A weekend for two
Ah, yes, perfect. Would you make that two Bandits lacrosse games, Saturday and Sunday? And spectacular goaltending with 52 and 60 saves, respectfully. Outstanding defense with lane clearing checks and accelerated transition. Too, don’t forget to sprinkle fantastic goal scoring with captivating moves. Oh, and, yes, 42 shots for each game, netting Bandit goals within the first minute, and make the score 16-11 on both days,
Thank you, that will be all.
The Bandits filled the bill with their first back-to-back weekend by dominating the Halifax Thunderbirds. The team clinched a playoff spot; watched Dhane Smith score his 300th career goal extending his lead in the NLL’s scoring race by 11 points; and wiped the brow of goaltender Matt Vinc for his 112 save performance for a fantastic .838 percentage weekend.
Look below at the teamwork by the Bandits and one of the many fine saves by Vinc, followed up with transition, and then the magic begins followed up by the great Dhane.
“It’s exciting to put ourselves into a position to be successful to the end of the season,” said Bandits Forward Connor Fields. “Yes, we clinched a playoff spot, but we are really pushing to elevate ourselves in the standings and trying not to be touched near the end of the season.”
I would say, except for the 13 minutes and 57 seconds in the second quarter of Saturday’s game, the Bandits turned in an exceptional performance both days in all five areas: goaltending, defense, transition, forwards (slick six), and specialty teams (power play and penalty killing), where the Bandits went 7 for 12 and only allowed one Thunderbirds tally on 12 attempts for 92 percent efficiency!
Here is the turning point of Saturday’s game. Down 9-6, the Bandits ignite the comeback with a much- needed goal – shorthanded!
You’d think the Bandit players would be giddy, but they are committed and steered accordingly.
“JT does a good job of grounding the guys. We don’t have to look too far back (2019) when we were the number one seed. That amounted to a hill of beans when we lost to Calgary two straight,” said Bandits GM and defensive coordinator Steve Dietrich.
Sunday, the Bandits made some hay, again, with teamwork. Watch Max Adler win the draw and his teammates at the ready. By moving into the Thunderbirds zone, the ball movement is precise and Smith scores his 300th NLL career goal!
“I think any of the guys who were on that team realize it’s a process: The first step is to make the playoffs, the second step is to get home field, the third step is to get first place to continue to get home field. If we stick to it, I think we’ll be fine.”
And like fine wine, living up to his nickname Vno, watch his positioning and movement, reading the plays and making the saves. Just a couple of the 114 saves he made over the weekend.
There is not much time to relish the weekend for two performances as the road swing continues with a meeting in Philadelphia against the Wings. Then to the mile-high city of Denver to close out the four games in an eight-day schedule.
It will be demanding, but the enthusiasm of past performances just might guarantee future positive results. I’ve heard that said somewhere before.
“It’s a lot easier on the body and mind coming off a win. Travel worked out, good sleep and a bit of a stretch, and a good meal,” said Dietrich of the weekend back-to-back. And going forward: “We need to match the desperation, and we want to create as much separation from other teams.”
The Bandit head athletic trainer Ryan Rajk is prepared for this set of games, which includes the dramatic rise in elevation.
“Considering we are going from playing 4 games in 28 days to 4 games in 8 days, it will be a grind for these guys. That being said, I truly believe we are up for the challenge,” said Rajk
“Game four in Denver will be a new challenge for this team due to the rise in elevation, but being aware and educated will prepare us for this task. The good news is that we get in early on Friday and have more than 24 hours before game time to adjust to the altitude.
“Our medical team will be aware of altitude sickness and symptoms like; headaches, shortness of breath, dizziness, and nausea. Preventing these symptoms from happening will start before we even land in Denver by eating a slightly higher-calorie diet in carbohydrates. Too, drinking plenty of water and water enriched with electrolytes (potassium, calcium, magnesium, and sodium.)
“Other added preventative measures to ensure we will be ready for gameday include limiting energy expenditure on Friday. Getting to sleep early that night will help the athlete’s body adjust to the higher altitude.”
Even after last Saturday’s game consuming a healthy meal, many of the players went through a Cryotherapy session before driving to Toronto, making the 9 pm flight to Halifax.
The players take care of their bodies and commit to their weekly workouts and care sessions.
Hope all of you can join us, tell your friends and neighbors, and enjoy this ride the Bandits are on.
The games will be carried by ESPN+ and TSN on Thursday and Saturday night. Thursday’s game will start at 7:30 pm from the Wells Fargo Center, and Saturday’s game in Denver’s Ball Arena will go at 9 pm eastern.
Radio coverage of both games will be on 1520 The Bet. The pregame shows will be one half-hour before the faceoff times. The standard operating procedure with coaches and player interviews.