They came in bunches
The scoring prowess in the last two Bandit games has been phenomenal. The team scored in bunches Saturday night in Georgia, which included two four-goal runs and one six-goal run en route to an 18-9 victory over the Swarm.
It is the first time the Bandits have had back-to-back 18-goal games since the 2017-18 season, and puts the club on a three-game winning streak with a 3-1 record.
These two clubs meet again this Saturday night inside the Key Bank Center at 7:30 PM.
The Bandits next game will be January 14 versus Georgia, it will be the traditional Hometown Heroes Night, recognizing those who have responded and helped us through these trying times, especially this past year.
“There is something that rings through and strong with Buffalo. It’s a community that comes together, and they will always be stronger no matter what,” said Bandit’s Josh Byrne. “They will have each other’s backs, and that’s why I love being a part of the Buffalo community.”
In this crazy game of NLL lacrosse, things can change on a quick pivot, so there’s always room to improve.
“This game is so up and down, it’s complicated,” said Bandits GM and defensive coordinator Steve Dietrich. “It’s good when you come out of a game that you win by nine goals and find a lot of areas that you can improve on. It keeps the guys focused, and there are always areas of improvement.”
Shooting 24 percent from the floor, the Bandits capitalized on their five-on-five frenzy by scoring at all points up front and on transition.
An eight-point night by Kyle Buchanan (3+5), five goals by newcomer Brandon Robinson, another stellar night by Byrne (3+3), seven helpers by Dhane Smith, and the take-no-prisoners play of Tehoka Nanticoke. The second year Bandit scored four goals and assisted four others.
A little bit of Tehoka’s portfolio Saturday night; always on the move
The smoothness of Buffalo’s offense and the talent of Kyle Buchanan has become standard operating procedure. Already a member of the league’s 500+ point club and three goals away from his 200th, “Bucky” adds another dimension.
And how about this setup after a Swarm over-and back-charge. Buchanan finds Byrne shorthanded.
The gunslinging of Brandon Robinson with five goals, shooting 71 percent on the night. And one-handed. As the great late sports broadcaster Dick Enberg would say in his patented refrain, “Oh my.”
Byrne, too, is simply pure.
“This is a really fun offense to play in because you have so many different weapons. Every single one of us is ready to go off at any point,” said Byrne, who has 14 goals and 14 assists on the season. “At the end of the day, they (opponents) have to figure out who they want to cover, and I’ve been fortunate enough to be the last guy on the list.”
With minimal time and space, watch Byrne go to work. Offense and defense, he’s always working.
“There is a bit of a common feel and different preparation this year and throughout the week with the stick in my hands more. This allows me to be myself on the floor and our offense to blossom a little bit,” said Byrne.
And let’s not forget the league-leading 26 assists by last year’s MVP, Dhane Smith. It’s an uncanny design by Bandits head coach John Tavares. He’s always thinking of a different strategy for each game but relies on his pillars.
“He does a really good job of balancing how our offense flows and transitions, stepping up at the right times when we really need something. He’s been incredible for me personally, and I know for our offense as well,” said Byrne.
Smith’s playmaking abilities, despite all the attention, are remarkable. Figuring in almost 40 percent of the Bandits scoring Saturday night.
The Bandits transition game has shown its strength, adding to the diversification of the attack. Nick Weiss, Steve Priolo, and Ian MacKay have nicely tempered the push up the floor to enhance the scoring. But Dietrich looks at it the other way.
“If we can get two, three chances a game in transition, I’m happy with that,” said Dietrich. “I don’t want to give up any the other way with teams getting easy goals against us.”
First possession is so important, and Max Adler had another strong game winning 19 of 31 battles in the faceoff circle.
“We don’t judge Max on the stats. He is doing what we ask of him. We want him to try and put it in an area. Then it’s up to the other four guys to get the ball,” noted Dietrich.
Goaltender Matt Vinc was solid, making 30 saves and collecting his 38th win as a Bandit. The mark ties him with Anthony Cosmo for second place for franchise wins, and Dietrich holds the record with 47.
And you can guarantee Georgia this Saturday night will emphasize their fast transition and talented scoring hands.
“Georgia is very good. They are a young team and very athletic. They like to pressure a lot, especially early on in possessions, forcing turnovers, and they want to fly around with some extreme talent, especially with Lyle Thompson coming out their front door,” noted Byrne.
Too, Dietrich is watchful of this Swarm group.
“Georgia has a lot of talent. They have done a good job of building young defensemen that can transition, and they’ll go all four guys like Adam Wiedemann and Bryan Cole.
“They put the pressure on you because they’ll go four on three, two on one, it doesn’t matter, they don’t look to pull up. Shayne Jackson is so deadly coming off the bench that I’m more worried about getting us off the floor from offense to defense because that’s the kind of stuff we must stop.”
In living color and audio
Television coverage of Saturday night’s game will be on espn+ and tsn.ca. The broadcast time is 7:30 PM. Radio coverage will be on 1520 AM The Bet, with the pregame show starting at 7 PM.
Randy Mearns will join me in the booth, and Dave Buchanan will be between the benches.
On the radio pregame show, we will follow up with Swarm assistant coach Sean Ferris and forward Lyle Thompson. Bandits head coach John Tavares will join us for a team update and team captain Steve Priolo.