Colorado did not purloin from the Bandits; they 1) outplayed them and 2) lulled them into a state similar to last June.
“Just wasn’t a good enough effort. Definitely a wake-up call,” said Bandits forward Chris Cloutier.
As the late John Facenda, the narrator for NFL Films, would say in his deep, dramatic voice, “the mammoth found their way around the spongy green turf and laid claim that this was their feast.”
And feast they did, with a six-goal second quarter and five-goal fourth, primarily due to the return of Ryan Lee (their superstar) and Tyson Gibson. The two combined for 10 points, enough to kickstart their lackluster season to reach the .500 record plateau.
The 13-8 loss to the Mammoth is not an awakening but a sobering realization that any team in the NLL can dominate on any given night.
The NLL weekend of the past proved that with several upsets as teams strived for a playoff position. The Bandits, despite their loss, did clinch a playoff berth.
Give the Bandits credit, they took control of the game from the get-go, and while there must have been new corks in the referee’s whistles, the home team dressed in green jumped out to a quick 3-1 lead with their special teams.
“It’s tough to win games with that many penalties,” said Cloutier, who has 10 goals and nine assists in four games. “It was tough getting some rhythm going, but (these aren’t) excuses; we must prepare for the next game.”
The Game Itself
With the game tied six separate times and interrupted 14 times with penalties, I thought it was entertaining with a couple of good bouts, hits, and verbal jousting.
Fret, we should not. Standing 10-3 on the season is most impressive, and like any loss, the Bandits will learn and draw from it as they have a very tough schedule ahead.
Bandits head coach John Tavares has already moved on:
“I approach every game as the most important. The next game is always the game we want to win. It doesn’t matter who it is. It’s just another team we need to prepare for.”
And positive tones seem to be prevalent in this club.
“There’s always a feeling that we’re never out of it, no matter how many goals we are down or how the game is going,” said Bandits defenseman Carter McKenzie. “We can always make a push; there’s a chance no matter what happens.”
And Carter made it happen Saturday night with his first goal as a Bandit, completing a nice transition with Dylan Robinson.
While the Bandits peppered 46 shots on Colorado goaltender Dillon Ward, 38 went awkwardly wide. Not something the club regularly does. Shooting 10 percent doesn’t win games, either.
The 15,496 fans inside Key Bank Center were happy to see the season premiere of #95, Chase Fraser, and he got them stoked up.
“I was proud to put the jersey back on and be with the boys,” said Fraser.
The State of the Roster
The NLL trade deadline came and went Monday. While he listened and looked, Bandits general manager and defensive coordinator Steve Dietrich is sticking with this talented group of guys.
On the Road
Two big road games are coming up for the Bandits, and it starts with a 2100-mile trip to San Diego to play the West Conference leaders, the Seals, on Saturday night. With a 9-2 record, the Seals have been the first-place tenant for most of the season.
The Bandits will then travel to Hamilton to face the Toronto Rock Saturday, April 1.
A Look at the Seals
On a three-game winning streak going into Friday’s game in Fort Worth against Panther City, the Seals have taken over the top spot in league with a .818 winning percentage. A quick turnaround to San Diego will find the Bandits waiting.
The Seals offense reads like a who’s who of talent in the NLL with the likes of Curtis Dickson (31+35=66), Wes Berg (22+43=55), Dane Dobbie (32+29=61), Austin Staats (16+28=44), and Kevin Crowley (11+19=30).
Their defense is led by 17-year veteran Brodie Merrill, who has played in every game this season. Drew Belgrave and Cam Holding follow up as solid defensemen.
Goaltenders Frank Scigliano and Christopher Origlieri have shared the duties throughout the season.
The Bandits power play continues to lead the NLL with 60 percent efficiency, while the penalty kill is seventh at 54 percent. Dhane Smith is second in NLL scoring (21+71=98), seven points from New York’s Jeff Teat. Smith is number one in assists. The Great Dhane has 12 goals and 23 assists in his last five games.
Josh Byrne is tied for 11th in league scoring (29+37=66). Byrne has 4+11 in two games since his return. Captain Steve Priolo is fourth in league defenseman scoring (2+14=16) and number one in assists. The 13-season vet has 100 loose balls, 15 caused turnovers, and 15 soakers.
Goaltender Matt Vinc remains dominant, with 10 victories, a .800-save percentage, and one of the tops in saves with 543. The Bandits roster has 23 players with a point or more, 18 with a goal or more, 11 in double digits in points, and eight in double digits in goals.
Broadcast coverage of the game from San Diego will be on ESPN News, ESPN+, and TSN+. Game time will be 10 p.m. Eastern, and our radio coverage will be on 1520 The Bet, with the pregame show set for 9:30 PM Eastern.
Bandits Steve Dietrich will join me, as will Dhane Smith on the pregame show. I will also check in with Seals coach Patrick Merrill and player Dane Dobbie.