Features | 4/1/2014 9:51:24 AM | Alex Pagliano
| Shawn Williams (Photo Credit: Bill Wippert)|
Just over two months ago, Buffalo Bandits forward Shawn Williams announced that his 8-year-old son, Tucker, had been diagnosed with Stage III Burkitt’s Lymphoma.
Since then, the support for Tucker has been immeasurable and the Williams family could not be more grateful.
On Feb. 13, the team announced that Saturday’s home contest would be designated "Tucker Out Lymphoma Night." The team will hold a variety of events to raise money for the Williams family.
The team will also wear special “Braver Than Brave” jerseys supporting the cause. The jerseys that the Bandits will wear in the second half will be auctioned off online from Sunday, April 6 to April 13.
“It’s very overwhelming,” Williams said. “The support that Buffalo, Southern Ontario and the Bandits are doing for Tucker and our family is very overwhelming… We cannot say thank you enough.”
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Through the ordeal, Williams and his family have demonstrated a tremendous amount of strength. That strength originates from the concept of approaching each day with a newfound energy.
“There are so many thoughts that come to mind from this experience,” he said. “I’d say persevere. Remember to cherish every day, too.”
Williams’ focus will also be on the game at hand against the Calgary Roughnecks. Start time is set for 7 p.m. on Saturday at First Niagara Center, a half-hour earlier than most Bandits games.
Three consecutive losses have dropped the Bandits into second place in the NLL East Division. As an assistant captain, Williams thinks that the Bandits need to refocus on the game plan in order to be successful.
“I think we have moved away from what has made us successful,” he said. “We moved away from our game plan as of late, and thus, we have not received the results that we would have liked.”
A vast array of penalties has not helped the cause. Over the current losing streak, teams have averaged four power-play goals per contest. The frustration mounted last Saturday as the Bandits took a number of unnecessary infractions, particularly on the back end.
“It becomes tough as an offensive guy. You try to keep our end focused on our jobs,” Williams said. “We definitely have some guys who play on the edge and we have crossed that line as of late. They know this. Richie [Kilgour] and Troy [Cordingley] know, too. We have to get back to toeing that line.”
On the other end of the floor, Williams has recorded 36 points (10+26) through 13 games this season. Since 2001, Williams has recorded at least 69 points over the duration of the regular season. The presumptive drop in production can be contributed to the role that he now plays on the team.
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“You have to help out where you can,” Williams said. “I have been asked to be more of a body-mover and someone that creates space. And that’s a little different than what I am used to, but I have accepted my role and I try to do what is asked of me.”
Williams connected for his 10th goal of the season at Vancouver, marking the second consecutive game that the 16-year NLL veteran had found the back of the net.
“When you have a chance to bury, it’s always nice,” he added.
The Bandits have failed to reach the 10-goal plateau in any of their past three games. But the right-handed play, particularly of forward Joe Resetarits, has caught Williams’ eye.
“He’s a great player and he’s finding ways to get his shot,” he said. “They’re dropping for him right now. He plays very gritty, and right now, he’s playing very well for us.”
The return to a more balanced approach coming out of the front door should boost goal output. Over the losing streak, right-handed offensive sticks have found the back of the net 12 times. Left-handed offensive sticks – including the likes of John Tavares, Ryan Benesch, Mark Steenhuis – have added just seven.
As Bandits assistant coach Dan Teat outlined last week, the offense ideally would have to contribute 6-8 goals outside of special teams and transition to be successful.
But, fortunately, the NLL season has only reached Week 15. At 8-5, the Bandits have time to put things together and push forward towards a postseason run. As Williams knows, champions are not determined by play during the middle of the season.
“We need to learn from this losing streak,” the two-time NLL champion said. “There are teams that are there at the beginning of the season, the middle of the season and then, of course, at the end of the season. We do have the parts to get there. You always want to peak at the end of the year.”