Time and Space
I was first introduced to the phrase, “time and space” in a lacrosse context by former Bandits head coach Darris Kilgour when I asked him about stopping gifted goal scorer John Grant, Jr. “You can’t stop him, you just try and take time and space away from junior,” said Kilgour.
As redundant as the pick-and-roll, taking away time and space is the ultimate defensive tactic.
But let me add a little caveat to time and space, broken down separately, which relates to the Bandits current roster situation.
Time has been on the side of the Bandits, who need recovery and healing, what with the bye weeks and availability of practice.
With just two games in February and weather interruptions for practice, the time has indeed helped.
And there is no timetable for the actual return. You can say six to eight weeks, or “should be ready to go next game” – but the process does not work that way. Several stages are taken by the Bandits athletic trainers and doctors.
Without being specific to one player, here is the standard operating procedure.
“The physicians rely on a medical team including athletic trainer, physical therapists, and strength and conditioning coaches to relay information on the athlete’s progress or lack thereof,” said Bandits head athletic trainer Ryan Rajk.
“The treating orthopedic specialist and head team physician work together and have the final say when the athlete returns to play.”
“Once a player is cleared by the team physician, they are required to practice in full contact drills before returning to a game to ensure that the ligaments, muscles, joints, coordination and cardiovascular aspects of their game are tested.”
And that leaves the coaching staff on complete tenterhooks, especially when it comes to figuring out a game-night roster.
“We are close to returning to as full strength as we’ve been all year. It’s just a matter of time and getting clearance from the medical staff on all our players, including Josh, Chase, Chris, and Justin,” said Steve Dietrich, Bandits general manager, and defensive coordinator.
Do not ask
There is no sense in speculating when the players will return. It’s all about time.
When the once-hobbled and hindered players are deemed healthy, a new situation occurs.
What will happen with the Bandits roster when the players – Cloutier, Byrne, Fraser, Justin Robinson, and Brandon Robinson – return? Kozevnnikov just returned a couple of weeks ago.
Space, which includes 21 on the active roster and four on the practice roster, is limited.
Do you fudge with things and mess with the psyche?
“You always want to have two thoughts. You mentioned on the psyche. Do you want to mess with the camaraderie the guys have and the nuances that way, or do you want to try and give your team a kick in the right way, giving them a boost,” said Dietrich.
Adding to the space jam of the Bandits roster is the NLL trade deadline, which is Monday, March 20.
“Getting Josh, Fraser, and Cloutier back is going to be like trade deadline additions, but yes, that will mean we will have some extra bodies, so, unless there are more injuries, there will probably have to have guys go somewhere, whether it will be the practice roster or a trade, so we are going to be active.
I don’t know how much we are going to add for this season as opposed to some future stuff, but we will definitely be active for sure.”
Time and Space, let’s leave it at that.
There wasn’t much time and space to work with during the Bandits 10-9 win over the Thunderbirds. Both teams played a tough defensive game, which included great goaltending on both sides.
Again, the Bandits came from behind with a solid second half, outscoring Halifax 6-4, which included the wicked game-winner by Tehoka Nanticoke.
Roll the Video
In the Video, Matt Spanger, up in on the play, keeps the ball hot with a pass across to Ian MacKay. Creating more havoc by accepting a skip-pass back, Spanger finds Nanticoke, who leverages his strength with an over-the-shoulder thrust to the back of the net.
Without question, the Bandits defense had a great game Friday night, especially transitioning the ball.
Here is one with Steve Priolo and Nick Weiss.
And how about this outlet pass by Matt Vinc to Smith!
And Spanger powers his way on the penalty kill.
Nick Weiss continues his point-scoring streak, now at 11 games, with this effort from Adam Bomberry and Smith. Weiss’s pieces spin-o-rama.
Rookie Dylan Robinson had his best game of the season, helping the offense with a goal and assist. Watch Smith feed Bryce Sweeting for a shot. Robinson, with poise and confidence, scoops up the rebound and scores.
Vinc being Vinc, tested in the fourth quarter, turning aside 16 Thunderbird shots. Here are two great saves.
Max Adler had a successful night at the faceoff dot against one of the best in Jake Whiters, winning 11 of 23 attempts. With Ethan O’Connor making a big hit on Whiters, Adler takes the ball in for a shot on goal.
It was another excellent night for MacKay, scoring a natural hattrick in the first quarter, ending with a 3+2=5 night. MacKay now has 11 goals and 8 assists in his last four games. With modesty, he talks of the importance of helping the team.
“It’s something I pride myself on being able to play every aspect of the game. I’d like to be at the defensive door, sticking to my normal transition role, but the coaches asked me to jump up and play some offense and put some trust in me. Just trying to go out there and play confident, contribute where I can,” said MacKay.
The effort by the Bandits to battle back in the second half of the games has shown how much this group has grown together. The numbers speak for themselves, outscoring opponents 65-30 in eight of 11 games.
“We really don’t have a choice at that point. We’ve been down or tied at halftime, and the answers are within the room; digging deep and finding those answers. There’s rarely negativity, and it’s all positive. We are trying to game-plan going into halftime and figuring out what we have to do. It’s been working for us.”
The other teams
I would say so, but other teams in the NLL will be gunning for this talented bunch.
“We have a difficult stretch, and it will be a real test for us. We are excited about it with our seven games in eight weeks, and I think it’s really good for us, but it will test us to see where we stack up against the other top teams in the league,” said MacKay.
And while on the subject of time. A big thank you goes out to Bandits coordinator of lacrosse operations, Dan Ristine, for his endless hours spent (in a limited space) rearranging airlines flights in and out of Halifax.
The team was hit with a double whammy of snowstorms, first in the Maritimes Thursday afternoon, then Friday night with a storm that swept through Toronto.
Both storms caused flight cancellations forcing Ristine to create manifests that included air, bus, car, train, and mule options. The first phase of getting the remaining part of the team to Halifax was worked out Friday morning.
That no sooner ended when the entire traveling contingent of Bandit players and personnel had their flights out of Halifax canceled. Again, with manifest options, Ristine was able to book a “recovery flight” Saturday afternoon to Toronto.
Many of the other hotel guests were unable to get out until Tuesday.
Congratulations to former Bandit and now Thunderbird Ryan Benesch on becoming only the sixth player in NLL history to score 500 goals. That tally came at the 6:35 mark of the third quarter Friday night to tie the game at six.
Dan Dawson of the Toronto Rock became only the second player in league history to score 1500 points Saturday night, assisting on Dan Craig’s goal in the first quarter of their game against Rochester.
Dawson, now in his 21st season, is one of the true ambassadors of this game. I hope the league will find a role for him when he is finished playing. There is no one more genuine and passionate about promoting the NLL game.
Test 1-2 Broadcast Coverage
Friday night’s game will be available on ESPN+ and TSN+. The broadcast time is 7:30 PM. Randy Mearns will join me in the booth, while Dave Buchanan will be between the benches.
Our radio coverage will start at 7 PM with the pregame show*. We will check in with Thunderbirds head coach Mike Accursi and player Eric Fannell. From the Bandits, coach Tavares and player Dylan Robinson will give us their perspective.
*Check back on Bandits social media regarding the carrier, 1520 The Bet, or News Radio 930 WBEN. Basketball playoffs are a part of the busy scene.