Blogs | 1/26/2009 2:12:07 PM | John Gurtler
A Denver native, John Gurtler has been the voice of the Buffalo Bandits the past six seasons. Gurtler has also done play-by-play with the Rochester Americans and Buffalo Sabres and has served as the stadium voice for the Buffalo Bills. Gurtler will share his thoughts and unique perspective each week with Bandits fans.
While the Minnesota Swarm proved to be gracious hosts, despite a -10 degree chill outside, the Bandits might have got caught up in the celebration of the city of St. Paul's winter carnival. Parades, street vendors and ice carvings captured the hearty soul's hearts, braving a sun-drenched ice-cutting cold on Saturday. Why I was even taken by the tropical display of ice-cut palm trees and a swath of beach, mimicking the warmer climate of Barbados. The sun was hitting the scene with a glare. I swore that I saw actor Steve Buscemi, dressed the same way he did in the movie 'Fargo.'
The haunting chill Buscemi displayed in the scene with the woodchopper in the back yard was reflective of the way the Swarm came on against the Bandits Saturday night: Eager to forget the bad things that happened and become possessed. They just went about their business, out-scoring Buffalo 7-4 in between the second and third quarter. Maybe the 5-0 Bandits lead triggered the tirade and, I must say, it was most impressive.
The Swarm didn't turtle, and while the Bandits had started to layout the picture page of the brewing romp, 11,458 fans in attendance at the Xcel Energy Center went wild when their team caught up within one. And even more so when Swarm head coach Duane Jacobs pulled his starting netminder, Nick Patterson, in favor of Keith Croswell, who, by game’s end had turned in a respectable performance with 33 saves. And when Fines scored the game-tying goal, the crowds sugar-high kicked in from the complimentary hot chocolate and apple cider.
But Buffalo was not to be outdone, outperformed, or outsmarted by this previously unbeaten team. No, despite 67 shots on goaltender Michael Thompson who turned aside 58 of them, and the steady playmaking and scoring of John Tavares, the Bandits jumped off their float and took care of business. In the end, a friendly reminder the other teams in the NLL will be bringing their 'A' game with all sorts of antics. I give a lot of credit to the Swam. They could of gone up to the arena concourse and played in the jump house and ate marshmallows. Instead, they went out and worked their way back into the game and made it very exciting.
Being the only game in town that night (Wild on NHL All-Star break, Timberwolves and Gophers hockey & basketball all dark), the Swarm earned some new fans and respect from the Bandits. Even one of the St. Paul female cops, who looked like Margie in "Fargo," outside with her prowler, said the game was more exciting than many of the Wild hockey games.
Back to the score sheet and compliments handed out to the Bandits. Twelve players figured in the scoring and that 70% ratio means a total team effort in the victory. Even Michael Thompson picked up an assist while kicking, batting and swatting Swarm shots away from the twine. But the performance of Tavares shows why he is the greatest in the game. Steady as you go with four beautiful set-ups for goals and one perfect thrust for the game winner with 1:32 left to play in regulation.
His other flying camel back-of-the-net goal was negated by a video reply challenge. Not sure why. His flight pattern was perfect, leaving the turf before the crease line, one foot in back of the net. Something about the ball rolling off the back and down the numbers of Croswell's Swarm pattern was illegal. OK? I'm gonna have to ask you to come in Saturday and work this one out, kay? Yah, that would be greaaaaat. It was a goal. No question in my mind.
A great job by the creative shots from Roger Vyse as well. He just has such a natural approach to shooting the ball. Seven goals in the last two games speak volumes of the talent he has. An all-out performance by Mike Accursi with two back-to-back goals. Cory Bomberry with a low blast that sunk right at the end, hitting the turf before it found net. Kevin Dostie with three helpers, Delby Powless with 1-1 on the night and three big goals by Clay Hill, Kyle Schmelzle and Sean Greenhalgh proves a point this team plays like a team: Together and unselfish.
Greenhalgh, back to full stride, added two assists as well. But the NLL's Sportsmanship of the year in 2006 details the team's approach and the reason for their success. "Darris (GM & Head Coach Darris Kilgour) does a great job breaking down the opposing team, find their weaknesses and we try to play to our strength," noted Greenhalgh before the start of Saturday night's game. "The one thing he always says is we can't beat ourselves. We go out there and play our game, just tweaking a bit it to be able to bring out the weaknesses of the other team and really exploit those."
For all intents and purposes, the Bandits did just that Saturday night with their 10-9 win to remain undefeated with a 4-0 record. Even Buscemi would have buckled.
It's quick back to the turf with a rare Thursday night game and a 1,750-mile haul to Edmonton to meet the Rush for the first time. Former Bandits Steve Dietrich and Dan Teat will be waiting. I am sure they will be as every bit hospitable Minnesota was. No ice sculptures of palm trees and carnivals though. I wouldn't be surprised if the tray of hot chocolate was cold, too.
Standing 2-2 on the season and coming off a big 11-9 win in Colorado Saturday night, Teat had seven points with three goals and four assists.