Another great “Won” Buffalo weekend with the Bills defeating the Dolphins to move on to the next round of the NFL playoffs. Then there was the fine game played Saturday night by the Sabres in a 6-3 victory in Nashville. Finally, the Bandits took care of Georgia by a score of 11-9 in front of 14,189 wild Banditland fans inside KeyBank Center.
The club is on a four-game winning streak, 4-1 overall, and in second place in the Eastern Conference of the NLL. And this Friday night will be a Thruway battle with the 5-0 Rochester Knighthawks.
But back to the game last Saturday night. What looked to be another clobbering by the Bandits over Georgia when they jumped out to a 3-0 lead turned into a see-saw battle, a real nailbiter, with great goaltending on both ends.
The Bandits combined solid third and fourth quarters as a team to post an 11-9 win. We were witness to some pretty goals by the Swarm’s Lyle Thompson and Bandit Josh Byrne, who scored six goals in every way you can.
Here are just a few of Byrne’s beauties.
Watch Matt Vinc dig the ball out and start the play with Bryce Sweeting popping on Jeremy Thompson, setting up a nice rush, and Byrne finishes it off.
A mad dash by #22, as if on an airport runway, with wheels up to give the Bandits the lead for good.
“If we possess the ball 60 times, of those 60, we will run some structure 10-15 times. Other times, go on good habits, get through the middle, set certain picks, and add maybe two or three guys in on a play,” noted Bandits coach John Tavares who knows a thing or two about scoring with an NLL record of 815 goals.
As mentioned, it was another solid night for goaltender Matt Vinc, keeping the goals against to nine and making 47 saves.
The eight-time goaltender of the year collected his 39th win as a bandit, moving him into second place of the Bandits’ regular season franchise leaders.
Vinc is now eight victories away from tying the record held by GM and assistant coach Steve Dietrich with 47.
A Proud Coach
It was great for my broadcast partner Randy Mearns to watch his two goaltenders of different eras and schools competing against each other.
Mearns was the head coach of Canisius when Vinc played for him. And now, as head coach of St. Bonaventure, just graduating Brett Dobson, who was drafted in the first round by Georgia this past September.
Dobson made several critical stops on his way to a 45-save night.
The Bandits’ defense was outstanding again in all areas of the floor. Don’t forget the Swarm scored five power plays-goals of the nine.
Steve Priolo had a very productive night on the floor with a goal, two assists, seven loose balls, one blocked shot, and one caused turnover. Plus, he was pretty good at dishing out some palm sandwiches.
How about this fine draw by Max Adler and skedaddle down into the Georgia zone, drawing a couple of attackers and setting up Priolo for a score. Just 15 seconds after a Georgia score.
“We are built differently on purpose with more size, strength, and toughness. Hopefully, that will carry us through the season and playoffs. It’s a balance of what pieces you can add to help you be successful in the long run,” Priolo said.
It’s good to have toughness throughout the entire roster. And that includes Brad McCulley.
Watch this video sequence with the Bandits’ offense transitioning into the Georgia zone. Excellent ball control affords McCulley with his first shot. And then #10 starts a push-and-shove match with Swarm’s Adam Wiedemann.
McCulley drops his stick with a “Wanna go?” challenge… and then picks it back up; he’s left alone and takes shot number two. Then comes the official challenge to duel.
Ian MacKay had another outstanding night venturing from one duty to another, all over the floor. At the end of 60 minutes, MacKay recorded a goal, an assist, three shots on goal, five loose balls, one blocked shot, and two caused turnovers.
MacKay has five goals, four assists, a team-high 37 loose balls, six caused turnovers, two blocked shots, and a game-winning goal for the year.
Here is some of MacKay’s body of work from last Saturday night.
“If we can change it and put the opponent out of their comfort zone, even if it makes guys run to the bench a little harder, then we are doing our job,” said Priolo.
“Other teams who transition the ball really fast, maybe we don’t want to get into a track meet, and we will try and control the pace of the game. It’s a constant chess game out there about what you are going to do.”
Tehoka Nanticoke represents the Bandits’ rugged style of play, committing himself to take a barrage of hits in front of the opponent’s net. And, too, he is very good at dishing out hits.
“I preach to the guys I want to attack by committee. When the opposing defense doesn’t know who to shoot, that’s when you have a good offense. Knowing how to space is essential with guys on the floor, getting guys open, and making room for other people,” said Tavares.
“When everybody scores two and three goals, that’s a good offense.”
Let’s hope this winning drive continues for the Bandits. Scoring inside and out, from all positions on possessions.
A good Rochester team with a strong defense awaits the Friday night encounter. Their quest is to eliminate all areas of attack and create offensive havoc.
A Battle for first place! With good intent to remain “Won” Buffalo.
Radio coverage of the Bandits vs. Knighthawks game will be on WGR Sports Radio 550. The pregame show will start at 7:00 PM. We’ll talk with Bandits GM and defensive coordinator Steve Dietrich, and defenseman Justin Martin.
On the Knighthawks side, head coach Mike Hasen will review his team’s play, and defenseman Matt Gilray will update us from the backline.
Randy Mearns will join me in the booth for the game.
Television coverage will be on ESPN+ and TSN+. The broadcast time is 7:30 PM.