Built for Buffalo
Let’s face it, from the Rock’s perspective, Toronto is built to beat Buffalo.
And right now, they’re ready to take a shot at establishing their dominance in pursuit of the NLL Championship starting this Saturday night inside KeyBank Center.
This game will decide the top spot in the east and ye olde “home field advantage.” The regular season series is tied 1-1.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Ontario Provincial Police provided an escort with the Rock’s team bus down the QEW Friday afternoon.
Ok, big deal, and we’re tired of the media slang, “These two teams don’t like each other.” They don’t, which was displayed outright in the last encounter.
But this club, which has developed a solid fan base in two short seasons in Hamilton, is seething from the conference finals loss to Buffalo last May.
This game Saturday night isn’t a “hippity-hop March to May hype.” Nope, the Rock are coming into their final regular season game with two objectives:
Leave town with the narrative confirmed, “The Rock are for real.”
And quite frankly, they might just be prepared to do so.
Corey Small (38+39=77) and Stephen Keogh (25+26=51) have improved Toronto’s attack from last year by leaps and bounds.
This has given Tom Schreiber (45+67=112) and Dan Craig (35+45=80) newfound territory to roam with reckless abandon and score, score, score.
Latrell Harris (9+20=29) and Mitch de Snoo (10+9=19) lead a top defense in the league, witnessing a +71 goals-for and goals-against difference.
Nick Rose (.800%, 13-4) is Nick Rose. Always solid.
Oh, to add a little more muscle to the Rock’s defense/transition group of Brandon Slade, Brad Kri, and Josh Jubenville, the offseason signing of Chris Corbeil has come to flower with his return to play.
Like former All-Pro linebacker Mike Curtis of the then Baltimore Colts, where drool from this side of his mouth was a trademark of his tenacious play, the Rock players follow suit.
They want this game Saturday night. They want the Bandits in the playoffs. They want this year’s NLL Championship.
There are no quotes to go along with this issue. There is nothing more to be said except a “holler for a dollar” announcer:
“Bandits vs. Rock, Saturday, April 22, 2023, 8 p.m., KeyBank Center, Buffalo, New York. Get your tickets, Noooooow.”
Saturday night’s 11-10 Bandits overtime win, their fourth of the season, showed great players making great plays.
Josh Byrne celebrated his birthday and engagement in style, fueling the Bandits offense in the fourth quarter with two goals and a game-winner at 3:04 of the extra session.
Dhane Smith, recording a point on every goal, with eight assists and adding three of his own, showed why he is nicknamed “The Great Dhane.”
Watch New York on one of their many attempts. Jeff Teat sets up Connor Kearnan, who is denied by Vinc’s splitting save (one of 47 on the night). With under a minute to play, the Bandits push the ball back and Smith takes care of the rest, tying the game at 10.
Chris Cloutier was like a traffic cop in a Paris roundabout, dishing five assists.
And then there was Kyle Buchanan, taking matters into his own stick with three beauties. He is scary good.
And, too, scraping for the ball. Double-teamed on the play, gathering it, and managing to get a pass to Sulver.
Chase Fraser was a tenacious middleman and it pays shows in this impressive goal.
Congratulations to Sam La Roue for earning his first NLL point, assisting on Byrne’s second goal.
And a pretty good check by Slamming Sammy, too.
The Bandits defense played well, and Matt Vinc’s 14 saves in the third quarter solidified his 47-save performance.
Watch Nick Weiss covering Jeff Teat. He gets bumped from behind but manages to get back into position, forcing New York to circulate the ball. Priolo watches everything up front, swatting the ball away but the Riptide gain it back. Teat on one of his 21 attempts, stopped cold by Vinc.
Congratulations, Max Adler, for receiving the “Heavyweight Player of the Game” belt. The Maxman has been great in the last handful of games.
Here, Adler wins one of his 14 on the night with 13.6 seconds left in the third quarter, breaking free from two Riptide players, and rolls in with a shot on goal.
Adler played a pivotal role at the end of the game, winning the draw after Smith’s game-tying goal, and, the faceoff to start the overtime session.
Please, sir, may I have another.
Braver than Brave – Tucker out Lymphoma Night
I did choke up on the broadcast at the start of game coverage when delivering Tucker’s request of “live more, laugh more, love more.”
After the midfield gathering of the Williams family and both teams coming together as one, things hit me like an emotional wave – and I’ve covered nine Tucker nights – struggling with the words, pausing to push the air it took to say.
I love the statement read from the photo of two teams and the Williams family gathered at midfield: “Tonight we play for those that can’t.”
Players and fans were displaying the cards that were handed out with “Tonight I’m fighting for_____.”
The end result of the night was overwhelming by the 16,051 fans. And the 51 is so fitting as the number Shawn and Tucker wore. And older brother, Dyson, sports as a senior with the Duke Blue Devils.
Still tallying the numbers, Saturday night’s uniform auction, lacrosse ball surprise, goal balls, nameplates, poster, raffle, and game-used equipment raised over $30,000. The lacrosse ball sale was sold out in 17 minutes.
Bravo to you, the fans of Banditland! Thank you so much for another great Tucker night.
The Bandits went over the 100,000 mark in attendance for the season Saturday night. The night was also the 500th game – the first ever in the National Lacrosse League as a single city to reach that mark.
See you Saturday night. Don’t forget, It’s an 8PM start.
Testing 1-2. Can you hear me in the back?
Broadcast coverage Saturday night will be provided by ESPNU, ESPN+, and TSN+. The broadcast time will be 8 p.m.
Radio coverage will be on 1520 The Bet and audacy.com The pregame show will start at 7:30 p.m. We will chat with Rock assistant coach Rusty Kruger and player Corey Small. Bandits GM and defensive coordinator Steve Dietrich will update us on the club. Chris Cloutier will provide a player’s perspective.