Rollin, Rollin, Rollin
Time to start rounding up the Bandits who have been on holiday grazing and push them back into action this Saturday night, January 8, at home against the Toronto Rock.
Refresher 101: The club stands 2-0 from their victories over Calgary (16-9) and Rochester (12-8). After a series of individual workouts and a couple practices, rest assured this group will pick back up where they left off on December 11.
It ain’t gonna be easy.
Imagine, if you will, spending a whole month of training camp rising to the demanding level of NLL play, going full bore for two straight weeks, and then stopping for 26 days before facing an opponent in real-time again. It’s like running an Indy car at full RPMs around the track for that period, then putting it in a garage, with just a few revs and laps now and then.
It’s going to take teamwork with a complete buy-in and commitment. But considering the personality, authentic spirit, and remarkable talent of this band of Bandits, it won’t take long.
Time to Ride
The Bandits will play ten straight weekends, including four home games (1/8, 1/15 vs. Georgia, 1/29 vs. New York, and 2/5 vs. Rochester). The next bye will be the weekend of March 19!
It’s only right the Bandits draw a tough and talented team such as the Rock with this restart. And they, too, have been away from game action since December 18.
This is Tucker’s Night
In addition, the game Saturday night will be filled with emotion from both sides as the two teams will celebrate the life of Tucker Williams in the eighth annual Tucker Out Lymphoma Night. Regardless of its fierce rivalry status and personal vendettas, the two teams will gather as one for a game whose meaning goes far beyond the sport of lacrosse.
Both the Bandits and Rock will wear specially designed uniforms for the entire game (not merely a warmup wrap), which will be available for a special auction for fans to bid on as well.
The two team’s motto for this special night: Braver than Brave.
Now, on the playing surface, this game could be as mean as if played out on the street.
Paraphrasing from Dr. Dre’s 2001 song “Still D.R.E”:
Still rockin my khakis with a cuff and crease and still got a love for lacrosse in the street.
Well, me and Byrnzi, we dippin again, keepin my ear to the streets, that Clouts is lookin slim, but Fields is the boy shootin inside the rim.
Hittin them corners in the low-lows, still takin the time to perfect the beat, and still got love for lacrosse in the street.
It’s no secret that there’s no love lost between these two teams. Not that there will be a street fight, but you get my point. When these two teams get together, it’s all out.
The Rock has a talented group of forwards led by Rob Hellyer, a four-time 30-plus goal scorer, and Bandit nemesis. The shifty right-hander has picked up where he left off in 2020, scoring five goals and nine assists in three games played. In addition to his team-high 33 shots on goal, Hellyer has stuck around in the fray by scooping up 18 loose balls. The guy is relentless. Keep your eye on #10.
Dan Dawson continues to dominate, now into his twentieth season. A true ambassador of the game, Dawson’s 6’5″ frame allows him to see and direct his teammates, which adds to his playmaking and knack for scoring as well. Dawson, who is dedicating his season to his late father, Joe, will be playing in his 300th game, six away from John Tavares’s league record of 306. Unofficially, Dawson has 1,445 points.
Reid Reinholdt, adding three goals and eight assists joins the shifty Dan Craig (three goals, six assists), while Tom Schreiber (eight goals, two assists), is on the injured reserve list. Another notable key player is Brad Kri. Not only does the eight-year pro take faceoffs, he’s also a ball chaser with 25 loosies and eight caused turnovers.
Talk about sticking to the attack; the top five scoring forwards for the Rock have recovered 67 loose balls, which shows their dedication to keeping the play in the offensive zone.
Defensively, Challen Rogers (team captain), Mitch de Snoo (six caused turnovers and 25 loose balls), Billy Hostrawser, and Latrell Harris play a very physical game.
Entering his 12th season between the pipes, goaltender Nick Rose has played in every game for the last four seasons and has a career 14-10 record against the Bandits.
From the Chuckwagon
For the Bandits, yes, there is a consummate group of eight forwards who can play their position and score at will. After the Calgary game, bandits head coach, John Tavares, mentioned he would expect different players to score multiple goals on a given night. Share the ball, share the wealth.
Defensively, Ian MacKay and Matt Spanger join the solid group in a healthy state, which includes Justin Martin back on the active roster. Bryce Sweeting and Nick Weiss lead the way, soaking shot after shot. Team captain Steve Priolo shows his leadership in multiple columns with one goal and one assist, 19 loose balls, four caused turnovers, and three blocked shots.
Goaltender Matt Vinc enters the season’s restart with an impressive .851 save percentage. The 16-year pro made 16 saves in the fourth quarter in the Bandits win over the Knighthawks.
TV and Radio Coverage
Saturday night’s game from KeyBank Center will be carried on ESPN+ and will be the TSN Game of the Week in Canada. The broadcast will go at 7:30 p.m.
Steve Bermel joins me and Dave Buchanan for the radio coverage on 1520 The Bet. The pregame show will start at 7 p.m. with a complete preview, a one-on-one with coach Tavares, and “Upfront” with Kyle Buchanan. Streaming audio is available at www.audacy.com/thebetbuffalo.