A fine night in Georgia
That was a nice entrée of Southern hospitality last Saturday. The Bandits snapped a two-game losing streak, posting an 18-9 score over the Swarm.
Oh, it got a little shaky in the early stages of the second quarter, where the Swam scored three quick ones to take a 5-4 lead. But, when you get those wheels back on from the loss to New York, you need time to adjust the lug nuts.
After that, the Bandits went on a six-goal run and followed up with eight more. I would say that was a Mary Poppins game: Practically perfect in every way.
The offense was spot on. The defense stonewalled many Swarm attempts. And Matt Vinc made solid saves.
Josh Byrne enjoyed a birthday weekend with his buddies, going 3+3.
And Ian MacKay’s mea culpa came out of the penalty box, hit the Swarm’s Bryan Cole with a blast, shook the ball free, scooped it up, and scored.
Worth another look or two.
Dhane Smith proved why he is the best player in the league, with nine points. The Great Dhane is now three points away from breaking the regular-season scoring record, a pinnacle he set back in 2016.
Congratulations to Kyle Buchanan for surpassing 300 career assists and Matt Vince for becoming the first goaltender in league history to make 9,000 saves.
There was another sizeable Banditland grouping Saturday night in Georgia to cheer on and congratulate the team for winning the Eastern Conference and earning home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Banditland is just the best!
While the team has another bye weekend, there will be no rest. Practice, workouts, and video breakdown will be on the menu for the week.
The team will close out the regular season Saturday, April 30, with the season’s third meeting against the Toronto Rock. It will be Fan Appreciation Night as well.
The first playoff game will be Saturday night, May 7, inside KeyBank Center. There is still a battle for third, fourth, and a wildcard spot. Keep updated on social media for the current scenarios.
FAN APPRECIATION TICKETS
Grow the Game!
There has always been a grass-roots effort to continue growing the box lacrosse game. The campaigns have varied over the years, but until recently, areas around the United States are starting to take the box lacrosse game seriously.
The nucleus of this effort is here in Buffalo with the development of the Upstate Collegiate Box Lacrosse League, headed up by the Bandits’ coordinator of lacrosse operations, Dan Ristine.
Ristine started in the ticket office nine years ago. He later moved to help Scott Loffler, senior director of lacrosse operations and alternate governor, with details on running the Bandits during the season.
Now working full-time with Loffler on various duties, Ristine has become a big help. From handling team-related duties and being available for player needs at the spur of the moment. Loffler and Ristine are a good team together running this club.
An avid sports fan, you name it, Ristine follows it. In his minimal amount of spare time, he tries to attend events during the season, including hockey, basketball, and baseball. I’m sure he also catches several football and other outings in between the summer box league schedule.
The most extensive quest in his sporting spare time is visiting every major league baseball park in the country-a feat he is just about to complete. Oh, and he is a local hockey referee, handling assignments during the week. Ah, youth, whatsoever thou art.
More seeds to grow the game
Ristine and Loffler have put together several clinics and Junior Bandit tournaments over the seasons. The Upstate Collegiate Box Lacrosse League is another step in growing the game. It creates an opportunity for players to improve their box lacrosse skills and think about turning pro.
“Our league is based out of Buffalo and Rochester, as we partner with the Knighthawks to run this. We have a very deep talent pool from Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo, and we want to see the players achieve their goals of playing professional lacrosse,” said Ristine
There are a handful of Collegiate Box Lacrosse leagues around the country, including Colorado, Ohio, Connecticut, and Albany. Soon, a league will be developed in the Washington DC/Philadelphia/Baltimore area. More leagues are forming, and several will be established as the NLL expands.
“The cool thing about this is that the winner from each league will go to the USBOXLA Nationals in San Jose, California, to compete for a national championship. Last year The Armory from Rochester ended up winning our league and lost in the national finals to a team from California,” noted Ristine.
Every college lacrosse coach will tell their players to play box lacrosse as it will improve their field game tremendously. Look at all the top players in the Premier Lacrosse League, and they all play box.
American-born Tom Schreiber of the Toronto Rock stepped into the NLL years ago with no box experience and earned rookie of the year honors.
Trevor Baptiste won a spot on the Philadelphia Wings roster by playing summer box lacrosse in Colorado. Yes, he had a fine career as a face-off artist with Denver University, but still, he took the time to learn the rudiments of the box game.
“Last year, we had a team in Buffalo that was very raw, with not a lot of box experience growing up. Dan Coats and Ethan O’Connor coached those kids to a point where they lost the semi-final game of the league by one goal. So, there was a lot of improvement. If you want to take your game to the next level, this is the league to play in.”
OK, so what are the criteria to play in the Upstate Collegiate Box League?
“We accept young players in our league graduated high school seniors through graduated collegiate seniors. We know not everybody who wants to play box lacrosse goes to college, so we accept guys up to 22 years old,” said Ristine.
For years, several box leagues have been embedded in Western New York and Southern Ontario. More are being developed for even younger players.
“Field lacrosse has always been dominant in Buffalo and Rochester, but you are starting to see more and more box leagues pop up. Scott Moore from East Aurora’s Classic Rink runs Beast Lacrosse. His group is beginning to spearhead a Western New York mutually organized house lacrosse league.
“In the summer, you’ll have kids from six or seven townships playing against each other. This one will be the first program that branches out into cities more like a hockey model, so the opportunities are growing, and kids are getting involved. And there is also a league called North American Minor Lacrosse Association, playing in the spring and summer months.”
For information on the Junior Bandit tournament teams, go to Bandits.com/tournaments. There are two tryout sessions, six practices, and two tournaments, including the Junior NLL and I-90 Cup championships.
Wait, there is more.
“We roll right into a winter program that starts in November, playing at the Epic Center. Information on the winter program should be announced in August, and you can register on bandits.com. We’ll have all the information on the site,” Ristine said.
Have a good week.