Blogs | 2/2/2010 9:14:54 AM | John Gurtler
Just in time for the seams and curls on the new carpet to settle, the Bandits last Saturday night took control of their destiny and brought their four-game slide to a halt. As mentioned last week, the imaginary lines that hold up the Bandits season are still taught and now with the new-found confidence, they prepare for a retooled Toronto Rock Saturday night at HSBC Arena.
How did the Bandits do what they did, 11-7, this past Saturday against Minnesota? Teamwork and concentration.
From the start, and that includes Kyle Schmelze’s game-opening draw that he took straight to Swarm netminder Nick Patterson-and almost scored, to the ending empty net goal by Billy Dee Smith, the Bandits played a good game. Granted, a few slips at the end of the first-half where they allowed Minnesota to get back in the game but for all the rubber balls in Batavia, the Bandits proved they could withstand and win instead of withdrawal and whine.
The defense was most impressive with hits and hollering that made the Swam think twice about using any open lanes towards goaltender Kenny Montour. Billy Dee Smith must have had a bumble bee up his…sleeve as he was relentless with the hits – as if he was making “julienne fries in seconds.”
I have to hand it to Minnesota, they never give up and they displayed that Saturday night as well. Sure, they could of said after it was 5-2 “hey listen, these guys have owned us for five years (11-2 Bandits regular season series record), let just pack it in.”
No, they scored three straight, including one with a fraction of a second left in the half to tie the score at 5-5.
And while the Swarm were watering up at half-time, I would imagine Darris Kilgour waged a verbal assessment on his squad that included words that rivaled day old hot dogs from the deli.
But it worked.
Bandits shut the Swarm down in the third quarter and went on their first big goal run of the season, netting four straight and that means the passing and playmaking is starting to come back.
Good, too, to see Frank Resetarits represent the locals of Hamburg in fine fashion with a hat trick off some nice goals. Mike Accursi most deserving of his two as well as Brandon Francis, Kevin Dostie, Tommy Montour, Billy Dee Smith, Mark Steenhuis, and lefty rookie Kyle Clancy – his first NLL goal and short–handed.
Playmaking was most impressive. Mark Steenhuis was totally in sync and was collecting assists right, left and center. And he made good on his performance assessment in my pre-game interview with him.
“I don’t think I’ve been playing up to the standard I want to play,” noted the eighth-year pro, a 51-goal scorer last year. “I need to start making better shot selection, obviously moving the ball a little bit more and creating better opportunities not only myself but my teammates.”
He certainly walked the talk Saturday, making plays and helping his linemates.
Is there something different in his play?
“No, not really. I switched sticks,” said Steenhuis, firing 13 shots and collecting 10 loose balls Saturday night. “Got the new Reebok stick out, just trying to adjust to that a little bit, as compared to using the old one last year. I gotta put everything together instead of just being good at one aspect. One game, another, and the next. And I (must) have a complete game.”
While the Bandits moved the ball well in the offensive zone Saturday night, there is still a huge void of not having an inventory of left-handed shots.
“Some of that plays into that not having JT (John Tavares) or roger Vyse," said Steenhius who went 1-7=8 Saturday. “Teams are starting to sag in, (leaning) to play on the ball side. I don’t think we’ve had much room as were used to normally with those guys not in the lineup but that being said it’s still our job to adjust to what the other teams doing. You gotta find a way to get those shots, that’s why were out there.”
For the last five games, coach Darris Kilgour has been preaching the team concept, working on basics and calling attention to the “we” factor.
“We need to make a play, not I need to make a play,” noted Kilgour. “We need to commit all over the floor and go forward with it. Guys have to step up and realize right now is the time.”
On another bright note, Kilgore mentioned he wanted commitment on the power play before the start of Saturday night’s game. He wasn’t disappointed as the Bandits went two for three.
Every little bit helped in Saturday’s victory. Bandits won 50 percent of the draws, across the quarters in double-digit shots; matched Minnesota in loose balls with 78 and 17 assists were awarded.
Yes, just in time. And when you do all of the things required, little or big, most likely there will be a positive outcome. Let’s hope things smooth out.
Pre-game radio coverage this Saturday night starts at 7PM on KB Radio1520.