24 AND SO MUCH MORE
Not to take anything away from some of Neil Young’s lyrics, but there will be much more in 2024 for the Bandits.
You can feel it.
Even the weight of the standings with the Bandits underneath proves there is parity in this league, and it’s a good thing for this team to experience.
“Every game from here on out becomes more important. We will learn from this one and prepare for Colorado,” said Ian MacKay.
“Like Steve Priolo said: You break up the season in six game segments. We didn’t want two losses in our first six. But when you break the schedule up in that fashion, you focus on the immediate games.”
Despite the 9-8 loss last Friday night to Georgia, for the majority of the 16,763 in attendance and those who viewed and listened, it was an entertaining game played in just over two hours.
“I thought it was a great lacrosse game. We stuck to the game plan and had the opportunity but came up short at the end,” said Bandits head coach John Tavares.
I was a bit weary of how the Bandits would come out, what with all the celebrations over 12 days. It took about five minutes for me to change my mind as the Bandits dominated the first half.
“We must worry about ourselves, stick to what our coaches are discussing, and play Bandits lacrosse. We need to turn it on, put the pedal to the metal, and keep going,” said Chase Fraser, who netted two goals and earned two assists.
Glad the TV game camera turrets were well-oiled as the two teams went on a non-stop run from one end of the floor to the other, relentlessly. The game had its moments from goaltending to defense and transition to offense.
The game had six ties as each team countered with scores. Even with the Bandits’ three-goal run and two-score lead, Georgia countered with a four-goal run and won the game. The Bandits led in loose balls with 72 and shots with 54. The penalty kill was excellent, including staving off a five-on-three.
And Ian MacKay, who is getting some pointers over the phone from Max Adler, won 11 of the 21 draws at the dot and, again, left his footprints all over the turf.
“If I had a belt to give him, Ian would have been my player of the game. He did well on faceoffs, played well defensively, and hustled all game.”
IS THAT A DENT?
There were plenty of ball dents on the goalposts and crossbars. However, you don’t win lacrosse games shooting 10 percent from the floor.
Sure, Georgia goaltender Brett Dobson performed admirably, stopping 46 Bandit shots. His stoic stance proved that most of the five-ounce hard rubber balls the Bandits tossed were hitting his stomach pad regularly.
“The qualities of opportunities that we missed. I’m sure the guys would like to go back and try something else besides shoot it at his chest,” Tavares noted.
GOALS, OR LACK THEREOF
The eight Bandits goals scored, including three power-play tallies, were nicely crafted and well-earned. Being the champs, though, is no easy task.
“We weren’t shooting our shots with players all around us. Every team is going to do that, and we must be prepared,” said Dhane Smith, who has gone scoreless in the last two games but added seven assists.
“It wasn’t my night as far as putting the ball in the back of the net, and I’ve got to do a better job of leading by example.
“I’ve been playing 11 years, and no night is easy. Everyone is going to key on myself and other teammates. I need to work a little bit harder to get the ball and also get my teammates open.”
OFF THE STRINGS
Tavares mentioned in his post-game presser that all offensive guys are different regarding advice, such as when to shoot and where. Some take it, some try to work it out on their own.
“My job is to keep them confident. As long as you get a chance to score, that’s the key. Dhane has been around for a long time. He’s a great goal scorer, and he needs to go back to basics and figure it out,” Tavares said.
“When I say that, just do what works for you. Don’t forget how successful you were at scoring goals. I would like to see him create more opportunities for himself.”
Smith leads the NLL in assists with 19, and Saturday night, the two-time league MVP and MVP of the ’23 championships moved into 10th all-time in league record books with 623 career assists.
The shots will find the back of the net for Smith and every Bandits player.
I can feel it.
The homestand continues Saturday night with Colorado returning to town – the first of two regular-season meetings with the Mammoth.
Their season started 0-2 and was almost 0-3 until the talented crew with tons of character erased a 5-0 and 11-5 Vancouver lead in the second half to win in overtime 12-11.
Bandits nemesis Connor Robertson scored the game-winner, which added to his 4+3=7 night. Backup goaltender Tyler Carlson turned a strong relief performance with 27 saves. The rest of the usual suspects adorn the roster, including Joey Cupido, who missed last season with an injury.
TV and Radio
The game will be on TV CW23, ESPN+, and TSN+, starting at 7:30 p.m. Radio coverage will be provided by AM 1520 The Bet, with the pregame show beginning at 7 p.m. We will have interviews with coaches and players from both teams.
Steve Bermel joins me in the booth, while Dave Buchanan will cover from between the benches.