Blogs | 3/9/2010 9:39:14 AM | John Gurtler
Without question Saturday night’s 12-10 victory was one of the best games I’ve seen in a long time.
Knowing what was on the line - the season, and their opponent, the top-team Titans - the Bandits rode into the game with confidence and attitude.
From the 9 a.m. shoot-around to the opening draw, the lone sentence bantered back and forth: “We gotta get this one.” Just the way the players and fans alike said it. Knowing what happened last May, the Bandits knew they had to make good. For themselves, the coaching staff and the fans of Banditland.
You just didn’t know how it was going to happen. The team had a good practice the Tuesday before. They had a good solid one-hour shoot-around Saturday, loaded with game-night system offensive and defensive installments at both ends of the playing surface. But then again, the mighty Titans did too.
Even during the team’s mid-day charity event in the Harbour Club with Stone’s Buddies, there was a sense of unity. Here, after a full morning of practice and pre-game prep, the entire Bandits team spent time with families and their children who are challenged with illness. They worked side-by-side with children on arts and crafts projects, signing autographs, taking pictures and totally dedicating themselves to the event. And knowing they had a giant battle that same night. But here they were, as a band of Bandits – and why they are so popular in Buffalo.
But their popularity grew even more at the 2:25 of the first-quarter of their game against the Titan’s when John Tavares and Mark Steenhuis drew the imaginary line in the sand and made a physical statement and set the tone for what would be hard hitting game. Brilliant gamesmanship. Not condoning the infractions, but the Bandits had to take the game to the Titans, using their top offensive talents to make the first move – and not to the net.
Tavares was like Clint Eastwood in those signature western movie scenes back in the day, where no matter what town he rode in on or campfire he graced, nobody thought he would be a tough gunslinger. Not sure how many guys would want to be on the other end of the jolt he handed out, right after Sean Greenhalgh hit from behind chasing a loose ball. This was a total match-striker. The crowd went nuts and so did the rest of the runners out on the field. And Tavares stood there waiting to take on the sudden surge of opponents. Speaking of a band of Bandits, everybody jumped into the fray, including Steenhuis, who also added a smack down of his own. At that point you knew the game was going to be different – and the Bandit Ball brand was back.
Steenhuis went on to net a natural hat trick after serving two minutes and three more after that. Tavares played both ends of the floor scraping, swatting and creating plays along the way – like he usually does.
And, with three defensive players out of the game in injury, the team rallied all over the 200’x85’ surface, holding off numerous Titan attacks.
Kenny Montour, back between the pipes after recovering from a concussion against Toronto, lived up to his nickname. He was a Monster! I mean some of those saves, especially near the end of the second quarter where just amazing. His positioning was just terrific. It was like he was speed-reading the Titan attackers mind, completely befuddling them as they shook their heads in retreat. The 43 saves were quality and yes; you can say he sealed the game for the team. Even when the Titans made a game of it in the third quarter, there was this aura of confidence surrounding Montour and the Bandits.
Looking at the shortened bench with this huge gap between the front door and back door players, you wondered how could the Bandits hold off the talented Titans lead by Casey Powell.
But it was a matter of confidence, attitude and conviction. Something the Bandits can feed off of this Friday and Saturday in Toronto and Boston – and for the rest of the season.
Congratulations to Darris Kilgour for his 93rd NLL coaching victory, which ties the all-time mark established by the late Bandits coach Les Bartley.
Broadcast notes for this weekend: Half-hour pre-game show Friday and Saturday will start at 7pm. Right now the games are scheduled for WWWS AM 1400 because of Syracuse and the Big East Tournament on WWKB 1520. Should have a definitive later in the week.