Blogs | 4/23/2014 11:33:52 AM | John Gurtler
These last seven Buffalo Bandits games have been perplexing for all of us. Seven games. Seven losses. Drawing off the old ABC News “Nightline” program, remember when host Ted Koppel used to open the show with “What’s wrong with…?”
We all have our reasons and fingers pointed. But this slide has gone too long, now exceeding a calendar month. The criticism has become counterproductive.
The Bandits state is now a project.
The project is slowly working, and I am impressed with the internal resilience of this team. They keep trying and will not give up.
I saw it on their faces Friday night coming out of the Air Canada Centre after the 13-9 stumble; and the same out the back door of the Blue Cross Arena on Saturday night following their humbling 8-4 defeat.
There is no quit in this team.
“We’ve got to get back to that confident team, and that is through hard work,” said head coach Troy Cordingley. “Honest efforts will get you honest results.”
While shooting 13 percent from the floor over the weekend might not be impressive, the average of 53 shots per game shows the Bandits were tossing the rubber on net. But two hot goaltenders in Nick Rose and Matt Vinc came up big when they needed to.
“I think we are right there. A couple of bounces don’t go our way and we kind of dwell on it a little bit,” said defenseman Steve Priolo. “We are right at the end of every game; it’s just a matter of finishing those. At the beginning of the season, those one-goal games we were winning. Right now we’re not, so we’re going to have to find a way to win.”
The power play opportunities came about, and the Bandits were impressive in converting 43 percent of those 14 man-up situations. And while the four Rock power plays were the difference maker Friday night, the Bandits did a good job shutting Rochester down the next night.
“We have proud guys in our room,” said Cordingley. “They are playing for the logo. Nobody is being selfish. You have to be honest. Be honest to yourself and be honest to your teammates. Give an honest effort.”
You only have to go as far as John Tavares to solidify the effort factor. As he has done for his entire career, Tavares leads by example. Two goals, four assists and 17 loose balls over the weekend are very impressive totals for the veteran.
And there was Tavares on Saturday night early in the fourth quarter, down in the Rochester near corner forechecking his way through clumps of Knighthawks; rounding the net with vengeance in pursuit of the ball; taking a shot and getting clobbered to the ground after; and then springing back up and sprinting to the bench once his shift duty was done.
Every player on the Bandits roster takes notice of number 11 and the quality he brings to the floor, the bench, the dressing room, the hallway, the sidewalk, the plane rides, the bus rides, the humor and calm demeanor at lunch. Everybody draws off it.
“I feel we try and grip our sticks too tight and we are always trying to do the right thing, instead of just playing and letting the pieces fall where they might,” said Priolo, one of the top scoring defenseman in the NLL.
“At the beginning of the season we weren’t playing perfect games, but we were finding ways to win. We’re still not playing those perfect games and we’re finding a way to lose. That is something we need to overcome.”
Right now the Bandits need to follow the CAC Method: Confidence, Attitude and Conviction.
There’s no question the team has confidence, but they need to exceed that in each other. The attitude comes from within – not the cocky kind – the frame-of-mind approach that there is a way to figure it out and continue pursuit. The conviction is putting the stamp on the end. If it’s a shot on net, it’s full swing. If it’s a hit, it’s with all the effort. If it’s a sprint in transition, it’s a stride that is defined with purpose and stomp.
Oh, and don’t forget about the 2014 team mantra: 212 – that one extra degree of effort to make things happen.
This is a good project. I am feeling positive of good results.
The Bandits conclude the regular season this Saturday with a huge home game against the Rochester Knighthawks. A Buffalo win or Toronto loss (at Minnesota) seals a home playoff game for the Bandits against the Rock on May 3 at First Niagara Center. If the Bandits lose and Toronto wins? Then it’s back up the QEW to face the Rock at the ACC in the first round of sudden-death NLL playoff action.
Our broadcast coverage gets underway at 7 p.m. with the pre-game show on ESPN 1520 and WGWE 105.9 FM. If you can’t join us in Banditland on Saturday, then you can watch live on The Lacrosse Network (via YouTube) starting at 7:30 p.m. for the opening faceoff.