GURT'S BLOG: REFRESHER COURSEBlogs | 3/6/2014 9:13:50 AM | John Gurtler
Welcome back my friends to the show that never – wait a minute, hold on! Where am I? What has happened? It’s been 18 days since we last connected in Banditland, and it will be 21 days until we hear the bagpipes to get stoked up at First Niagara Center.
But now, I am committed to Bandits lacrosse. I am pale, rested and ready.
Two weeks have passed and the Bandits still remain in first place of the Eastern Division, and they are deserving of such position. The challenge for the team now will be to remain with the attitude and conviction that brought them this far, especially the performance back on February 15.
Ten games remain in the regular season for the Bandits and they have every intention of extending to more in May during the NLL playoffs.
With a 6-2 record and four-game winning streak on home turf, the games resume this Saturday night as Minnesota comes to town. The homestand continues on March 15 against Colorado. And then, six of the remaining eight games are on the road, which include destinations such as Edmonton, Vancouver and two trips to Minnesota. There is also a back-to-back run from Toronto to Rochester in late April.
Two of the premier teams of the NLL, Buffalo and Edmonton, have played the least amount of games. And while the critics and prognosticators are eyeing the March 21 game in Edmonton between the Bandits and Rush, there is plenty of work still to be done.
While Minnesota is winless at home, their two road victories have been solid achievements and every game they have played is close. Callum Crawford is their veteran leading scorer, but the handful of talented youngsters in Jordan MacIntosh, Logan Schuss, Shayne Jackson and Kiel Matisz add to the new foundation of today’s NLL game.
Don’t forget, the Bandits have had their hands full with Minnesota the last couple of years.
Here is a view from the top with the Bandits, just to set the record straight as they rekindle their attack. Ryan Benesch (14+27=40) leads the team in scoring and most notably on special teams where he has seven power play points (4+3) and four shorthanded points (2+2).
Second-year pro Dhane Smith has 33 points. Mark Steenhuis has been on a playmaking and scoring tear of late with an evenly-distributed 32 points (16+16), while shooting 20 percent from the floor.
John Tavares recorded his 700th assist in the last game way back on February 15. His 28 points are also very even (14+14), which shows his incredible strength from the front door of the bench. A 19 percent shooting percentage from the floor is also very impressive. Shawn Williams continues in his solid position with 26 points.
As the NLL’s Ironman, he is an inspiration and one of the reasons why this team is playing so well.
Joe Resetarits is starting to find the net on multiple occasions while Jamie Rooney, Chad Culp, David Brock, Andrew Watt and Mitch Wilde have formed a solid nucleus. Jay Thorimbert, the Bandits all-time leading faceoff player and third in the league next to the Snider brothers, enters this weekend with 58 percent draw-win margin.
And Buffalo’s defense? Opposing teams know it’s not safe to roam alone because this crew has no time and space available and they make players pay for every inch taken. Quite an impressive crew in Steve Priolo, Glen Bryan, Rory Smith, Derek Suddons and Billy Dee Smith.
Goaltender Anthony Cosmo is, without question, playing his best of his 14 years protecting nets in the NLL. With a 6-1 record and a league-best .810 save percentage, Cosmo is right where he wants to be and challenges the fact that in order to be successful in the NLL, you need great goaltending. Not good, great.
The Bandits special teams are improving with a power play clicking at 40 percent and one of the league’s best penalty killing stats, a couple percentage points behind Calgary. Buffalo leads the league in shorthanded goals with six, four of which have been scored at home.
One of the top three clubs in the NLL, the Bandits average 11.875 goals for, and they are one of the top three in goals against at 10.375.
Out of the other categories of stats, here is one that you can track the next couple of games: Buffalo’s record when scoring first. The Bandits and Rush are both 5-0.
Saturday is Native American Night with music and dancing, and the Bandits’ $1,000 scholarship presentation.
Welcome back. Let’s hope this never ends.
Randy Mearns returns to the ESPN 1520 radio broadcast booth with me for Saturday night’s game.
The pre-game show starts at 7pm with the game set for 7:30.