Tis the season to be Jolly!
And the Bandits have every right to be jolly after posting a solid all-around 11-8 victory over the Rock last Saturday night, December 17, in Hamilton’s First Ontario Centre.
It didn’t take much for the players, who spent 14 days reviewing video sequences and on-field practices, to wipe the slate clean from the opening season loss to Albany.
“Defense communication is huge, and I don’t think we were all on the same page. It’s just saying the right things and getting everyone back on playing the right defense,” said alternate captain Nick Weiss, who earned his 100th NLL point assisting on the Bandits second goal.
“We were expected to win against Albany, and I think we played like that. It was a wake-up call, and realizing that’s not the kind of attitude; we have to earn it every night. It was a great opportunity to get back on track, and who doesn’t love beating Toronto.”
The message from the coaching staff before the game was apparent:
“Get your head on right and be ready. We need this one.”
It was good to have the Great Dhane open the scoring with a high-to-low bouncer on Rock goaltender Nick Rose.
Watch the video with Josh Byrne and Dylan Robinson forcing the Rock to spread out. Robinson fades out, and then Byrne passes to the opposite side to Smith, who makes a nice swim move to score.
And the power train drive of Tehoka Nanticoke. Here, Weiss earned his 100th career point with a crisp pass to Dhane Smith, who finds a streaking Nanticoke from a staggered bench change.
And Josh Byrne, with the floor stretched, including Nanticoke as a decoy behind the net, forcing Mitch de Snoo to cover him. Talk about perfect strings on Byrne’s shot.
All in about three and a half minutes, 3-0 Bandits.
Stop and Think
Suddenly, you begin to reflect on what happened last June, the loss two weeks ago, and what direction this team is headed. Will the Bandits be able to…?
“We had a great year last year, having the run in the playoffs, have the championship game at home in front of a sold-out building, and you get to the ultimate climax, and you don’t win,” said Bandits GM and defensive coordinator Steve Dietrich.
“You have some inner doubt, everything was set up in our favor last year, and it didn’t happen. Is it ever going to happen? And then you go out and get punched in the face in game one (this season), and I think that was a good learning experience for us.
“Our 14 wins meant nothing, nobody cares anymore, the punch in the face happened, now let’s get ready to go on a 16-game run.”
Now, let’s go between the pipes where eight-time Goaltender of the Year, Matt Vinc, made 52 saves evenly spread over the four quarters, allowing only eight goals.
Three of those goals were Rock power plays, including a two-man advantage on one. In addition, Vinc shut the Rock down in quarter three and only allowed one goal in the second frame.
Here is a sampling of his work. Oh, and a fast break by Ian MacKay, posing a three-on-one.
Credit, too, goes out to the Bandits defense, as they formed a solid unit all night long, holding off the Rock on several attempts and, too, opening up lanes where Vinc could see the ball.
The Bandits captain, Steve Priolo, back in the lineup certainly helped.
There were a couple of firsts on the night, with Dylan Robinson earning the first assist of his NLL career on Smith’s first goal. Dalton Sulver scored the first goal of his NLL career with hard work and intelligent play. Watch for number 27.
It’s always good to see a community event intertwined with the actual game. The long-time traditional Teddy Bear Toss was staged in the second quarter, with fans raining the field with teddy bears. Santa helpers were there, and even the Grinch!
All teddy bears will be distributed through the Hamilton United Way and McMaster’s Hospital.
Talk about a great night, too, for Kyle Buchanan! The 10th-year vet earned his 500th career point with a 1+3 mark, including this beauty by the water bug. Watch his hesitation and then break toward the net, capturing a pass from Smith and scoring.
Brandon Robinson scored his first as a Bandit, showing what the team wants to do inside the middle of the floor. Watch number 73 enter the frame, creating havoc and then getting into position even with three Rock defenders. Then getting a bird-cage tug from Rock’s Billy Hostrawser.
And yes, a fantastic night for all three Buffalo sports teams playing and winning Saturday night – a first.
A catch-up with Mitch
Off the turf and away from the game, it was good to catch up with former Bandits defenseman Mitch de Snoo, who captured the NLL’s Defenseman of the Year award last season. Mitch is in pursuit of becoming a doctor, handling the incredible workload of that and playing for the Rock.
“Things are going well. I am in the third year of my Ph.D., doing research on the neuroscience of memory. I had a paper accepted last week, so that is something very exciting, and I continue in the lab every day.”
Jamie Dawick, the Rock’s owner, president, and general manager was my halftime guest on the radio. No one is more passionate about spreading the word of this game than him.
“That is critical to me, exposing this great game to new people and getting them out to our arenas. Entertainment value, price-point, and all the other things, I’ll put this league up against anyone, and we all know that,” Dawick said.
“I’ve said this a million times; I’ve never heard someone say they’ve come to a game or seen it on TV and not enjoyed it. It’s just about continuing to get us out there, being more visible, and we believe that will happen.”
Dawick was happy to see that new NLL commissioner Brett Frood made a whirlwind tour on faceoff weekend, including stops in Halifax, Hamilton, and Buffalo.
“All of the markets are different. I am glad he got to Buffalo because I always tell people even before I came into this league, the Bandits set the standard for in-game production. Swenny (PA announcer Chris Swenson) being the best and the crowd, you can’t have one without the other. Banditland is very diverse and supportive with the colors and everything.”
Saturday’s game between the Rock and Bandits was the 63rd all-time meeting. It’s been a long-time QEW rival, and Dawick amplifies the fact.
“It’s one of the greatest rivalries in sports. There is a ton of hate, and there’s a ton of respect. Close in location, it’s USA and Canada. We always seem to bring out the best in each other, pushing each other to be better.
“I’ve said it many times in our room, for us to get where we want to get to, to me, it goes through the Bandits. They are always great battles, and you never know what you will get.”
Put a Log on
OK, time to settle in for a festive week. The entire league is off for the weekend.
Enjoy, and Happy Holidays. Be jolly, everyone!