Please Stand to the Right
There is no shuffle off to Buffalo in this series. No time to jump on a jet and get back fast to prepare for Game 3 of the 2022 NLL Finals.
Saturday night’s game in Denver was a combination of maybe just too much going on, with the opportunity of winning Game 2 and the jubilation that follows en masse. I expected the Bandits to win last Saturday, and I think everybody felt the same way, including the players.
The club certainly had the support of the staff that has worked so hard behind the scenes all season long right before them in Denver, including the loving care of family and friends. And last but not least, a larger than average turnout from the community of Banditland who made the trip.
Expectations were high, matching the 98-degree temperature and the intense sun, as the team made their way to Ball Arena. Oh, and the altitude.
It wasn’t that there were a lot of distractions, but coupled with the extra support and the change of start time, the game day clock was off by about an hour and a half, including the 7:30 a.m. bus roll to the arena. It just felt strange. Hey, it’s the Finals!
Looking for a Beat
But that was not to blame for the 11-8 loss to the Mammoth. The team came out flat and had no jive.
“We just got off to a slow start, and there was no real rhythm that we were used to. Thought we had it, and then it got slow. I think maybe attribute to our effort and get back to square one and what we started with,” said Kyle Buchanan after the game.
Here is one of the reasons Kyle Buchanan is so important to the Bandits from a list of plenty. He is at the right place at the right time, be it a loose ball, a hard pick, or a rebound like this one below. He plays with a ton of confidence.
Colorado was prepared, even without Eli McLaughlin, their leading scorer in the playoffs, who was put on the injured reserve list before the game. They adjusted and played hard.
We started the radio pregame show last Saturday night by describing the motivational posters, which have a word below a serene outdoor photo relating to a personal or group situation. For Colorado, it’s “Persistence.” This team never gives up, including Silver Creek’s Zed Williams.
“He’s very strong, and he gets to the net. At the same time, he can make you pay by getting over the top having that outside shot,” said Bandits captain Steve Priolo.
“You do a lot of video on him and try to figure him out, but you don’t actually recognize his strength and speed until you play against him. Yeah, he is somebody that draws a lot of attention.”
Number 28 of the Mammoth kept up to his billing with four goals and three assists. He and Connor Robinson (3+1) not only handled most of the scoring but also assisted in setting hard picks, which the Bandits lacked.
“I think our offense needs to adjust how the game is being called now in the playoffs; they are letting a lot more go. They were picking us pretty hard, and we have to do the same. I don’t think we did enough of the hard picks,” said Bandits head coach John Tavares.
Defensively, however, the Bandits played a strong game. Yeah, there we some bobbles, but anytime you can hold a team to six goals going into the fourth quarter (eleven overall) that’s pretty good.
Watch the strong play of the Bandit’s defense. And watch #28, Williams, on the extra attack work he does. Nifty transition pass by Nick Weiss following break up of play.
“We played good defense,” said Priolo. “There were times we played really well; it was just a couple of minutes here and there where we might not have been doing things as hard as we should have.”
Below is more of the strong play of the Bandits defense and Matt Vinc.
“I thought we played a decent game that gave us an opportunity to win. We just didn’t do it. But another game next week.”
The Next Event
And that is what makes a championship series so intriguing; trying the figure out the next game and how the players will approach it.
“It’s tough. It’s easy to sit there and say don’t think about it, but in the back of your head, that is what you are thinking about,” said Bandits GM and defensive coordinator Steve Dietrich.
“Our message is it’s just another game, guys. We’ve played 23 games now, and this is just the 24th. Go in with that mindset, and go back with a little birr up our saddles and try and win. Yeah, it will be extra special.”
Game 2 certainly had an à la carte presentation, featuring a one-goal first quarter, a five-goal run in the second and fourth, and some nifty plays on both sides of the floor.
You’ve got to watch this poetry in motion by Dhane Smith. Heavens to Betsy!
“One game to win it all. We had an amazing opportunity here, and it’s going to sting. We will use that as motivation going into Banditland in front of a crowd we can’t wait to get back in front of,” said Buchanan.
This is just a reminder of how fast this game is, with nary a shuffle. Everybody is in on the act and finished off by Josh Byrne. Oh my!
See you in Banditland.
Game 3 will be carried by ESPNU, ESPN+, and TSN. Broadcast time will be 8 p.m. from KeyBank Center in downtown Buffalo.
Radio coverage will be on WGR Sports Radio 550. The pregame show will start at 7:30 p.m., featuring a full lineup of interviews from both teams, including head coach John Tavares. Randy Mearns and Steve Bermel will join me in the booth, while Dave Buchanan will be on remote filing reports and interviews.