NO TIME TO CHANGE YOUR SOCKS
Packed with hours of on-field practices, team meetings, an open practice, massive autograph session, and preseason game number two, the Bandits are enthusiastically preparing for the upcoming 2023-24 season.
Between Saturday morning, starting at 8 a.m. with a team breakfast (thanks to the Sabres/Bandits chefs, which included a delicious luncheon) and culminating at high noon Sunday, it was all intense business for week two of training camp.
“COME ON IN.”
Indeed, a breath of fresh air, literally and figuratively, came during Saturday morning’s two-hour session in front of at least 2,600 fans of Banditland inside KeyBank Center for the club’s annual Open House.
The music, Chris Swenson on PA, and routines by the Bandettes certainly put everybody in a zest for the season to begin. The Bandits players put on an excellent display of their championship form.
And they enjoyed it.
“Absolutely! It was a good feeling. Getting the music going in the building. We are excited,” said Kyle Buchanan, entering his third season with the Bandits, 11th overall in the NLL. “We have the same core together, and the last time we were in this building, there were nineteen thousand here, so we are ready for that again.”
COULD YOU DO IT AGAIN?
Practice makes perfect, and the rudimentary drills can constantly become redundant. Still, the players know how important they are at every position.
“I am always trying to hone in on my own skills on what I can do, but I’m also trying to pay attention to what’s good for the people around me,” said Bandits captain Steve Priolo.
“A lot of the time, there is a point to the drill, whether it loose balls or whatever, so you try and just dial in. Kind of a game within a game.”
GET IN THE NET
The more rubber they see, the better for goaltenders, regardless of the drill or game action. In addition, when the competition is tight with four netminders in Bandits camp, they always want to be at their best. No redundancy here.
“It’s been a competitive camp, and I’m trying to take everything in,” said Steve Orleman, acquired over the summer in a trade with New York. “Coz (goaltending coach Anthony Cosmo) has a great goalie mind, and to have somebody like that leading the way for you is fantastic, let alone Matt Vinc.
“I think all goalies have shown really well, and it’s really going to be tough on the coaching staff for decisions to make in the future.”
COME TOGETHER RIGHT NOW
In addition to the endless drills and systems being taught, the tenor of togetherness takes work.
“Our goal here is just come together as a team, get everybody on the same page, making sure we know the system, inside and out, and trying to put our best team on the floor,” defenseman Matt Spanger, entering his fifth season with the Bandits, said. “We are always thinking about getting better; it’s always been the mentality.”
SHOOT THE BALL
The drills are a constant for the forwards playing offense, always looking to improve the shot coming off the stick twine.
“When we are doing these drills, we are getting a bunch of reps, getting as many as we can, and for me, I’m just trying to get better every day, working on shooting and things you can improve upon from last year,” noted Brad McCulley, entering his third season and coming off a 31-point campaign.
If you’re Dhane Smith, you want to play as much as possible, and like a drummer, you want to get in the pocket.
“It’s getting the rhythm. I like playing in the preseason scrimmages, and I know we have a lot of guys trying out, but I told the coaches I want to be a part of the whole game,” said Smith, last season’s MVP of the playoffs.
RAISE YOUR RIGHT HAND
Buchanan likes the teaching, drills, and having all his righties back up front.
“You know the four righties didn’t play together till game 16 last season, so it’s nice to have us all back and build that chemistry.
“We have some new bodies this year, so there has been more teaching in the training camp than in years past. It’s been good,” noted Buchanan, who has recorded eight 50-plus points seasons.
THE PRICE OF SUCCESS
The hours spent in training camp can be grueling, but it’s the price you pay to achieve success, never letting it go to your head. Call it the Bandit way.
“The first day, it was like we were finally all back together. But that was quickly put aside, and it was back to work, said Priolo, entering his 13th season with the Bandits.
“That’s the kind of culture we have built here. It started with Vno (Matt Vinc) back in 2019 with the way that we do things, the way that we present ourselves, and the way that we act and treat our bodies all the time is just a part of our culture.”
Can you feel the enthusiasm?
PRESEASON GAME #2
It was a good showing by the Bandit squad, sprinkled with veterans and new faces, backed by Bandit netminders Orleman and Devlin Shanahan. Rochester brought a competitive team and prevailed 12-11.
There were moments in the game that showed the Bandit’s precision in passing and shooting, which included Chase Fraser’s three goals.
The defense, too, did an excellent job in hits, takeaways, and stops. Ian MacKay did his thing with consistent play, which included two “pick-sixes” that were saved by Knighthawk goaltenders.
Both Orleman and Shanahan came up with some solid saves.
Training camp ’23 moves northward to Canada with sessions in Oakville at the Toronto Rock Athletic Center.
The club will play its third preseason game on Saturday, November 25, against Georgia, on the turf of the Iroquois Lacrosse Arena on Six Nations Reservation. The game is open to the public.
REGULAR SEASON OPENER
The Bandits open the season on the road in Albany on December 9. The first home game is December 16, with the 2023 National Lacrosse League Championship banner-raising ceremony and the San Diego Seals as the opponents.