,” said Dietrich.
“At 3-3, it is no time to panic, but we understand what will be waiting for us on Saturday night, and we will need to match that from the opening whistle.”
Tavares to the point.
“We are 3-3. We are not far off. We must accept the challenge. It takes 60 minutes, and you can’t take anything for granted. I tell the guys never give up, and they always make a valient effort.”
There’s no better time to turn things around than now in preparing for the 5-0 Toronto Rock.
“It’s not going to get any easier. We need to play like the underdogs. We’ll look at the New York game, have a good practice, and see what we can do better,” said Smith.
Saturday’s game from the First Ontario Centre in Hamilton will be carried on CW23 TV, ESPN+, and TSN+. The broadcast time will be 7 p.m.
Radio coverage will be on AM 1520 The Bet, with the pregame show set for 6:30 p.m., featuring Interviews with Rock and Bandit coaches and players.