Features | 2/18/2014 12:50:29 PM | Alex Pagliano
| Mitch Wilde (Photo Credit: Bill Wippert)|
After waiting a few weeks to get into the lineup, Mitch Wilde made his NLL debut a memorable one.
The Buffalo Bandits rookie left his mark 3:01 into the third quarter of the Bandts' 13-7 win over the Philadelphia Wings on Saturday at First Niagara Center. He took a lead pass from Chad Culp and then buried a shot on the break that beat Philadelphia goalie Evan Kirk for his first career goal.
“I knew the open lane was there, so I went full tilt,” he said. “I found the open lane and went short-side and then far-side for the goal. It’s one of those moments that you’ll just never forget.”
After the goal, the rookie celebrated by launching himself into the glass. The celebration paid homage to friends back in Whitby, Ontario.
“My best buddies told me to do that if I did score,” he said. “So, shout-out to the boys back home there.”
Wilde, who lives near Whitby, assembled a group of family that consisted of his mother, father, aunt and uncle for the game.
He ran around a tad, particularly on defense in the first half, but the goal seemed to calm him down on both ends of the floor.
“Yeah, [the goal] eased some of my nerves,” Wilde said. “We had a couple of spark moments and I was just happy to deliver.”
He also chipped in a late assist on an Aaron Wilson goal in the fourth quarter in transition. Combined with two loose balls and a forced turnover, the debut earned Wilde the Bandits’ player of the game award, the “212 Hat.”
Wilde was promoted to the active roster last week when teammate Andrew Watt was placed on injured reserve, but coach Troy Cordingley elected to hold Wilde out of the lineup at Rochester.
An injury to Kevin Brownell forced Wilde into the lineup Saturday night against Philadelphia.
At 6-foot-3, 175 pounds, Wile stood out to Bandits management for more than just his welcomed size. Buffalo selected Wilde, 22, with the 15th overall pick in this year’s NLL Entry Draft.
“Mitch has been the guy who has come in and shocked a lot of people,” Bandits general manager Steve Dietrich said. “He’s been great for us and we’ll be excited to see him against competition.”
As training camp wore on in the fall and early winter, Wilde outlasted a combination of talented rookies and veteran players to make the team’s practice squad. According to Bandits head coach Troy Cordingley, Wilde has not been gifted anything.
“He earned it,” Cordingley said. “Mitch Wilde came into camp was unbelievable. He was a force out there. He has great transition skills, he’s smart with the ball, and he’s a big, young physical player.”
Watt and Brownell could both be back by the Bandits next game on March 8 against Minnesota, so Wilde could very well find himself back on the practice squad by then. But for now, the rookie is living in the moment.
“We’ll focus on tonight,” he said Saturday. “And then worry about that after tonight.”