Please, sir, may I have another
That was a tight four-game schedule in eight days and a good one, with the team going 3-1 during the stretch.
“I didn’t mind the four games in eight days because our sticks were staying hot and keeping with the flow of the game, plus traveling together is so beneficial (at this time of the season),” said Chase Fraser. He recorded 13 goals, including three straight four-goal games.
Here is a Josh Allen-style passing play by Matt Vinc, just dropping a dime into the pocket of chase Fraser’s stick, and the power forward scores on an amazing shorthanded shot.
“We played really well in Philadelphia, almost to a complete game. From Matt Vinc, the defense, transition to the offense, we dominated most of the 60 minutes played,” said Bandit’s head coach John Tavares.
This is a Dhane Smith watch: He is six assists from breaking the regular-season record, currently held by Mark Matthews with 84. Too, the Great Dhane is 21 points away from breaking his own 2016 regular season scoring record of 137 points.
Coming into this week’s game against New York, Smith has 38 goals and 79 assists for 117 points.
Congratulations are in order for Connor Fields, having recorded his 100th NLL career point in Thursday’s contest. And, too, the rest of the team performed incredibly well over the four-game schedule, including Smith’s 35 points, Josh Byrne’s 26, Fraser with 17, Fields with 16, and Kyle Buchanan with 15.
Defensively, despite Justin Martin being out for three games and Nick Weiss for two, the club stonewalled many plays, blocked several shots, and recorded 48 caused turnovers. Goaltender Matt Vinc made 183 saves, including 60 in the second game in Halifax.
“I like the fact that we are starting to communicate better on defense, reading different situations and different plays, and I think we are beginning to trust each other. Offensively, they gel so well; it doesn’t matter who’s on, who’s not on, somebody will be there to pick up the slack. So far, it’s been a good group,” said GM and defensive coordinator Steve Dietrich.
The Bandit’s power play was impressive, posting 12 goals on 19 attempts for 63 percent, including five goals on six attempts Saturday night in the loss. And the Bandits transitioned the ball exceptionally well over the four-game stretch.
“If you are going to win games, you need to find ways to score in transition. It’s hard scoring five-on-five,” said Tavares. “If you’re on a breakaway, 2-on-1, 3-on-2, you’re moving, it’s tough to defend that. We are finding different ways to score goals, and we’re finding ways to win, winning with all of the aspects.”
Example of the transition here. Watch Kevin Brownell move the ball up to center. Dhane Smith takes over, with Ian MacKay staying up. And MacKay is back on the receiving end from Smith.
While the Bandits didn’t clinch the Eastern Conference with the 15-14 loss last Saturday night, the game was exhilarating. The Colorado crowd was really into it (I’m sure the listeners and viewers were, too). Yes, several mistakes were made and some crazy goals occurred, but it was a track meet with end-to-end action. And that is incredibly tough for the team’s fourth game in such a short amount of time to take place 5,285 feet above sea level.
“You can’t be overly critical after every shift. Guys are making mistakes every shift; it just happens. You give them what we want them to do, let them play, and then we’ll try to make adjustments as we go,” noted Dietrich.
The team threw everything they had Saturday night towards netminder Dillion Ward, including 62 shots. Still, the Mammoth were desperate to snap a two-game losing streak, having won only two of their last five games. And they took advantage of running the Bandits up and down the floor. Hey, 14 goals in a game is damn good. The playoff scenario will have to wait.
“Qualifying for a playoff spot is all fine and nice, but I’ve been in the league for 13 years, and I’ve known long enough that doesn’t mean anything. We just got to keep going and try to clinch that first place, and we’ll take it from there,” said Bandit’s captain Steve Priolo.
“It’s little baby steps JT has been preaching all along, increments of little goals we are trying to meet with the hope that will bring us to our end goal.”
With a 13-2 record and three games to go in the regular season, this incredibly talented team is poised to make a run in the playoffs. Every aspect of the squad is working in unison, and even Max Adler won 62 percent of the draws Saturday night. And the offense, call them the great eight, ocean’s seven, or the quick six; they are the best in the league.
Here is a taste of the goal scoring Saturday night. With the score 12-12, watch the moves of Tehoka Nanticoke and the selection of shots to give the Bandits a one-goal lead.
“I play against this offense in every practice, and we’re more athletic than in the past. Inside our locker room, we know what we can do. Outside the walls, it doesn’t matter; we haven’t proved anything to anybody. In the playoffs, anything can happen, so we need to keep this positivity going, this good flow and good vibe,” Priolo said.
Below is the precision passing and goal-scoring when under the gun, down 14-13.
As the team captain, and with so much experience over Priolo’s tenure, he has a good handle on this team.
“I need to lead by example. If I’m playing to the best of my ability and playing hard, it will elevate us. Being one of the leaders of this team, managing personalities, making sure everybody is enjoying their time as a lacrosse player, it’s the whole point. This year has been great, and everybody is jelling,” noted Priolo
Ready for some more?
Saturday’s home game against New York will be carried on ESPN 2, ESPN+ and TSN. The face-off time is 5 pm.
Radio coverage will be on WGR Sports Radio 550, with the pregame show scheduled for 4:30 pm. Randy Mearns will join me in the booth, while Dave Buchanan will be traveling all over the building with his remote setup, giving us a different perspective. We’ll have interviews with the coaches and players, too.