GURT'S BLOG: ONE QUARTER AT A TIME
Blogs | 4/3/2013 8:25:52 AM | Bandits.com

Hey buddy, can you spare a quarter?

That seems to be the most justifiable way to analyze the Bandits next game. Take it quarter by quarter. Mapping the forces at hand, and utilizing the talent and character this team has to bring itself out of this five-game losing streak.

John Tavares said the team needs to return to the basics: win the one-on-one battles and start building the confidence back into their attack. He went onto to say once the team starts to see positive results, the trust in each other’s abilities will come about.

Here’s another good point from the NLL’s all-time leading scorer and 22-year veteran: “Every team is good in this league and any team can win on any given night,” said Tavares. “It’s all about how and when the teams peak at the right time. And we haven’t peaked yet.” 

Encouraging words as the game results become more discouraging. Last Friday night in Toronto might have been rock bottom, as the Bandits were outscored 7-0 in the third quarter.

Granted there were moments Friday when the Bandits made a game out of it by winning the battles and being rewarded in goals. Timely ball movement and quality shooting made the game competitive up to the half.

One of the highlights of the night came before the start of the game with the singing of the Canadian national anthem. Nine-year old Dylana Williams, daughter of Bandits forward Shawn Williams, stood at the face-off circle at center in front of 11,546 fans in the Air Canada Centre and beautifully sang the anthem – a capella! Just terrific, and the Kids’ Night crowd loved it. 

In all, 12 Bandit players contributed in scoring, including two goals by defenseman Glen Bryan. And they won the loose ball battle by a count of 75-73. But the penalty calls continued to rise and confidence dropped.

“You’ve got to have a short memory, especially when you’re on a slide like this,” said goaltender Kurtis Wagar. “Every chance we get we’re going to create new plays and go out like it’s the first game of the season, every single time,” said the seven-year pro who has a likeable personality and the ability to keep the team loose in these difficult times.

“We want to make the playoffs; this is not a rebuilding year. This is something we really care about,” Wagar explained. “We’ve been getting frustrated when we go down a couple of goals. We’ve gone over that in every meeting. You’ve got to stay positive and even-keel throughout the game. It’s about being even-keel on the bench and not blaming other guys.”

It takes the whole team to buy into the system. And while the roster begins to solidify for these last three games, taking each quarter might be the way the Bandits can rebuild their success.

“A lot of people think we are headed down hill, but we have such a talented team,” said Wagar. “I think on any given night, it’s anybody chance and with three games left in the (regular) season, we’re going to bring everything we have – and that is what we are going to do.” 

That reads to me that the confidence is there. Players feed off that. We are fortunate to have those qualities in Wagar and Anthony Cosmo.

Now, the focus.

“We are still looking for the right buttons to push,” said Bandits head coach Darris Kilgour. “Right now we are just looking for a win, playing a solid 60 minutes and let the chips fall where they may. Our main focus is to get a great effort.

“Can we get good pressure on them (opponents) before they make a good decision? You have to take away time and space and for us to buy time and space,” said Kilgour.

This Saturday night the Bandits will be stepping onto a playing surface where they’ve had a lot of success in Minnesota’s Xcel Energy Center. But they face a just as desperate team in the Swarm, who are riding a two-game winning streak and coming off a 20-11 pounding of Philadelphia. 

Minnesota is a young team with a strong 2012 and 2011 draft class, which includes six first-rounders. Three of the five are in the top of Swarm scoring: Shayne Jackson (15+30=45), Kiel Matisz (20+24=44) and Jordan MacIntosh (16+17=33).

Mentoring the young players is sixth-year pro Ryan Benesch, (27+36= 63 points), and seventh-year pro Callum Crawford (21-41=62).

The other first-rounders, Brock Sorensen (2nd overall) and Alex Crepinsek handle the transition and defensive roles respectively. Minnesota has two young goalies in Evan Kirk (2012 first-rounder), and Tyler Carlson, who had 11 assists last year as a rookie.

Stopping a losing streak is tough and the Bandits have their work cut out for them. But there isn’t a player on the roster who can’t handle the task. It’s that character aspect of this team.

“It seems like we have good practices; it seems like we have a good game plan and then we get out on the floor and just sort of lose our focus as to what we are supposed to be doing,” said Kilgour. “At some point we just have to come together as a team; something has to bring us together.”

And this team hasn’t peaked yet. How about that quarter? 

Radio coverage of Saturday night will be on KB 1520 AM, with the pre-game show starting things off at 7:30 p.m.

VS.  Rochester Knighthawks
TV: The Lacrosse Network (YouTube) | RADIO: ESPN 1520, WGWE 105.9 FM
 April 19, 2014 - 07:30 PM 1 2 3 4 F
 Buffalo Bandits 1 0 2 1 4
 Rochester Knighthawks 0 4 2 2 8