Clear the Track
After further review, the Bandits are back and on the winning track!
Last Saturday’s season opening 16-9 win over Calgary was most impressive, once we all got the nerves settled. I typed ‘we’ because that included our broadcast team, and virtually everyone involved in getting the first game completed after twenty months away.
“It’s funny, when something is on your mind for that long, and it actually shows up, you’re almost speechless about what it feels like,” said Bandits captain Steve Priolo. “Just driving over the border and getting back into Buffalo, feeling the cobblestone streets under your feet, and getting into the arena, man, I had the chills.”
No more chills. Just the warmth of the Banditland reception and the thrills provided by the team from their strong performance.
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Bandits head coach, John Tavares said after the game it was so good to be back in Banditland playing lacrosse. Too, he mentioned the team was OK in the first half but pinpointed the second half as the time in which they did a better job, outscoring Calgary 9-2 including seven straight goals in the third quarter and shutting out the Roughnecks.
“Whatever I said at halftime, I wish I recorded it so I could play it back every game,” Tavares said. “Credit the team, from Matt Vinc playing a great game, the defense got better as the game progressed, and the offense put the ball into the net when they had to.”
Lots of Numbers and Video Tape
Eight players had multiple point games, including Dhane Smith, who netted three goals and six assists. How about this one, score tied at five, Smith playing defense, gets involved, breaks out, then comes back, nets a loose ball, and the rest is history.
With four assists on the night, Kyle Buchanan lived up to his billing, and even more so by covering a lot of turf, scooping up seven loose balls, creating chances, and taking shots.
Watch 91 come into the screen and take over, finishing with a chance.
“He’s the most underrated player on the offense. He does all the little things, and the four assists were just great for us,” said Smith. “Getting all those loose balls, we’ve never had that before. And winning between the lines (mid-field loose balls and playmaking).”
After Saturday night’s game, Tavares mentioned that Buchanan comes to the Bandits as advertised and expected for him to scoop six to 10 loose balls a game. Furthermore, he said the ninth-year pro can score two, three, four goals on any given night.
“Everybody is a threat right now, which is great. We are going to have different players scoring multiple goals on different nights,” Tavares said.
Well, many players jumped in Saturday night and did some scoring on multiple occasions.
Watch the Bandits on the power play share the ball, finished off by Josh Byrne’s third of the night, breaking a 7-7 tie and starting a run of seven straight goals.
Previously noted, goaltender Matt Vinc had a busy night, stopping 49 shots. Most of the Calgary shots were in lanes he could see, but many were at point-blank range.
“It’s going to come down to hard work executing our defense,” said Priolo. “It’s [about giving] Vno the shots he wants, and we will be able to push the ball and pick up the tempo.”
Priolo shows us the way:
Rookie Tehoka Nanticoke displays his power and takes flight for his third goal of the night.
And speaking of fast, how about this dash and defense by Josh Byrne:
The Bandits defense played so strong that they eliminated Calgary from any attempts to get in close, only allowing plays off the bench in the fourth quarter.
And then Connor Fields showed his brilliant footwork and deking with his third of four goals scored. There’s nothing to get hung about.
Connor Fields forever.
The Bandits Game Belt went to the hometown kid for his five-point night and first Bandits game.
“We have so many weapons on this team that opens up chances. I found myself open a couple of times, but I credit the offense and the defense for the guys getting the ball up there,” said Fields.
The ball continued to bounce in Buffalo’s favor, witnessing the four-point night (1+3) for both Chris Cloutier and Chase Fraser.
Pregame jitters are always good, but the Bandits have settled their nerves by getting back to the game they love regularly.
“I think we can improve immensely,” said Tavares “All of the other teams are going to improve, and we need to be sure and match everybody else. That game is over with, and now we have to concentrate on Rochester.”
The Bandits will head down the thruway this Saturday night to meet the Knighthawks, the first of three games this season. Hope there will be a sizeable Banditland contingent in attendance.
The game will be carried live on ESPN+ starting at 7:00 pm. Our radio coverage on 1520 The Bet will begin with the pregame show at 6:30 p.m. I will speak with Bandits general manager Steve Dietrich and defenseman Justin Robinson.