Blogs | 1/29/2014 11:51:42 AM | John Gurtler
What a difference a month makes.
For those of you in Banditland that braved the cold and greasy roads, and for those of you that listened and watched the Bandits hold off the two-time defending champion Rochester Knighthawks 11-10 last Saturday night, you can sense that something good is happening.
The Bandits are playing with confidence, attitude and conviction. This team has achieved success with every aspect of this fast and furious, yet complex, game. From critical face-offs, to turnovers, crushing defense to lighting quick transition, excellent passing to teamwork scoring, this year’s edition of Bandits are transforming into a team to be reckoned with.
During last week’s NLL conference call, Bandits GM Steve Dietrich told the media that the Rochester game would be a litmus test. In cultivated definition, it’s a test that uses a single indicator to prompt a decision.
And while their four-game winning streak is the result of sticking to the game plan, the single indicator in passing last Saturday night’s test was goaltender Anthony Cosmo. I will second the post-game comment made by Bandits head coach Troy Cordingley: that is the best I have seen the 14-year pro play. Cosmo’s positioning, demeanor and 46-save performance was superior.
Sure, Rochester made a game out of it in the fourth quarter by outscoring the Bandits 7-1 – including a five-goal flurry in 3:35 - but Cosmo made some solid saves in 12 of the 19 shots the Knighthawks peppered him with.
But the Bandits did not waiver. They displayed poise. While I stood there bumbling, my broadcast partner Randy Means was like the animated late great Chris Farley in the movie Tommy Boy when he was explaining bad breaks to a potential client. After crashing one of his model cars on the desk, he blurted out “Oh my god, what do we have here?”
Good teams are expected to do that. Better teams find a way to win.
And that’s when Jay Thorimbert won the critical face-off following the Knighthawk’s 10th goal and proceeded to gain possession after a mauling in the Rochester zone.
Game. Match. Buffalo.
Three goals scored by the Bandits were called back, two of them due to “man in the crease.” Reads like a good crime novel, doesn’t it? While Mearns, a veteran of both Rochester and the Bandits, bantered with me following the first “no goal,” I was challenged to find a reason for the play after defenseman Derek Suddons was pushed to the turf on the doorstep of Knighthawk netminder Matt Vinc’s crease.
While there was a supposed horizontal off-ground permeation of the crease paint, the crew chief determined after further video review, Suddons met the criteria of the NLL rule 67.5: “non-shooter in the crease when teammate shoots.”
Formally explained on page 69 of the 2014 National Lacrosse League Official Rulebook, rule 67.5 states: “A non-shooter who is in the opposing crease must vacate the crease by establishing body contact on the turf outside the crease (in full lacrosse playing stance) with no part of the body contacting inside the crease prior to the ball crossing the plan of the goal to be an awarded goal.”
The resolution of the video replay in full pixel count, apparently showed Suddon’s shoes flying up and over the crease paint by the smallest of margin, but worthy of said rule 67.5.
There was yet another instance of rule 67.5 employed later in the game when a Bandit non-shooter was pushed from behind into the non-threatening side of the net.
The third Buffalo goal that was waved off? It came just as the shotclock struck zero.
But the Bandits didn’t lose their composure. That is what is so unique I am finding out about this team. And you could tell they enjoyed the victory lap.
The youthful mix that Dietrich has assembled this season really complements the veterans on this roster. Ryan Benesch has averaged six points during this four-game win streak, including eight and six points respectively in the last two games. The eight-year pro is now one assist away from 400.
Joe Resetarits, the hometown hero from Hamburg, scored his first career hat trick Saturday night and has averaged four points in his last two games. Dhane Smith has been on fire, averaging 5.2-points a game - including nine points in Philadelphia and six points in Colorado.
Jamie Rooney and Kevin Brownell complement the roster with newcomers Andrew Watt and Rory Smith.
All the better for 23-year pro John Tavares, who has now scored points in 178 consecutive games. His four goals Saturday were Tavar-esque, and he is also six assists away from 900! Shawn Williams, who has played in every game since 2002, has averaged five points over his last two.
Something tells me next month is going to be even better.
The Bandits continue their homestand this Saturday night as Toronto comes back to town for a 7:30 p.m. face-off. Our pre-game coverage starts at 7 p.m. on WGR Sports Radio 550 – please note the radio carrier change for this game.
In fact, four of Buffalo’s next five games will be played at home. A great way to catch the action and fun inside the First Niagara Center is with a “Fast Break” package where you get two 300 level tickets for $39 – and a Bandits hat! Click here to order yours now.