Good teams find a way to win.
For the third time in a row, the Bandits rallied as a team, displayed their talent and showed just how confident they can be in holding off an opponent and appropriately scoring to close out a game.
Regardless of the offense going a bit stale Friday night, the team never lost its composure. Even losing their captain and stalwart on the backend, Steve Priolo, for the second half, the group fed off their challenges to each other and with attitude went out and won the game.
“Every game is important and these divisional games are critical,” noted general manager and defensive coordinator Steve Dietrich. “You want to get a ticket to the dance [playoffs] and you hope to have the first spot so hopefully down the line, we are sitting in a nice spot.”
On any given night in the National Lacrosse League, any team can win and that’s what makes it so exciting. I think you’ll agree, Friday night’s 16-15 overtime win was indeed very exciting. Both the Bandits and Knighthawks played well, but it’s a wakeup call to the Bandits to start and finish strong with conviction.
They have the personnel to do just that with an unpredictable offense with so much talent; a big and fast defense that can take time and space away, soaking shots, and transitioning the ball back out. And a seven-time Goaltender of the Year to see and stop shots.
Every player on the Bandits roster will tell you that they need to play better, and they will. They are all great lacrosse players.
Backup goaltender Doug Buchan thrives on analytics. He cherishes the time practicing and being mentored by Matt Vinc, as well as sharing interesting numbers and tendencies on opposing forwards with the 15-year veteran.
The second-year netminder majored in sports management at Niagara College and now works with Stathletes, a hockey performance and data analytics company based in St. Catherines, Ontario.
“We did 26 different leagues last year. It’s very interesting. I got lucky to do my internship there five years ago and I’ve been there ever since,” he told Dave Buchanan on our radio pregame show last week. “If there is a video we do it. From the CHL to NHL and Europe, to players, agents, trainers, and whoever wants our data, We track everything from whistle to whistle.
“Earlier in the week, we run pregame and postgame and player reports, analyzing the games and team’s opponents. After that, I will do the hands-on video analysis. A game typically takes six to eight hours to record what happens. It sounds like a dream for a lot of people, so I am lucky to be there.”
The advanced statistical business has continued to grow in sports. The NHL will enhance its data platform with tracking pucks, player tabs and cameras strategically placed in arenas begging with the teams that make the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which will provide instant analytical data. By the start of next season, every NHL team and arena will have access.
“I think it’s very exciting that Sportlogiq is aboard with the NLL by providing expanded game statistics and will be even more apparent in the next couple of seasons.”
The NLL’s new partnership with Genius Sports and BetMGM, the online wagering site, stats and info will play a major role with fans betting on games, and too, attracting new fans of the indoor game.
Dhane Smith busted into the top 10 of NLL scoring big time with his 11-point (4+7) performance last Friday night.
Smith is now tied for sixth place in the league with 10 goals and 27 assists for 37 points. Josh Byrne moved into 10th place with 31 points (19+12). Byrne leads in shooting percentage 26 percent.
Defenseman Mitch de Snoo is second in the league with 13 caused turnovers. Nick Weiss is tied for eighth in defense/transition scoring (4+3) and is in the top five in time on field, averaging over 27 minutes per game.
Goaltender Matt Vinc enters the week with a .794 save percentage and a 5-1 record.
The Bandits have the No. 1 power play in the league at 58 percent. The team has the longest active winning streak at four games and they lead in goals-for average with 13 goals per game. There have been 10 penalty shots awarded so far this year. Byrne has scored on two of them.
On the Road
The Bandits head back out on the road this weekend for a pair of games, first in Vancouver Friday night (10:30 p.m.) and then Sunday afternoon (3 p.m.) in Toronto. The road trip will span 4,180 miles.
The Warriors are coming off a big 10-6 victory over the Black Wolves in New England.
Former Bandit Mitch Jones is having a banner year with 17 goals and 24 assists for 41 points, which puts him in third place of the NLL scoring race. Jones had three goals and two assists against New England.
Keegan Bal is second in team scoring with 10+23=33. Bal has three goals and two assists as well last Saturday night. Goaltender Eric Penny starts the week with a .811 save percentage and a 2-4 record. The Warriors stand 3-4 on the season and on a two-game winning streak heading into Friday night’s game against the Bandits.
Sunday is Game No. 2 in the regular-season series against the Rock. The Bandits won the first game 10-8 January 18. Toronto is coming off a solid 12-9 win over the previously undefeated Halifax Thunderbirds.
Dan Dawson scored a hat trick, Rob Hellyer netted two, and rookie Zack Manns had three assists. In all, 13 players earned points in the victory last Friday night. Nick Rose was solid in net, making 42 saves and enters the week with a .809 save percentage and 4-2 record. This is a huge divisional game.
Spanning the Radio Dial and Online Coverage
Radio coverage Friday night from Vancouver will be on WGR 550 (following Sabres postgame) and our affiliate in Salamanca, WGWE 105.9 FM. The pregame show will start at 10 p.m. with the game following at 10:30 p.m.
Then, from Toronto on Sunday, the game will air on ESPN 1520 AM and WGWE. The pregame show will start at 2:30 p.m. Faceoff is scheduled for 3 p.m.
Both games will be online at B/R Live as well.