Step away from the cookies, sir!
Too many sugar plums are still dancing in my head. I must have set a new record of eating chocolate chip cookies from my daughter’s store, The Farm Shop, via Butterblock bakery this past Christmas weekend.
Back to reality, walking, working out, and please no more!
In state dinner fashion, Christmas came early for the Bandits with their championship ring presentation party following their 12-9 victory over San Diego. It was the best unwrap party ever!
The holiday tide has receded, and a swath of six straight games is coming forward for the Bandits, including the following two at home.
This Friday, the Bandits host the 2-1 Georgia Swarm for their only matchup of the season, which is part of the new scheduling in the unified format this season.
“I love the new set-up; it allows the fans to see new teams in the league. It’s a tiebreaker game, looking at the end of the year,” noted Bandits head coach John Tavares.
“This game means a lot when you’re trying to end up as high as possible in the standings. It could be the difference between first and second, eighth and ninth. Every game matters.”
Congratulations to coach Tavares for his 50th win vs. San Diego.
A Winter Wonderland Theme
Headlined “A Winter Wonderland in Banditland,” there’s no easy sleigh ride about this one. Georgia is stacked with crafty talent in the hands of Lyle Thompson, Shayne Jackson, Andrew Kew, and Seth Oakes.
Familiar names like MacIntosh, Bomberry, Ranagan, and Wiedemann stand strong on defense and;
What about former St. Bonaventure University standout, goaltender Brett Dobson? Pay no attention to his .780 save percentage; this dude can stop the ball. The second-year pro is setting a new standard of goaltending in the National Lacrosse League.
Back to the Swarm and onto the Bandits.
Bandits on 3!
They are standing 1-1 on the season following their come-from-behind (what’s new) victory on December 16. Their two-man game set-ups show diversification up front with Smith, Byrne, Cloutier, Buchanan, and Nanticoke. Brad McCully setting picks and banging bodies opened space.
Byrne’s four goals vaulted him past Ryan Benesch for fifth all-time in Bandit goals, now with 154. Nanticoke is two points shy of 100 career points.
Also, the transition game worked in mid-season form with Nick Weiss’s three assists, especially complimenting the game of Chase Fraser and Brandon Robinson.
11 Bandits players in all figured in the scoring, including Ian MacKay’s night of 1+1, 12 loose balls, three caused turnovers, and at the face-off dot 19 times.
The Bandits defense played strong, led by Steve Priolo, who remains one point shy of his 200th career point, and guys like Justin Martin and rookie Cam Wyers.
Matt Vinc made the right saves at the right time, including 11 in the fourth for a 37-save performance translating to an .804 save percentage. Congratulations to Vinc, who recorded his 50th win as a Bandit and fifth all-time in NLL games played with 271.
The Bandits go into the game versus Georgia with the league’s best power play at 68 percent after registering four for six against the Seals. Smith and Byrne have five power play assists each. The club shoots a respectable 18 percent from the floor, with Cloutier at 26 percent.
It might be a little deep, but read on
Fittingly, I ran across a quote by the late Rod Serling, TV writer, producer, and host of the “Twilight Zone” back in the day, to describe this Bandits team and its fifth dimension.
“It is a dimension as vast as space and timeless as infinity. It’s the middle ground between light and shadow. Between science and superstition.”
OK, John, put the cookies down.
The buzz Friday night with the Swarm, with travels already to Vancouver and Colorado, is led by the fantastic talents of Lyle Thompson, who has eight goals and 10 assists already. As we’ve seen over Thompson’s previous visits to Banditland, he is so talented and fun to watch.
Anytime an Ed Comeau-coached team comes to Buffalo, they are relentless with their attack. In their two (strange scheduling) wins over Colorado, the Swarm outscored the Mammoth 31-18.
Keep an eye on #66 Seth Oakes, who has netted seven goals, including four last week in their 15-8 pounding over host Colorado.
Shayne Jackson, the 2020 NLL MVP, is off to another great start with five goals and nine assists, which includes his 1+6=7 performance over the Mammoth last weekend. Andrew Kew, now into his second season with Georgia, is 3+11=14.
Brendon Bomberry is 5+4=9. Jordan MacIntosh continues his all-around play, 2+7=9, 23 loose balls, five caused turnovers, and two soakers. Goaltender Brett Dobson made 42 saves last week with a .809 save percentage.
The two teams met in the preseason, with Georgia prevailing but with entirely different rosters.
Friday’s game inside KeyBank Center will be covered by CW23 TV, ESPN+, and TSN+. Broadcast time is set for 7:30 p.m. Radio coverage will be on WGR Sports Radio 550 & Audacy.com, with the pregame show starting at 7 p.m. We will have interviews with coaches and players from both teams.
Steve Bermel joins me in the Ted Darling press box, while Dave Buchanan will provide updates between the Benches.