Shush…The Bandits are on a roll.
Keep the shooting strings the same, and they will, as the club returns home after a nomadic journey from Rochester.
With two wins in a row and fourth place in the unified standings, the Bandits are poised to continue in positive fashion.
What a goal-scoring spree it was last Saturday night between Buffalo and Rochester. And the 8100 fans in attendance loved it. 28 in total, with both clubs going on five-goal runs to take three-goal leads over 60 minutes. Fortunately, the Bandits prevailed in the end, 15-13.
From a coaching staff perspective, especially Steve Dietrich, the 13 goals allowed will be critically reviewed frame-by-frame. But I thought the defense played well during the K-Hawks shelling. There were hits, smacks, whacks, and soakers.
Toughness and transition. A perfect example is this goal by Nick Weiss.
Bandits nemesis Ryan Smith, kept his touch with four goals. A newcomer from Calgary, Kyle Waters, followed with four. The solid play of Connor Fields helped as well.
Matt Vinc’s season-high 52 saves kept the shootout in the Blue Cross Arena close. As usual, Vinc came up with the right save at the right time. Goals will inevitably be scored, but Vinc kept the opponent honest and made them work for it.
Congratulations to the 41-year-old netminder for earning his 150th career win, a mark no other goaltender in the history of the National Lacrosse League has achieved.
While GM and defensive coordinator Steve Dietrich think Vinc can play a few more years, and rightfully so, he’s keeping a stable of reliable netminders learning and earning their keep, preparing for the day, or ah, the year.
“We like what we’ve built behind Matt with Devlin Shanahan, Steve Orleman, and Evan Constantopoulos. We have a bright future in the net,” said Dietrich.
And Bandits in the Wings
And typing of what the Bandits have built, several ingénues in the wings add to the depth of quality.
“Offensively, Christian Watts is a player that’s growing and getting better, and who better to than to practice with our guys. He’s good. He could play on other teams.
“Zack Belter is slowly getting ready, and we think he’s another guy to step in. Frank Brown is still coming along. There’s still an opportunity for Adam Bomberry to return at some point. And players like Sammy La Roue, Alex Kew, and Carter McKenzie, so we have a lot of depth,” noted Dietrich.
How bout them Bandits
Sixteen Bandits players figured in the scoring Saturday night, with Chris Cloutier and Josh Byrne netting three each. Dhane Smith matched Byrne’s six points with apples to all.
And how about this one as it’s transitioned out by Ian MacKay to Smith, who sees Chris Cloutier out of the corner of his eye. The rest is up to Clouts with some nifty moves and a score.
Dhane is now tied with Mark Steenhuis for second with 983 Bandit points.
Congratulations to Tehoka Nanticoke for his milestone 100th career point. And Chris Cloutier is one point away from his 200th career point.
This group is clicking, and the timing is getting better and better.
“We are trying to catch our grove right now. It’s a long season, and we are just trying to get that feel and have fun doing it,” said Byrne.
“Listen, we’ve been in the championship for three straight years, so every year, it’s been the same thing as teams are running for us… Our mentality is we want to hunt them. That’s what we are all about. It doesn’t matter what other teams think; we want to try and impose our will on them.”
Backstory on Brad
A follow-up on the trade last week of forward Brad McCulley to Vancouver. Yes, it’s tough to see him go.
“Those are always gut-wrenching. Brad played a big role for us. With the depth we now have on the back end, we wanted Brandon Robinson to move to the front door, and we had extra guys,” Dietrich said on Saturday’s pregame show.
“A couple of western teams expressed interest in it, and I thought it was a fair deal; it gets him home, and I look at it as a win-win.”
OK, spread the word. The Bandits are back on home turf Friday night against New York.
Another emotional night Friday as the team celebrates the life of Tucker Williams, son of former Bandit and now head coach of Vegas, Shawn Williams.
In 2014, at the age of eight, Tucker lost his heroic battle to Burkett’s Lymphoma, stunning the Bandits organization.
Compelled to remember the life of Tucker, Scott Loffler, Bandits senior director of lacrosse operations, created Tucker Out Lymphoma Night as an awareness and fund-raising campaign for pediatric cancer.
Unique uniforms, designed by Tucker’s brother, Dyson (the recent number one pick overall in the NLL draft, heading to Albany next season), will again be worn by both the Bandits and Riptide.
Over 175 thousand dollars has been raised in the ten Tucker Out Lymphoma nights.
The motto “Braver than Brave” has adorned the Bandits uniforms, equipment bags, championship rings, sticks, pads, and practically everything.
It’s become ingrained in everyone, not only with the Bandits organization but every team in the National Lacrosse League.
The new uniforms worn Friday underline the legacy of Tucker’s nomadic logo and what it means to each player to live more, laugh more, and love more.
Two Hands on the Wheel
And now that the wheels on the bus have stopped going round and round from yesterday’s return to the snow and blow, I can truthfully report Sunday’s weather event was big!
Even with my experience driving in South Park, Colorado blizzards, this one was right up there.
Friday’s game with the Bandits and Riptide will be on CW23 TV, ESPN+ and TSN+. Broadcast time will be 7:30 p.m.
Radio coverage will be on AM 1520 The Bet, with the pregame show starting at 7 p.m. We will talk with both team coaches and players.
Steve Bermel joins me in the Ted Darling Memorial Press Box, while Dave Buchanan will provide updates between the benches.