Features | 5/16/2011 10:04:32 AM | Michael Jafari
| Kyle Clancy (Photo: Bill Wippert)|
The Buffalo Bandits lost a heartbreaking second round playoff matchup against the rival the Toronto Rock to close out the 2011 season, but the team may have gotten a good glimpse of a young player with a bright future.
Second-year forward Kyle Clancy made his NLL postseason debut in the game after he was chosen to replace an injured John Tavares shortly before the opening faceoff. Tavares was originally slated to play, but the injury made him a late scratch. Clancy took advantage of his opportunity by scoring a career-high four goals and adding an assist for a five-point night in Buffalo’s 12-11 loss. While Clancy’s performance was clutch, he does admit the outcome may have been different with the NLL’s all-time leading scorer still in the lineup.
“When Toronto thinks they’re going to cover JT, and then they see a second year guy like me instead, then of course I’m going to get more openings than Tavares would have,” said Clancy. “Whenever you take him out of the lineup, the defenses are going to react and cover the other guys a little differently, like NBA teams would do against a Lakers team without Kobe Bryant. It definitely helped Toronto’s defense with JT out of our lineup.”
Although Clancy had one of the biggest nights of his career, the moment was tainted by the loss Buffalo suffered at the hands of Toronto. However, Clancy says the loss can be used as fuel to make the Bandits a better team next season.
“Whenever you get beat in the Eastern Finals, you never want to feel that pain again. We’re going to need to dig down a little bit and do more off the floor like hit the gym a little more, and work on executing our chances. We definitely want to come back with a little more hunger and more passion to try to finish what we didn’t get to do this year,” said Clancy.
The 22-year-old Clancy has been playing lacrosse for most of his life. Like teammates Chris White, Tracey Kelusky and Scott Self, Clancy was born and raised in Peterborough, Ontario. The forward picked up a lacrosse stick for the first time at a young age, and the rest just came naturally for the Bandit.
“My dad introduced lacrosse to me since he used to play. I started throwing the ball around when I was four or five years old and from there I started playing indoor box lacrosse similar to the NLL with my cousins and buddies,” recalled Clancy. “From there, I played in house leagues and lacrosse got more serious as I got older, so I moved on to juniors where I played with the Peterborough Lakers. I played in their minor system before moving on to Junior-A.”
During his six-year Junior-A career with Peterborough, Clancy posted 277 points (111 goals and 166 assists) in 95 regular season games and 94 points (32 goals and 62assists) in 44 playoff contests.
In 2009, he finished third in scoring with 108 points (47 goals and 61 assists) and was one of only five players in Canada to break 100 points in the Ontario Lacrosse Association that season. Clancy was also named a second-team OLA All-Star.
“We had a pretty good team, but it was also a little lucky. We didn’t go too far in the playoffs, but I had pretty good coaches who gave me a lot of chances with the ball and the offense came through at the junior level,” recalled Clancy. “I played with a lot of good players like Josh Gillam and Jesse Guerin, who was another guy to score over 100 points. It was a very good year and balls were going in for me, which was great because I was the big fish in a small pond.”
Clancy’s accomplishments with the Lakers were enough evidence for the Bandits staff to select him with their first round pick (10th overall) in the 2009 NLL Draft. Fortunately for the young forward, he was going to a team where he knew some of the players and to a place that was close to home.
“I knew Whitey pretty well, and he called to tell me that I was going to be selected by the Bandits. I thought it was great not only because it was close to home, but because I knew Buffalo is by far the best place to play in terms of fan support, media and how they treat their players. Now that I am playing in Buffalo, I feel like I’m almost spoiled because I don’t want to play anywhere else,” said the forward.
Unlike most rookies, Clancy was able to step on to the Bandits roster and play, mostly because of the chemistry he already had with the team. Clancy played with the Senior Lakers during the summer before his rookie season and had a chance to play with the core of the team in White, Tavares and Mark Steenhuis. The familiarity in the locker room was a big help for the rookie, as he recorded six goals, 15 assists and 21 points in just six games. Although he seemed to fit well with the team, he still had to get comfortable with an enormous crowd watching.
“It helped knowing some of the guys like JT and Steenhuis, but it was a little overwhelming when you’re used to playing in front of 500 people, and then it steps up to 18,000, so getting adjusted to that was the hardest part,” said Clancy. “The guys are a little bit stronger, faster and tougher, but I just knew I had to take my shots when I had the opportunities and tried to rise to the occasion every chance I got.”
Clancy entered the 2011 season more experienced and ready for an expanded role. However, he had a tough time cracking a starting lineup that was loaded with veterans like Tavares, Kelusky, Roger Vyse and Chad Culp. At the end of the regular season, Clancy had tallied five goals and seven assists for 12 points in nine games.
“Being in my second year, I guess I was expected to do a lot more, so I under achieved a little bit. It is tough when you want to be playing, but all you can do is sit back and watch your team play and cheer them on,” said Clancy. “You never want to watch your team because you want to be a part of the team and contribute, so it was tough to take a back seat to those guys.”
All Clancy could do in that situation was wait his turn, which would come in the biggest game of his young career. Clancy was called upon to fill in for an injured Tavares, who was a late scratch. In Tavares’ absence, Clancy delivered by scoring four goals and adding an assist in the Bandits loss to Toronto in the Eastern Division Finals. The forward admitted that he was a little nervous to fill the shoes, but also knew his team was counting on him to embrace the moment.
“It was a good chance for me to get in for the last game, although it was for an injured JT who might have scored five goals to win the game for us. It wasn’t like I was replacing just another guy, but instead I was replacing the best player in the world to ever pick up a stick,” said Clancy.
“It was a little nerve-racking because it was the Eastern Finals, but I just said that I was going to go out there and play as hard as I can by shooting the ball when I got the chance. I just happened to get lucky on a couple of shots.”
Despite Clancy’s five-point night, the Bandits didn’t have enough to overcome an early 6-0 deficit and dropped the Eastern Finals by a score of 12-11 on home turf. Although it was a heartbreaking way to end the season, Clancy says he has never been more proud of his team.
“Our goal was to win the NLL championship, but we have a great group of guys that I can honestly call every single one of them a friend. I was lucky to play with guys like Tavares, Steenhuis, Kelusky, Self and Whitey, so I was blessed that way,” said Clancy. “Plus our coaching staff and fans were great. Although we didn’t end it the way we wanted to, the fans made the season fun for us.”
Now that the 2011 season is over and done with, Clancy will go back home to continue his quest in becoming an electrician for Guild Electric. In addition to his day job, the forward also intends on joining the Senior Lakers again so he can stay sharp for the Bandits next year.
“I work for a company called Guild Electric, where I am currently an apprentice to become an electrician. Our company is located outside of Toronto, and I am lucky to get in with such a big company. When I am not doing that, I am playing summer lacrosse with the Senior Lakers, so I play all year long.”
During the offseason, Clancy and the Bandits will have a lot of time to reflect on the season and look for ways to improve their games. However, the Bandits will have one advantage they know will return next season, and that’s the fans who roam Banditland.
“The people of Banditland should know they are the best fans by far,” said Clancy. “When we go anywhere else, we don’t see other teams getting the same support we get, which makes Buffalo the Mecca of lacrosse. The fans are our sixth player out there, and they contribute a lot more than they know.”