Not to be denied of their stature, the Buffalo Bandits turned in a dominating performance Saturday night in Georgia with a 16-10 win over the Swarm.
They did it right from the start, 57 seconds into the game, and all the way to the end with incredible goal-scoring, tenacious defense, and excellent goaltending. Every player contributed with confidence and conviction.
Please welcome back your Buffalo Bandits!
“It’s been such a difficult start to the season. In seven weeks, this was just our third game. You throw in Christmas and New Year, all the bye weeks, now we can finally start to get a gist of what we have as a team,” Bandits general manager Steve Dietrich said. “I’m excited to roll forward throughout the year because we don’t have many breaks anymore so we can get into a bit of routine.”
Oh, yes, welcome back Chase Fraser – who recorded three goals and three assists – and Steve Priolo – who eclipsed the 900 loose-ball mark of his career, earned an assist and played 28 minutes!
Save first-time performer, JP Kealey, who scored on his first shift and first shot as a Bandit, the rest of the game-night roster consisted of the same group who experienced the agony of defeat last May.
“We are definitely happy that Chase is back, but we are still trying to see who plays with who. I think the next few weeks are going to be telling in terms of what we have and where we stand and what our identity is,” Bandits head coach John Tavares said.
“We missed Priolo in the change room, missed him on the floor. He brings everybody together and such a presence on the floor. We are glad to have him back, too. With Kealey, I am a believer that if he’s on our roster, I want to see what he has to offer. I don’t like to bury guys.”
While Fraser, Josh Byrne, and Chris Cloutier scored hat tricks, Dhane Smith directed the offense despite attracting double coverage with a 1+5 mark, leading all forwards with the most time out on the field. He very happy to have Fraser back.
“It was huge [with Fraser back], especially for myself on the right side,” said Smith, who is on a modest three-game scoring streak, averaging 5.6-points a game. “Any time you get a player back [who is] that talented, it takes a lot of pressure off me as he is one of those guys who can put the ball in the net.”
Now, the slate is clean and there is no looking back. The club will play six straight games without a break, a perfect schedule for this crew.
“We are getting back to figuring out who we are this year. There are no excuses here. Just stick to our program and play Bandit ball and I think we’ll be fine,” Smith said.
Saturday night’s victory came with a calm celebration that included fist bumps and high fives. But there was a business-like demeanor on the bus ride back to the hotel with a medium tremor of conversation that included reviewing plays that were made and discussing their next opponent, Toronto, coming up with a few new ideas.
“Look at our staff, we are all ex-players and it’s not like JT got smart when he retired. These are some of the best lacrosse players in the world, and they are on the floor playing and seeing things that maybe we’re not seeing on the bench, so yea, we are open to any ideas,” Dietrich noted. “You have smart players and It’s a collaborated effort from the top right down to the bottom.
“I think [assistant coach] Rusty [Kruger] and JT have done a great job trying to maneuver things, and more importantly, the guys are so unselfish and that’s what we are building towards. It’s what we had last year – nobody cared who scored. We are always looking to make ourselves better.”
While he is not working on new defensive systems, coaching and scouting the opponent through video, Dietrich spends a considerable amount of time reviewing players who might be a good fit with the Bandits.
“You’re constantly looking. You never want to let a good deal go by because your happy what you have. If there is something out there that will make the team better, you do it,” Dietrich said.
“We have such a tightknit leadership group from Steve, Kevin [Brownell] and Dhane and on down. They are so welcoming. All the new guys that came in feel like they’ve been here for 10-years. We are not afraid to bring anybody in.
“We want to bring a championship to Buffalo, that’s our goal and we will leave no stone unturned and do the best we can.”
Feeling better, aren’t you?
Like a Rock
The Battle of the QEW resumes Saturday night with Toronto coming to town, the first of three meetings between these two clubs. Currently on a three-game winning streak (2-0 on the road), the Rock are coming off a spirited 13-12 win last week over Rochester.
Rob Hellyer, with 3+3 last Saturday, and eclipsed the 500-point mark of his career. The nine-year vet – all with Toronto – leads the club in scoring with 10 goals and nine assists for 19 points and is tied for ninth in loop scoring. Dan Dawson just keeps racking up the numbers at 38 years of age with a 17 points (7+10), tied for second in team scoring.
Rookie Zach Manns, (6+6), is tied for 4th in the league’s freshman scoring race. Goaltender Nick Rose continues his starting streak with a solid .799 save percentage and 3-1 record. The veteran made 30 saves last week. This is the only appearance for the Rock in Buffalo. The remaining two games of the series will be played in Toronto, Feb. 9 and March 13.
Hey, it’s ’90s Night!
“All That and a Bag of Chips.” “Home Skillet.” “Talk to the Hand.”
It's 90s Night in Dhane's World Saturday!
— Buffalo Bandits (@NLLBandits) January 15, 2020
Let’s take it back to when the black and orange were younger. Yeah, the ’90s! When the Bandits won three championships, dominating the league with fierce play and undeniable talent – Ah, did you say, “Johnny Who?”
Do you remember what you were wearing to those games? Dust ’em off and put ’em on! And if you didn’t grow up in the ’90s, go online and figure your fashion and then join everybody else in celebrating ’90’s Night inside KeyBank Center and party on! There’s a ticket special that includes a Bandits fanny pack, too!
On the Air
Broadcast coverage of the Bandits/Rock game will be on B/R Live online streaming, ESPN 1520 AM, and WGWE 105.9 FM radio.
Both pregame shows will start at 6:30 pm. Randy Mearns joins me in the booth while Dave Buchanan will be reporting from between the benches.
On the radio pregame show, Bandits head coach John Tavares and goaltender Matt Vinc will join us. We will check in with Toronto’s head coach Matt Sawyer and 17-year veteran Dan Dawson. Game time is 7 p.m.
You can order B/R Live by the game, month, or the rest of the season.