Old Mean Man Winter
Encapsulated in a swath of ice on our farmland, I took refuge inside our house from the cold, piercing winds and pellets of precipitation to prepare for the upcoming Bandit games.
One good thing out of all this crazy weather the Bandits are back in action for the next five straight weekends. They start Friday night in Halifax against the Thunderbirds. An arduous four-game March, though.
“This will be a tough stretch for us with two against one of our biggest rivals, then against the defending champs and the first-place team in the west,” said Steve Dietrich, Bandits GM, and defensive coordinator.
The Thunderbirds, too, were on a bye week, coming off a spirited 13-12 victory over the NY Riptide on February 19.
Who’s with me?
The Bandits are on a four-game winning streak, which matches their first four-game streak established earlier in the season.
The club’s league-leading 8-2 record is matched by two of the constant nemesis, Toronto and Rochester.
The Friday night game against the Thunderbirds starts a home-and-home series. The next game will be back in Buffalo Friday, March 10. It will be Beach Party in Banditland, so the more the merrier to stay warm!
Congratulations, again, to Dhane Smith for earning his 900th career point, which came on the game-winning overtime goal against Philadelphia.
The 10th-year Bandit is well on his way to establishing a new NLL scoring record, a mark he earned in 2016 by scoring 137 points. Averaging 8.2 points a game, Smith is on pace for a 149-point season.
Smith leads the league in scoring with 24 goals and 58 assists for 82 points, three points better than the surging Jeff Teat of New York.
Kyle Buchanan (12+31=43) has been the catalyst of distribution and disturbance. His six assists against Philadelphia mark the fourth time he has achieved that mark in his career. In addition, Buchanan is fourth overall on the team with 58 loose balls (Smith is fifth with 53).
Averaging 4.3 points a game, Buchanan is well on his way to a career year.
Tehoka Nanticoke (18+15=33) returns with his reckless abandon to the net, which includes several shot selections. He has points in every game, including 4+4 on January 7 against Georgia.
Ian MacKay (14+12=36) has been another ranger looking after all parts of the floor, including 8+6=14 in his last three games, proving him not only effective upfront but reliable on the backend with 71 loosie’s, and third on the team with 12 caused turnovers.
Adding a jolt of “youth whatsoever thou art” in Brad McCulley, who is 8+13=21 in his last five games, including a career-high 4+5=9 night against Philadelphia. “Thou art but a pure goal scorer.”
Dalton Sulver, too, with a 5+3=8 mark in just five games.
Defense, clap-clap, Defense
Defensively for the Bandits, captain Steve Priolo, second in defenseman scoring in the league and leading the D-loop in assists (2+13=15), is five points away from his 200th career point and;
Nine loose balls away from passing Mark Steenhuis for second place in the team record books. Priolo has scooped 1,148 loosies over his 13 seasons, including 74 this season. In addition, Priolo has blocked 11 shots and caused 12 turnovers.
Nick Weiss is having a career season with a 10-game point-scoring streak, a team-leading 76 loosies, and eight soaked (blocked) shots.
Quietly moving up and down the floor, Matt Spanger (3+1=4) has been a threat on transition, with 44 loosies and 15 caused turnovers.
“Our defense going is into some tough games, and we need to keep getting repetitions together, creating that trust of support and off-ball help that has made us great in years past. Repetitions are key to any defense because you need to become a single unit,” said Priolo.
Goaltender Matt Vinc will set a new NLL record Friday night with his 262nd game, passing Brandon Miller to lead all goaltenders in league history.
Vinc is five wins away from passing Steve Dietrich for the all-time franchise mark of 48. He is coming off his eighth victory of the year, and his fourth straight 40+ save performance.
Bandits head coach John Tavares is four wins away from passing former Bandit coach Troy Cordingley (46 wins) for second all-time Bandit wins. Darris Kilgore holds the club record with 103 head coaching wins.
