On the road again
And this time, it’s all positive as the Bandits turned two deficits into convincing victories, which sets up nicely for a home rematch with Rochester this Saturday night.
Oh, and another chance at taking over first place in the Eastern Conference.
Proper Credentials Only
In a sequestered video session Friday morning in Philadelphia, Bandits GM and defensive coordinator Steve Dietrich called for better communication on defense. Mainly making sure the opponent doesn’t roam freely in the middle, and they pay the price.
It’s the time of the season when paying attention to detail are the nickel-and-dime things that can add up to defeat.
A few lapses here and there allowed the Wings and Riptide to build leads. But good teams find a way to win. And the Bandits did just that.
“I thought we got off to a really good start Friday night in the first quarter. We had a ton of offensive chances, and we were holding them on defense,” said Bandit Kyle Buchanan, who netted his 200th career goal just 49 seconds into the game.
Watch Buchanan (#91) all alone on the right side of the Philadelphia net in their first offensive set of the game. After receiving a pass from Josh Byrne, he goes for attempt one, which is stopped by Zach Higgins. Back into position, Buchanan goes with a quick stick from Dhane Smith, who finds the back of the net.
“But we just couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net, and the Wings shots were going in during the second quarter. We reset at the half, then banged off six straight, maintaining the lead the rest of the way.”
Maintaining in terms of outscoring the Wings 11-3.
“I think we have so many dynamic guys on the offense that they create their own space, and it’s up to other guys and me to find that open room. When they go to those big threats like Josh and Dhane, it’s our job to find that space and get open for them to find us,” said Buchanan.
Watch Dalton Sulver (#27) in the far corner create his own time and space by going over the top with a blistering shot to start a six-goal run in the third quarter.
“Listen, tip my hat to Zack Higgins. I thought he was phenomenal in the first half holding us to three goals. He was great. The ball started to bounce for us in the second half, and we were able to claw back,” said Bandits GM and defensive coordinator Steve Dietrich.
Coffee and Game
Saturday night against an invigorated New York Riptide team, there was a bit of a Bandit wobble. They were down 3-1 and tied 7-7 at the half. But the team rallied in the second half without the services of Josh Byrne who was injured, outscoring the Tide 9-3, including four straight for the 16-10 win.
The Bandits mount a three-goal run with this set down in the Riptide zone, led by Dhane Smith, and a flurry of positioning. Watch Brandon Robinson (#73) from behind the net sneak out in front, positioning himself for a shot.
Watch for the rebound where Ian MacKay (#4) scoops it up and flies horizontally to score around the Riptide net. Wow!
And this was after a three-hour bus ride Friday night from Philly after the game to Long Island; and an 8:30 a.m. optional shootaround Saturday morning, which was attended by the whole team. After that, a video session back at the hotel on New York’s tendencies.
“When you travel on a plane, getting up early in the morning can be tough. But a three-hour bus ride and some camaraderie with the boys, it makes you ready to go,” noted Buchanan.
Nick Weiss was ready to go and all alone in front of the Riptide net. Again, possession is so important, especially when your trying get back in the game.
In a matter of 19 seconds after the Bandits tie the game at three, Max Adler sweeps the ball for a Bandits scoop by Ethan O’Connor who finds Weiss to bring the ball across the restraining line.
A soft pass to MacKay affords Weiss to run right to the net and score for the Bandits first lead of the night.
The NLL’s top goal scorer Byrne took a hit with eight seconds left in the first half and then made a cut on the turf, falling awkwardly. He made it back to the bench and it was decided to have him shut it down for the night. No update on Byrne’s status.
“To replace somebody like Josh and ask him to step in, it’s easiest to say next man up. Half the time, I think it’s a bunch of baloney because you are replacing a fifty-goal scorer with a guy that’s scored 10; it’s not next man up. It’s just everybody else has to do a little bit more,” Dietrich said.
And the Bandits stepped it up under the direction of the Great Dhane, who went 4+7=11 on Saturday night, topping his weekend totals to 6+14=20.
Brandon Robinson was a huge presence (3+4=7), and Ian MacKay took command upfront going 4+2=6.
