“We can’t take anyone lightly. Any team in this league can beat any team on any given night, and I truly believe that.” – Bandits Head coach John Tavares
See what happens when both teams are caught in the eye of a Nor’easter and have to take shelter for a day?
Was it cabin fever, having been confined in a small space like motivational speaker Matt Foley spending the day drinking coffee in the basement?
Indeed, the storm’s intensity on Long Island Friday night and Saturday had everyone on tenterhooks, building excitement of the unknown. Yeah, I would say your enthusiasm level gets a bit high, and when the coast cleared (no pun), you wanted to get out and exert some of that built-up energy.
The Bandits and New York Riptide did just that Sunday afternoon, scoring 35 goals dazzling goals, getting caught on lead changes, then forcing overtime. Fortunately, it was in Buffalo’s favor when Chris Cloutier scored the game-winner at the 1:11 mark of the extra session, ending the goal bombing and pushing Buffalo’s record to 5-0.
“They play so well and just have a great feel for each other. Their timing and spacing is amazing, resulting in a very potent offense,” said Riptide head coach, Dan Ladouceur. “Their defense is big and swarming, and when you have Matt back there you have to make the most of every single shot you get.”
And the Riptide certainly made the most of it by converting on some nifty shots, including a scary lead-changing seven-goal run that almost sealed the deal for the second-year franchise.
“Their record (Riptide) does not tell the true story,” said Tavares. “And if you take a look at the games played this season in the league, it seems every game is going into overtime or one-goal games. The majority of the games are tight.”
It looked like old-school box lacrosse with that many goals scored. It was not a Bandit record (March 13, 1992, when the Bandits battled Baltimore, prevailing 27-20). Still, it was darn close and indeed a surprising score in today’s NLL game.
Let me preface, had it not been for Scott Loffler and Dan Ristine from Bandit operations taking note of the impending storm that was brewing into a weather phenomenon, the Bandits might have been stuck out in the middle of nowhere.
With a frantic rescheduling of flights, accommodation extensions, and the Riptide pushing the game to Sunday afternoon, everything worked out perfectly, and it was as if nothing ever happened. Except for the fact of stabling highly tuned athletes with a thirst to compete in a confined space for a period of time, you are bound to get a stampede and explosion of goal scoring.
It was like a snow thrower gone wild.
This was a breakout game for rookie Tehoka Nanticoke, who was relentless from the very start of the game, ending up with four goals and two assists on the day.
“When the ball is in my stick, I like either getting a goal or an assist. An assist is just as good as a goal,” said Nanticoke, who now has ten goals and six assists. “It doesn’t matter what kind of shot I take; I’m expecting it to go in the net.”
Coach Tavares preaches goal production by committee, and with eight talented goal scorers on one team, it’s icing on the cake when you can, too, score in a faceoff scramble and an outlet pass from other players.
Below Nick Weiss shows his scoring prowess by receiving a nice outlet pass from Vinc, and, next, how about these moves by Kevin Brownell scooping a loosie at center then finishing it off with a score, just nine seconds after a Conner Fields goal!
Goalless over his two previous games, Connor Fields jumped right back into the scoring bracket with four tallies and continued his assisting as well.
“Connor is off to a great start, and it’s hard to make those expectations for every game. I tell the guys you don’t have to score goals to have a good offensive game,” Tavares said.
“You can get ground balls; you can make hustle plays; you can get back on defense, make a nice pass, set some picks, get guys open; there are other things besides goals offensively they can do to be productive.”
Below is a nice set-up from Ian MacKay, who recorded two assists and scooped 12 loose balls, to Dhane Smith.
Before you knew it 16 goals had been scored by halftime. Who would have thought another 19 would be added by game’s end, including a seven-goal run by the Riptide, which gave them a 17-14 lead with 7:08 remaining in regulation?
Below are a couple of sweet goals by the Riptide to really make a game of it.
Thanks to Josh Byrne and Smith, figuring in 88 percent of the Bandits scoring, and goals by Chase Fraser, Fields, and the game-tying goal by Byrne, the Bandits finished on top. It’s about teamwork, and defenseman Bryce Sweeting starts the play in his end to Bryne, who fakes a pass and then lets one rip!
“We are getting better every game. We all can score, we can all set picks, we are getting each other open, and that’s our main job,” Nanticoke said. “The ball is going to drop; it doesn’t matter whose stick it is.”
12 Bandit players contributed to the scoring, along with stellar goaltending, defense, and the overall offensive craft. But there is room to improve.
“I still think there is room for improvement by all means,” noted Tavares. “We try to make adjustments quarter to quarter, half to half, game to game. We want to make the playoffs, and we want to be in the championship and win the championship.
Back to life. Back to reality.
Congratulations to Bandits captain Steve Priolo for earning his 1,000th loose ball of his career. And Chase Fraser for eclipsing 100 points, now into his fourth season. There was a goal chance on the scoring for Buffalo. Initially awarded to Brad McCully at 11:56 of the first quarter, the goal was scored by Connor Fields and changed Monday officially. So that is three four-goals games so far for Fields.
Crazy, the Riptide went six for ten on the power play and had a couple of two-man advantages. Buffalo capitalized as well, going five for seven, including the game-winner.
Bryne and Smith attempted 44 percent of the Bandits shots (18 & 16, respectively). Too, the tandem had three caused turnovers apiece. With two goals and nine assists, Smith has 718 career points. Cloutier continues with contributing an average of four points per game. MacKay has points in every game he has played. Brownell, 1+1 Sunday, continues with his strong play. Vince continues with a strong .808 save percentage, accompanied by his 5-0 record.
- Dhane’s 11 points last Sunday ranks second to Jeff Teat’s (NY) and Ryan Lee (Colo) 12 points in a game this season
- Josh Bryne is 12th in NLL scoring (13+17=30), 1st in shorthanded goals with 3, and is currently shooting 21 percent from the floor
- Connor Fields is shooting 28 percent from the floor
- As a team the Bandits are shooting 27% from the floor
K-Hawks in Sight
Rochester comes to Buffalo this Saturday for another thruway battle. It’s Hometown Heroes Night as the Bandits salute first responders, police, military, firefighters, and healthcare workers.
Digital TV coverage of the Bandits/Knighthawks game will be provided by ESPN+ and TSN starting at 7:30 p.m. Radio coverage will be on 1520 The Bet. The pregame radio show will start at 7 p.m. and feature a conversation with Steve Dietrich and Upfront with Kevin Brownell.
Randy Mearns joins me in the booth with Dave Buchanan between the benches.