Blogs | 1/29/2013 2:09:49 PM | John Gurtler
Last week it was about character. This week it’s about the players understanding what their role is.
“We’ve gotten better every period,” said Bandits head coach Darris Kilgour. “I thought we’ve improved; I thought Cosmo is getting stronger every game. If we keep doing that through the season, I like our chances going into the playoffs.”
And believing in the system.
“This year, they talk about things and they seem like they go out and try to execute it,” said Kilgour. “Obviously we’re not real happy with the amount of goals we’ve given up and not happy with the execution, but the effort is there. As long as the effort is there, everything’s going to fall in place. Hard work overcomes a lot of mistakes.”
Last Saturday’s 14-13 win over Philadelphia was the third one-goal game Buffalo rode to victory, but it was hard work. That is something the players don’t mind. In fact, they thrive on it.
“Guys are helping each other to get open,” said Kilgour. “Guys are finding each other in good spots. I think the ball movement is the big difference this year.”
Luke Wiles, who scored the game-winner Saturday night with 24 seconds remaining in regulation, sees a big difference in this year’s Bandit team.
“I felt like last year we didn’t rebound after we lost,” said Wiles who netted is 200th career goal vs. Rochester. “We lost the first week and we rebounded really well. To be honest with you, it’s pretty easy to win in this league but it’s very, very difficult to lose. So it shows your true colors when you lose, and can rebound after losses. That’s ultimately what’s going to get you over the hurdle and get you to a first or second place in the division. That’s just where you want to be, hosting a playoff game.”
Wiles, who scored 39 goals and 70 points last season, his best since 2005, really likes the makeup of this year’s roster.
“I love it. I love all our guys,” said the eighth year pro. “Chugger (Bandits general manager Steve Dietrich) did a real good job bringing in some good character guys; some guys that move the ball on offense. This year we have some guys who are in good spots that are doing real good things, so it’s a real positive vibe in the dressing room.”
Talk about positive. How about the continued work and point racking of the NLL’s Iron Man, Shawn Williams who played in his 200th consecutive game Saturday night, a mark he started as a Bandit back in 2000.
“It’s an amazing thing to never get hurt, through out that whole time,” said Kilgour. “It’s a testament to the way he keeps himself in shape and the way he plays the game. He plays the game smart. It’s not a real physical game for him. It’s a mental game and that is his biggest advantage on the floor, and he knows how to use it.”
Wiles represents that mixture of playing smart.
“I take ever game as a building block toward the playoffs,” said Wiles. “And creating a good vibe throughout the dressing room and throughout the organization to understand we are here to win games. We want to win games and that is ultimately what it comes down to. It’s not about any single guy in that dressing room, it’s about all of us collectively doing the right things to get W’s.”
The real test comes Saturday night in the First Niagara Center as the feisty 4-1 Toronto Rock come to town. This is a team that Buffalo doesn’t like, and I am sure the feeling is mutual. They, like Buffalo, have seemingly found a way to win through hard-fought tight games. And they are doing it with a talented group, starting with Garrett Billings, who scored six points (2+4) in last week’s 11-7 win over Rochester.
The Rock has the cast of usual suspects as the roster has stayed pretty much intact, except one familiar face: former Bandits captain Chris White will makes his return to Buffalo wearing jersey number 12.
It feels like another one-goal game coming up Saturday with Bandits hosting the Rock in a 7:30 p.m. match-up.
Radio broadcast coverage begins at 7 p.m. on KB 1520 with the half-hour pre-game show. Faceoff is set for 7:30 p.m.