Blogs | 3/26/2010 9:29:54 AM | John Gurtler
Five and alive. Five and no dive. Give five, take five. Seems like a good number, odd as it may be. But it’s the number of games the Bandits have left in the regular season. The number they could match in the current win column. After that horrendous start to the season? But that is water under the bridge and the Bandits have to take them one at a time.
And a giant one comes Saturday night in Rochester as the Bandits road trip continues with the third meeting of the season against the Knighthawks. You remember what happened the first time and the second?
Rochester has a strong team but unlike their good start, they are playing .500 lacrosse and have lost two in a row. They will be looking for a clean sweep this year over the Bandits as they attempt to create even more of a log jam of the Eastern Division.
I think the Bandits have the same idea... wouldn’t you agree?
Streaking the league with three wins, it seems the team has found their sticks and ways about them. It has been a matter of playing Bandit ball, adhering to the system and contributing as a team member not as an individual.
But the Bandits will have their work cut out for them in a barn they just don’t play well in. Don’t know why. Because of the suppressed ceiling? The closeness of the fans? Or the roar of the river outside the door? Who knows but the place has been a problem to the Bandits for a long time.
Then there is the Knighthawk talent list. And John Grant was there. Similar in the same refrain “And the Wilkinson Sword was there.” In the heat of the battle, there is no one craftier and talented than Grant. He has the size and ability to single-handedly (and that includes his shot) to take the game away from opponents in a matter of an eye-flash. The veteran leads the loop in shots on goal with 120 and has scored a goal or more in every game he has played in this year.
Give the Knighthawk’s the man advantage and John Grant will be there with this league-leading 24 power play points. And Rochester has the second best penalty-killing unit in the league at 69 percent.
The talented roster continues with the likes of Shawn Williams, who never stops running and playmaking. Shawn Evans, Craig Point, Cory Bomberry and Scott Evans are the quad-pack every team wishes they could have.
And have I mentioned Gary Gait, who is having a good season with 14 goals and 11 assists. And like John Tavares, he gets the guys to play better around him. And he’s put on a few clinics with his stick work and shots.
Rochester’s defense has been shored up by the presence of rookie Sid Smith. Steve Toll, third overall in the NLL for loose balls (102), and Chris Schiller add to the combo of defense and transition.
Then there is Patrick O’Toole, fourth best goaltender in the League with a .778 save percentage and a 4-3 record. The veteran always plays well against the Bandits.
So what’s wrong with the picture? Nothing. It’s the same team they’ve had for a while. Grants no young’ in. Save Sid Smith, Bomberry and Chris Driscoll, there the same roster page the Bandits have seen for several seasons.
Things seem to be a little different this time around for the Banditos riding into Roch. The swagger is back and the team is playing better - Mucho-gusto better. While Mark Steenhuis leads the team in scoring and is fifth overall in the NLL scoring race, John Tavares has helped the team immensely. And with his uncanny knack for play making and scoring, the all-time leader has jumped into second place with 14 goals and 11 assists. Kevin Dostie is on a roll of late now that JT is back on the floor.
While Steenhuis has scored points in all eleven games played (58 total points), one of the most improved players this year is Tommy Montour. Talk about hitting the ground running and running and running. For his efforts, the transition game has paid big dividends of late.
The Bandits depth is beginning to shine and that’s just what it takes to play Bandit ball.
Defense continues to shore-up and play solid and the goaltending has nothing but surprises. From Kenny Montour’s robbing saves to Michael Thompson’s 52-save performance the first time back since that tough night in Philly.
So what is the mystery in Roch? Right now it’s all about five. And maybe they’ll forget about their troubles in the tough place to play.
Post Note: Pre-game coverage begins at 7pm on KB1520.