Blogs | 3/20/2012 10:21:37 AM | John Gurtler
|Chris White (Photo: Bill Wippert)|
“Stop the Bandit Bandwagon! I want to get on!” screamed those who almost gave up on this year’s edition before last weekend.
Be it the outside walkways of Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Friday or on the way to Cobblestone in Buffalo on Saturday night, there were some pretty happy people buzzing about the play of those Buffalo Bandits.
None were happier than the Bandits in the dressing room in the basement of the ACC. Sweat-drenched, tired and emotionally drained, they sat in their respective stalls very proud of what was accomplished: A come-from-behind victory with a coordinated effort of goaltending, solid defense and goals that seem to be coming from a sea of destroyers.
Down by a score of 5-1 at one point, by the time the scoreboard clock went triple goose eggs, 21 Bandit goals were in the books for a 21-14 win. The Rock seemed senseless out on the floor.
As a result, Saturday’s encounter was loaded with confidence and yes, senses of that trust the team and coaches had spoken about over the course of the slide. While the Minnesota Swarm made the game entertaining and well-played at times, you just felt that the Bandits had that swagger back.
On Saturday, 16 Bandits took part in the scoring. As did 13 on Friday, including an eight-point performance by new father Chad Culp. Hearty congratulations to Chad and his wife, Hinda, proud parents of a baby boy, Logan, who was born last Wednesday.
John Tavares took the marquee lights to a new glow with his seven-goal, four-assist weekend and yet another milestone in the books with his 1600th point.
“Cool hand” Luke Wiles continued his goal scoring spree with seven tallies, including his first five-goal performance of the season on Friday night.
And lest we forget about the goal by Brandon Francis, a midair toss from outside the goal crease that resembled a DC-10 aircraft flying through the air. At 6’2”, 245 lbs., that’s a lot of freight in flight.
Friday’s start was a bit wobbly. Even the five o’clock rush of workers leaving the central hub of Toronto on foot seemed to be hell-bent on getting somewhere. You have to love the bustle.
But while I was walking into the entrance of Air Canada Centre with Luke Wiles, our cadence came to a standstill when we saw that one of the security ambassadors was holding John Tavares and Kevin Buchanan off to the side, forbidding them to enter, as if they were a part of the riffraff who sometimes populate the area, looking for loose change.
The attendant was serious, and rightfully so, just doing her job. But here is the greatest player in the game of lacrosse, explaining to the security detail that he is John Tavares, a member of the Buffalo Bandits.
“You’re not John Tavares,” said the guard. “He plays for the New York Islanders.” And then of course, Tavares, with his George Clooney-looks and similar demeanor, began to have fun with the security guard at her own expense. And there’s Kevin Buchanan, standing off to the side in disbelief.
This guard was dead serious. No way were Tavares and Buchanan getting into the building. The two were dressed casually, sporting baseball caps, which maybe they saw as not acceptable for going to work on a warm Friday afternoon. Wiles was dressed in a suit coat, so we identified the two as street-performing impostors and continued into the building.
Okay, not really. We properly reintroduced the security personnel to John Tavares and Kevin Buchanan as true members of the Bandits and access was granted.
Later, as I was making my way to the elevator in route to the broadcast location, the security guard profusely apologized and explained that she had no idea that Tavares was who he was, “the Wayne Gretzky of lacrosse,” as she said. But she was just doing her job.
Good to have a few laughs, though, in a rather stressful atmosphere before the game.
That atmosphere didn’t get any better when the person who sang the Canadian anthem (it was on her bucket list) forgot the words. Right from the start of “O Canada,” she came up with her own verse. Then it got worse, as she stopped mid-flight, nervously joked and then fumbled to the end.
The house didn’t seem right. From the time of the suspected security breach outside the building to the embarrassing anthem, something was off.
I must say the Bandits played with a lot of emotion, and while gunning for the game’s first goal was a success (with a nice Mat Giles score), a strange aura hit the Bandits bench and their game wandered a bit with mistakes and penalties. And the Rock capitalized by building that 5-1 lead.
But strangely, everything started to change and I could sense something was brewing with the Bandits. They didn’t give up and coordinated an attack in the second quarter to make things respectable.
And the rest, as famed football announcer Keith Jackson would say, is history.
Bandit Ball was back. Big time. And it’s a great brand to watch when it’s played well.
Goal after goal, play after play, good saves, perfect shifts, you name it. The Bandits sent a message on Friday night. And then again on Saturday night with their 13-10 win.
The highlight of Saturday’s game on home turf was John Tavares’ 1600th point, earned with a beautiful breakaway goal. The crowd of 15,000-plus rose to their feet in joy and appreciation after the voice of the Bandits, Chris Swenson, announced the milestone, which I am sure will stand for a long time. It was great to be a part of it.
It’s only fitting to match a saying by the 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt on “getting muddy,” which is also reflective of the incredible talents of Tavares – and for that matter – the entire Bandits roster.
“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs…but who does actually strive to do the deeds…”
All aboard for the second half of the Bandits’ season.
Radio coverage on KB 1520 AM from Calgary on Saturday night will start with our pregame show, which is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. ET. The game begins at 9 p.m.