I thought I could. I thought I could. I thought I could..
Pulling from the classic children’s book, “The Little Engine That Could,” I felt those were Dhane Smith’s feelings of relief when he scored twice last Saturday night, snapping a two-game scoreless streak.
By game’s end, Smith had recorded a seven-point performance, his third in a row, in the Bandits’ 12-8 win over Colorado.
Nobody has been more of a critic of the Great Dhane’s goal-scoring than I. It’s all constructive, though, as his overall performance speaks volumes.
He’s the face of the Bandits franchise, and the best ambassador a pro sports league could ever imagine having. He is pure marketing gold.
Smith’s off-the-field profile is starting to move mainstream, thanks to his representatives and himself. Too, the recent five-year contract signed with the Bandits galvanizes the path to becoming a prominent person in our city.
Largess is Smith’s nature. Still, I want him to play selfish sometimes, creating scoring opportunities for himself when it warrants. Gosh, amazing. I just typed that based on the “me, me, me” league it used to be.
Smith’s numbers over the last eleven seasons are, how can I use another word? OK, yes, flabbergasting!
He is now 23 points from one thousand for his career. And, based on a conservative six-point-a-game average, Smith will hit the grand mark on February 3, at home, versus Rochester.
It’s going to be a historic moment for the kid from Kitchener.
Here is one of Smith’s goals from last Saturday night, with Nanticoke, Cloutier, and Byrne helping out.
And a heady defensive play by Smith as Chase Fraser does some forechecking. Colorado’s Owen Down was taken to the floor, with Smith capturing the loose ball.
We knew we could. We knew we could. We knew we could.
Paraphrasing from the aforementioned book and adding a couple GE AC6000CW locomotives, which have 6,000 horsepower, represents the Bandits defense and how powerful of a contribution they have made this season.
They are a genuine brand of brothers, led by their captain, Steve Priolo, who earned his 200th career point, scooped up ten loosies and two caused turnovers in his 204th game as a Bandit – the longest currently serving with this franchise.
Not to be outdone, goaltender Matt Vinc, in his 18th NLL season, was, well, VNO, making 49 saves for a .837 save percentage. He saw the lanes created by the defense. He denied the face-to-face opponent shots, including stopping Colorado’s Eli McLaughlin’s penalty shot.
“When you hold teams to single digits in lacrosse, you’re going to win the game,” noted Bandits head coach John Tavares.
“I think the defense is coming along really well and has given the opportunity for players to score more goals upfront… It’s just getting back to what works. We have a lot of athletic, talented, great goal scorers. People don’t ask how, they ask how many.”
And the Bandits defense provided the pipeline to scoring relentlessly Saturday night against the Mammoth.
LET’S GO TO THE VIDEO
Watch the positioning of the Bandits defense and their pursuit.
Here is Ian MacKay with one of his two steals on the night, creating a quick transition and scoring opportunity.
In the fourth quarter, Matt Spanger picks off a pass, gets help from MacKay, and then Nanticoke takes over for a Bandit score.
With 53 seconds left in the game, the defense gets into position with Colorado’s extra attacker. Eli McLaughlin’s shot is blocked by Justin Martin. Nick Weiss scoops it in the corner, out to MacKay, who finds Spanger.
“We made no major corrections from last week against Georgia,” said alternate captain Weiss. “We just bear down on our chances, and the game changes.”
Last Saturday night, indeed, it did.
Down Thunder Alley to Rochester is the travel plan Saturday for the Bandits to take on the 3-1 Knighthawks inside Blue Cross Arena. Game time is 7 p.m.
Rochester jumped out to a 3-0 start before losing to San Diego on December 29, 17-14. They have been idle since.
The K-Hawks are 2-0 at home and led by Connor Fields (13+14=27) and Ryan Smith (12+12=24). Goaltender Riley Hutchcraft has taken over for the injured Rylan Hartley. Last week, former Bandit Doug Buchan joined the goaltender’s crew from a recent trade by the Bandits.
Television coverage of Saturday’s game from Rochester will be on CW23, ESPN+, and TSN+. Radio coverage will be on 1520 The Bet. The pregame radio show will start at 6:30p.m.