Robinson scored his second of three goals on what will become the game-winner. Watch Robinson (#73) break free, sweep in, and take a feed from Tehoka Nanticoke, scoring right in front of Orleman.
And the Bandits transition was superb, with a handful of rushes, shots, and goals, which included two by Matt Spanger.
Here is a classic transition goal set-up by Steve Priolo (#23) as he intercepts the ball and starts a mad dash with Ethan O’Connor and Matt Spanger (#25). Spanger receives the pass from O’Connor, and the rest is in the net.
“We focus on ourselves and like to dictate the play,” said Buchanan.
Stats, Streaks, Soakers, Loosies, Man Up & Man Down
Smith had a great weekend scoring 20 points. The two-time league MVP leads in NLL scoring with 62 points (15+47), 11 ahead of his partner Byrne and 18 points ahead of number three Will Malcom of Panther City.
In addition, Smith has scooped 47 loose balls, five caused turnovers and two blocked shots. He leads the club on the power play with four goals and eight assists.
Byrne is second in team scoring and second overall in the league (25+26=51). He’s the leader in shots with 121, shooting 21% from the floor, has 35 loosies, and six caused turnovers.
“Dhane is Dhane, right? I always call Dhane and Josh Batman and Robin, and I don’t know who is who; I guess you could say they are two Batmans,” Dietrich said.
Ian MacKay had a career-high night Saturday with four goals and two assists. In addition, the four-year Bandit has 62 loosies, 11 caused turnovers (tied for fourth in the league with Nick Weiss), and two soakers. Too, MacKay is shooting 27 percent from the floor.
Nick Weiss is on an eight-game point-scoring streak (3+10=13). Weiss has eight soakers and 12 caused turnovers, and 55 loosies, including a team-high 10 Saturday night.
Steve Priolo has points in six of his seven games played (1+10), good for third amongst league defensemen in scoring. In addition, the Bandits captain is tied for first in the league with 10 soakers, has 56 loosies, and nine caused turnovers.
Matt Spanger doubled his career high with two goals Saturday night. His three goals put him in third place in defensemen goal scoring. Spanger has 37 loosies, 11 caused turnovers, and is shooting 30 percent from the floor.
Buchanan is third in team scoring averaging 4.5 points per game. Nanticoke has five goals in his last two games. Brandon Robinson (12+6=18) has five goals and five assists in his previous three games. Max Adler went 60 percent on faceoffs and 50 percent overall.
Goaltender Matt Vinc is second in the NLL in save percentage with .800. Vinc has made the most saves and just backstopped his fourth 40+ save game with a 45 Saturday night (91 saves for the weekend).
The Bandits power play Saturday night was the best so far this season, going 5 of 6, improving their status to second in the league at 57 percent (13/23.) The penalty kill stands at 55 percent (44 times shorthanded, 20 goals against), 9th overall, but the weekend proved successful allowing only three goals on 11 attempts for an impressive 73 percent.
Back in Banditland Saturday night to celebrate the Creator’s game with Native American Night.
Rochester suffered their first defeat of the season last Friday night in Halifax, 17-7. The K-Hawks record is now 6-1, which resets the battle for first place with the Bandits.
Connor Fields makes his first return to KeyBank Center since last season with the Bandits. Fields leads the powerful Knighthawks attack with 21 goals and 18 assists. Holden Cattoni (17+19=36), Ryan Smith (14+19=33), Curtis Knight (7+21=28), and Thomas Hoggarth (13+12=25) round out the forwards.
Defenseman Matt Gilray is having a good season with six goals and seven assists. In addition, the former Bandit has 57 loose balls, six caused turnovers, and three blocked shots.
Goaltender Rylan Hartley has a .790 save percentage and a 6-1 record. He made 39 saves in the 49 minutes played last Friday. Another classic goaltending duel coming up with Hartley and Vinc.
Television coverage will be on ESPN+ and TSN+. The broadcast time is set for 7:30 p.m.
Randy Mearns will join me in the booth, while Dave Buchanan will be between the benches.
Radio coverage will be on 1520 AM The Bet, with the pregame show scheduled at 7 PM. Bandits coach John Tavares and Bandit Brad McCulley will join us. Too, we will check in with K-Hawks coach Mike Hazen and Connor Fields.