The Bandits power play is improving every game. Currently, the Bandits are second overall in the league at 61 percent (17 for 28), even with the lowest power play opportunities in the loop through 10 games.
The club is +29 in goals for and goals against, and holding true to their second-half scoring surge, outscoring opponents 59-26 in seven of the 10 games played.
With a 5-5 record and loaded with scoring power from all areas of the turf, the Thunderbirds are led by, and as my broadcast partner, Randy Mearns, says, “pick your poison” the always be shooting Randy Staats (17+56=53), and;
Clarke Peterson (17+35=52), Ryan Benesch (17+29=46), Cody Jamison (14+25=39), Eric Fannell (18+16=34), Austin Shanks (10+24=34), and Chris Boushy (22+10=32).
They have a solid defense with Graeme Hossack (22 league-leading caused turnovers), Jake Whithers (83 percent faceoff success), Ryan Terefenko (transitioning the ball), and Tyson Bell (leading the club with loosies outside the faceoff circle with 74).
Goaltender Warren Hill supports a 4-4 record with a .760 save percentage.
F-1 Racing and similarities – What?
Later, to duck and swerve the ice raining from branches like shards of glass, I found solace watching Netflix’s “Drive to Survive” for the first time.
This is a compelling five-season series of behind-the-scenes operations and lives of Formula One, the ultimate in global auto racing.
Backed with mind-boggling technology from groups that include Ferrari, McLaren, Red Bull Racing, and Mercedes, hundreds of staff personnel per team, and twenty “I was born to race” drivers, I found myself cross-referencing, as far-fetched as it may seem, the similarities of their operation to the Bandits (any sport for that matter) and the ultimate challenges of winning races and a world championship.
And they spend billions of dollars to pursue, which is way out of our range, but the underlying goal is the same.
True, the comparison can be any competition, be it sport or industry of choice, but watching the internal sequences of this series captured the intensity and dedication to what it takes to win and be the ultimate number one in the world.
Read me out on this. As I was watching the episodes, I was check-listing similarities.
Granted, running a professional lacrosse league and a franchise doesn’t have the budgets of Formula One Racing. Let’s look at the similar foundation and ribbons of support it takes.
To start, the pursuit of designing and redesigning lacrosse equipment. Continuing to define and improve the indoor box game in play and presentation for the players, fans, and those viewing at home, and;
The management, staff support, community involvement, social media and public relations, and labor peace. The enhancement of officiating through intense rule review, evaluation, and mentorship, and;
Evaluating the players with technology that reviews stature, intelligence, body composition, weakness, phycology, and fit with the other players and;
Access to the latest technology evaluates performance in every part of the playing surface. From goaltending to defense, from transition success to positioning for picks, seals, and slides, and;
Ball movement, rotation success, and shooting positioning include the highest percentage of successful goal-scoring.
And The Directors
Similar in fashion, there is the coaching staff constantly directing, constructively criticizing, and providing positive support;
Always trying to recover from the calamities of mistakes and the immediacy it takes to correct them, all to win the game.
The pursuit is the same: To be the world’s number one champion.
Friday night’s game from Halifax will be broadcast on 1520 The Bet and Audacy.com.
The pregame show will start at 6 PM and feature a chat with Thunderbirds defensive coach Billy Dee Smith and player Randy Staats.
From the Bandits, GM and defensive coordinator Steve Dietrich and player Ian MacKay will join me.
The game will be available on espn+ and tsn+. Also, it’s the TSN Game of the Week, as Jon Abbott, Pat Gregoire, and Ashly Docking will be on the call.
Game time is set for 6:30 PM.
Let’s go outdoors!
Also, this Saturday afternoon, don’t forget to watch the first-ever National Lacrosse League outdoor game from San Diego with the Las Vegas Desert Dogs and the Seals. Broadcast time on ESPN+ and TSN+ will be 4:30 PM. The game will be replayed Saturday night, 11 PM, on ESPNU.