Well, that was easy – Not.
Bandits survived a Philadelphia scoring onslaught that proved one thing: When the going gets tough, the tough get going – that is, what was left of them as a rash of injuries shortened the bench.
But the club persevered and won their first overtime game of the season 13-12, improving their East conference lead with an 8-2 record.
“It was a nice character win, and I was happy to be a part of it. Of all our eight wins this year, Saturday night was my favorite, and I want to call that an ugly win,” said Bandits head coach John Tavares.
“One-goal games give you experience and teach you a lot. It’s just a different atmosphere when you fight tooth and nail; it gives you character.”
Toronto won their seventh in a row to improve to 8-2, and now Rochester will attempt to match with a home game this Saturday against New York. The Bandits (four-game winning streak) and Rock are idle – again.
As much as I can’t stand bye weeks, the Bandits need this one badly to heal and review who is OK and who is not. This creates a shuffle in game planning.
“It changes a lot, especially offensively. We had some defensive guys come up and play offense, so we had to freestyle and kept it simple. Luckily, we scored when we had to,” Tavares said.
No update on the injured Bandit players as of this edition of Fast Break. Hopefully better news next week as the club prepares for a road game in Halifax on Friday, March 3.
The Great Dhane
“Dhane had a great game (5+5, including game-winner), especially when Philadelphia was keying on him. He got some from Brad McCulley (4+5), and we are finding ways to score without the team’s top goal scorers, which shows our team’s depth.”
Too, when you have a player like Kyle Buchanan, who had a memorable night scurrying around creating havoc, setting picks, scooping loose balls (8), assisting on six goals, and scoring one himself.
Here is Buchanan #91 clogging the center, allowing Smith to take a shot. Brandon Robinson gets the rebound and resets the shot clock. Buchanan again creates a disturbance in the middle, then breaks free to get a pass from Smith. Then “Bucky” takes over with some nifty moves and a low burner that finds the net.
Buchanan, again on one of his six assists in the game. Smith gets a lane, thanks to the seal by Buchanan. The shot is blocked, with the rebound scooting to the near side. Watch Buchanan #91 with the scoop and shovel pass brilliantly to Ian MacKay, who takes care of the rest.
Another storyline was the first game of Nathaniel Kozevnikov, a 2019 second-round choice by the Bandits. He injured his knee in summer ball and could not participate in the ’19 training camp, and subsequently the shortened ’19-’20 season.
Healthy and ready for the ’21-’22 season, Kozevnikov reinjured his knee in the Bandits first exhibition game, which required surgery, forcing him out for the season.
He stayed in Buffalo last season, working diligently on rehab with the doctors and doing everything he needed to do. Plus, he wanted to be with the team.
Finally, through tough preparation this training camp and practices, number 44 made his debut last Saturday night and did not disappoint, earning two assists, four shots on goal, and some nifty moves.
Watch Kozevnikov #44 in the play, heading to the middle, then retreating to the left point in time to get a pass from Brad McCully. Kozevnikov then makes a perfect pass to Smith, who makes his way to score.
“The sky is the limit for him. He’s a big guy that plays rugged but has soft hands, and those guys are hard to find,” said Bandits GM and defensive coordinator Steve Dietrich.
Here is another sequence with Kozevnikov #44 on the Bandits power play. Watch Kozevnikov in the middle, breaking things up. Then, with a Philadelphia break, Kozevnikov wacks the ball free, which gives the ball back to the Bandits, allowing for another attempt and later a goal by Brad McCulley.
“We found a way to do it. We were pulling defense guys up, and Koz helped a lot. I’m getting more comfortable week by week and happy to help as best as possible,” said McCulley.
The game was tied six times, with the nailbiter coming at the 10:47 mark when Blaze Riorden scored to tie the game at 12 and force an overtime session.
And #92 was there with Buchanan creating some space.
“We need to find ways to win in the gritty games like last Saturday. The little things, Loose balls, running on and off the floor, make a world of difference.
“Now I’m happy we are off because we need time for guys to heal now,” said Tavares.
Have a good week.