Oh, what a huge win for the boys last Saturday night!
A wonderful way to celebrate Tucker Out Lymphoma Night, and to kick off the second half of the season with a W.
The 13-9 decision improves the Buffalo Bandits’ record to 7-3, tying Toronto for first place in the North and fist place overall with the Rock and New England Black Wolves.
Every Game from Now On
There’s not much time to enjoy the moment as the team now prepares for three games in seven nights, two of which will be division deciding games, starting Sunday afternoon in Halifax. The Bandits then play Friday night (March 13) in Toronto, and the next night (March 14) at home against New England.
“One-by-one, starting the second half, we’ve reset the button because this is a big part of our season right here,” Bandits head coach John Tavares said. You just got to take that one game and win, and I believe every game we play is winnable. “We are here to win a championship and we’re trying to what we think is best for the team.”
I thought last Saturday night’s game was the most complete the Bandits have played all season. And it started with Matt Vinc, matching a season-best 54 saves (18 in the third quarter) and posting a .857 save percentage. He definitely deserved the Game Belt.
— Buffalo Bandits (@NLLBandits) March 1, 2020
The defense partnered, too, for a season-high 15 caused turnovers, including four by Bandits captain Steve Priolo.
The whole team combined for scooping 90 loose balls, including 14 by Priolo and 11 by Mitch de Snoo, who also scored a beauty and assisted on another. In addition to their relentless attack, the transition was quick up the floor and into the offensive zone, allowing the forwards set-up time and throw dangerous shots.
Josh. Byrne. 🎯🎯🎯 pic.twitter.com/P7QvwTBvwQ
— Buffalo Bandits (@NLLBandits) March 5, 2020
The forwards worked well together, keeping their feet moving and gaining solid positioning allowing for a gaggle to score goals. And to hold off a second-half run by the Thunderbirds showed incredible savvy.
“We are a very different team now. [Dan] Litner is a great player, very athletic and works hard. I think he is going to fit in very nicely,” Bandits forward Chris Cloutier said. “In Steve Priolo, we have a great captain and really brings the guys together and the defense has been playing outstanding. On offense, we have to wait for our run, and then go out and score. With the divisions being so small this year, every division game is a playoff game.”
It Picks Right Back Up
Sunday’s game in Halifax will have even more of a playoff feel because this is the regular-season series finale, and the two teams are 1-1. And despite having lost four of their last five games, you know the Thunderbirds are going to come out strong with their never say die attitude.
“It’s an attitude of we are never going to give up and bodes well for the character of the team. It’s a team that is willing to work hard for each other and that’s the kind of team I like coaching,” Halifax head coach Mike Accursi said.
“Going into the second half of the season, it’s all about managing personnel and managing the bumps and bruises. In this game, things can turn quickly so we want to take it one game at a time and stay levelheaded.”
After a 6-0 Bandits lead, which was the largest start of game margin the team has posted since 2005, according to Buffalo Sports Page reporter Budd Bailey, the Bandits held a comfortable 9-2 lead in the third quarter before the Thunderbirds mounted one of their patented rallies by going on two three-goal runs to come within two. But the Bandits countered with a suite of their own and held off the never-say-die ’Birds.
“Nothing is going to change. The message has always been work hard. We have to be a team that wins by committee,” said former Bandit Ryan Benesch, who scored his 450th career goal Saturday night. “We don’t have one guy that is going lead us every night. We have a very tight-knit group with everybody buying into the systems. We all play for each other.”
Oh, the game Sunday afternoon is going to be a doozie. These are two very good teams with solid personnel and there is a lot on the line here. But I sense that swagger is back with the Bandits as Saturday night’s victory gave them a lot of confidence, even without Dhane Smith. They kept their feet moving, shared the ball, eased up on trying to do too much, and played as a unit.
A Sentimental Walk
Braver than brave. This is what it's all about.
— Buffalo Bandits (@NLLBandits) March 2, 2020
Following the emotional celebration of Tucker Out Lymphoma night, I was taken by the long line of Bandit fans in the arena corridor, who awaited their game-worn jerseys won by bidding online.
— Dhane Smith (@dhanesmith92) March 1, 2020
The look on each face as I walked by was so moving to me as they were anxious to get their memorable possession, and so willing to spend their hard-earned money to help further the fight of pediatric cancer and show their support for the Williams Family. Just another reason why Banditland is so special.
Who do you fight for?
Thank you for fighting with us, Banditland. 💚 pic.twitter.com/XT2FeegeaL
— Buffalo Bandits (@NLLBandits) March 2, 2020
Radio and Online Waves
Radio broadcast coverage of the Bandits/Thunderbirds game will be on ESPN 1520 AM and WGWE 105.9 FM in Salamanca.
The pregame show will start at 1:30 p.m. with the faceoff set for 2. Bandits general manager Steve Dietrich and Bandits defenseman Jon Harnett will join me. You can also catch the game on B/R Live.
We're on the road for two first, but back in Banditland for Native American Night next Saturday!
— Buffalo Bandits (@NLLBandits) March 4, 2020