A big dub in front of a wild hub of Banditland fans!
It was an exhilarating game dedicated to the weary who experienced a heartbreaking week from the generational blizzard that hit the area.
Over 14,000 traversed their way to Key Bank Center, full of spirit, to express their emotion and gain reprieve from the storm endured the past week. From heroic stories to the pain and suffering, it was a winning night the fans needed.
“At the beginning, as a coach, my dedication to this game was for the community of Buffalo. And after the win, the entire team dedicated the win to the city. I don’t think people outside the area understand how resilient Buffalo people are,” said Bandits head coach John Tavares.
“Christmas, New Year, and what happened over the week gave the community more reason to get out and enjoy. What a better place to go than a Bandit game, and it was a fun game to watch.”
And those at home watching and listening, I’m sure, certainly enjoyed it, as the game had something for everybody in their time of need.
The game featured 31 goals, 16 in the first half and 15 in the second. The game was tied six times. Then, the Bandits went on a five-goal run in the third quarter. The game featured an incredible performance by Josh Byrne, who scored a career-high and current league-high seven goals and added five assists.
“It’s been a tough 72 hours,” said Byrne after the game. It’s extremely sad with people losing their lives. It was heartbreaking for me, and it goes a long way in how this city has come together. I’m super proud to call Buffalo home.”
Clear the lane, please
And the transition game was tuned up Saturday night.
“The easiest way to score is in transition. We tried to capitalize on as many as possible. We were fortunate to get the goals,” said Tavares.
14 players on the Bandits roster contributed to the scoring, and at least seven goals originated in transitioning the ball.
Congratulations to rookie defenseman Dylan Robinson for his first NLL goal. He scored in the second quarter, tying the game at five.
Watch this transition express.
Bandits goaltender Matt Vinc couldn’t have been more even in the game, making 22 saves in the first and 22 in the second half, facing such a high-powered offense from Halifax. You can’t stop them all with the kind of precision they had.
“You can’t give an offensive guy too much time and space. It’s like a chess match. We want defensive guys put into certain positions, taking away parts of the net. Then I play off that kind of player,” said Vinc, who earned his 37th victory as a Bandit.
“That’s how I’ve played most of my career in the last 10 years. You need defensemen that are smart and be able to play that type of play.”
Ball, Ball, Ball!
While Nick Weiss (1+3) scooped up nine loose balls long with Ian MacKay’s (1+1) eight, the Bandits took advantage of those captured, parlaying into scoring opportunities. Matt Spanger, with seven loosies of his own, showed how to finish off a tango with Weiss scoring the Bandit’s 15th goal of the night.
And the offense was clicking with runway styling of modeling really nice goals. Save the transition tallies, Byrne and Dhane Smith showed their tenacity of being the primary catalysts of the Bandits’ offense racking up 22 points, which included seven and three goals, respectively.
All this with Chris Cloutier out of the lineup with an upper-body injury – and for a while.
“Chris is insanely talented, and it really sucks having him out,” Byrne said. “We need to rally around him, as he is so good at that for us, needing to adjust without him in the lineup.”
Cloutier provides this kind of encouragement, be it in the dressing room or working out, as the trio of Byrne, Smith, and Kyle Buchanan pays dividends with, at the time, a Bandit three-goal lead.
The Bandits 18-13 win over the Thunderbirds also featured three short-handed goals, two by Byrne. His first one was a beauty.
Another good note statistically on the Bandits’ win was the 13 caused turnovers recorded, four by new defenseman Kellen LeClair. Byrne earned three as well.
Max Adler turned in a good night by continuing to be a thorn in the side of Thunderbirds faceoff expert Jake Whitters. The top faceoff player in the league had enough by the fourth quarter as he was whistled for checking Adler from behind.
Adler scooped up the loose ball after the faceoff with Whitters in pursuit. Then a check from behind creates a disturbance, forcing Bandits captain Steve Priolo to respond.
Yep, a big W for everyone.
Now on a roll with a 2-1 record, the club plays seven games in the next six weeks! And it’s off to Georgia to meet the Swarm Saturday night.
Georgia, sweet Georgia
Andrew Kew, traded from Albany, joins Shayne Jackson as the two compliment the already strong offensive attack.
Kew leads the Swarm in scoring with four goals and seven assists, while Jackson has potted five and earned five assists. The third-year pro had 33 goals and 26 assists for the FireWolves last season.
Jackson was the NLL’s 2020 Most Valuable Player finishing the shortened season with 73 points, including nine hat tricks. Last year he had 77 points.
The always dangerous Lyle Thompson (3+5), Brendan Bomberry (3+3), Jordan MacIntosh (1+4), and Jeremy Thompson (2+2) mix in well out the front door.
Defensemen Adam Weidemann (3+1), TJ Comizio (0+3), and Kason Tarbell (0+2) are solid on the backend and in transition.
Veteran goaltender Craig Wende enters the game with a .730 save percentage.
Broadcast coverage of the Bandits/Swarm game this Saturday night will start with the radio pregame show at 6:30 PM on 1520 AM The Bet and audacy.com.
You’ll hear from Bandits GM, defensive coordinator Steve Dietrich, and forward Josh Byrne. Too, a word from Georgia head coach Ed Comeau and player Andrew Kew.
Television coverage will be on ESPN+ and TSN The broadcast time is set for 7 PM.