GURT'S BLOG: TRIAL BY FIRE
Blogs | 1/15/2013 10:54:45 AM | John Gurtler
Anthony Cosmo (Photo: Bill Wippert)

Getting to know you, getting to know all about you. That’s pretty much the theme the Buffalo Bandits have taken the last few days. It was evident on Friday in Philadelphia; you could see the players trying to get a feel for everyone’s nuances and positioning out on the floor.

True, they had a very hard training camp, which included several weekends of sleepovers. And you’d think the players would have felt a little togetherness going into the first game. But there is still a lot to learn about the 11 new faces currently on the 23-man roster, which included no less than seven new players in the line-up in the first two games of the season.

Don’t get me wrong. This is a very close-knit type of team. Once the scramble for bus seats and dressing room stalls are taken and everybody starts to feel comfortable, this could be a very interesting year. There were samples of that in the fourth quarter of Saturday night’s come-from-behind win over Minnesota.

Last weekend was trial by fire. While it had to be physically exhausting to play with, 1) the pent-up excitement of the first-game; and 2) the very next night under lights of your loyal home fans – Buffalo’s 1-1 record is OK.

The team had a good flight to Philadelphia with very nice hotel accommodations, which included a short ride to the Wells Fargo Center, one of three large sporting and event venues sharing acres and acres of parking. The ghosts of the other venues, including the Spectrum and Veterans Stadium are now mere markers and yellow parking strips but seep the ghastly sounds of the Philly fans.

Everything moved like clockwork for the shootaround and team lunch on game day Friday until the oldest visiting team trick was pulled at 2:41 p.m. The hotel fire alarm, which included yelping sounds and a recorded sound track of a digitized voice – similar to lost in space “Danger Will Robison, Danger…” – informing every square inch of air space there was immediate danger and to evacuate the building.

It did spring all of us out of our rooms in query of a whiff of smoke or some sort of action, looking out onto the lobby floor below in the atrium-like setting, awash in grey light from the giant skylight above. To no avail, another recording indicating a false alarm and “go about your business attitude.”

Really? This was the first indicator the team’s timing was off Friday night against the Wings. It’s like messing with the algorithms; the player’s game-day routine was interfered with. Some players will just shrug it off, but not all of them. We are all creatures of habit and some of us just have to follow a system. It only takes a few to wobble after something has interfered with a regime. I am just saying.

Friday night’s radio pre-game show from Philadelphia hosted Bandits general manager Steve Dietrich from the press level. He was very candid and insightful about his interviewing for the job and the passion he has for the Bandits. He was likewise very informative on the players acquired and the reason roster moves were made. And detailed on the very talented crop of draft picks selected from the October 2012 class. I hope we can make that a segment for several pre-game shows this season.

Friday night’s game showed some flirting of playmaking and goals on the power play. And the hidden ball trick with Luke Wiles and John Tavares, resulting in a goal, was great. I didn’t see it and just padded with “great ball movement.” 
 
Tavares just jogged in on Brandon Miller, who, like his whole team was watching Wiles, and flopped the ball into a wide open net. It had me hook, line and sinker. And the website Deadspin captured it. 

I am sure it was frustrating for Anthony Cosmo to get pulled, but I thought the play of Curtis Wagar was very strong. Once I started pronouncing his last name correctly by the midst of the fourth quarter, he had put in a respectable performance.

Because the airline equipment was small on the Bandits return, flying from Philadelphia to Buffalo on Saturday morning would have put half the team coming in early and half coming in later in the afternoon. And on game-day that would not work (back to our routine situation). So the Bandits bused from Philadelphia to Baltimore right after the game in effort to get everyone back to Buffalo by mid-morning.

It was an eventful trip, complete with sandwiches and video replay of the game just finished. It certainly took care of the two hours of travel as head coach Darris Kilgour went over some points in preparation of the next night’s game.

After more “tinker, tailor, soldier, spy” work during the first three quarters of Saturday’s game, the Bandits came together and put a run of four goals (including three on the power play) and tallied two more on the scoreboard, including the game winner by rookie first-rounder Dhane Smith, his third of the night.

So I think 120 minutes of game action, spread across two back-to-back nights, couldn’t have been better for the Bandits. It was a good way to start the season in more ways than one. Shedding the nerves, yips, second guessing, and most importantly, more time to get to know each other.

Better now than later as the team faces the NLL Champion Rochester Knighthawks this Saturday night in Rochester. This is a very talented team with Cody Jamieson, Johnny Powless, Dan Dawson and Casey Powell. They will have been off for two weeks, having lost to Washington 13-12 on January 5. It’s good the Bandits spent some quality time together and got a victory under their belt heading into the Button City.

My broadcast partner Randy Mearns will be away on special assignment this weekend. WGR Sports anchor Dave Buchanan will join me on the broadcast as color analyst Saturday night from the Blue Cross Arena. Dave has reported on the Bandits for several years and does a great job. He is very passionate about the indoor game and I am sure you will enjoy his insight. Broadcast coverage starts at 7 p.m. with the pre-game show on AM 1520.

VS.  New England Black Wolves
 January 02, 2015 - 07:00 PM 1 2 3 4 F
 Buffalo Bandits 0 0 0 0 0
 New England Black Wolves 0 0 0 0 0