The Buffalo Bandits (1-1) are set to continue their 2013 season as they travel to Rochester to take on the Knighthawks (0-1) at the Blue Cross Arena at 7:30 PM (KB1520AM/The Lacrosse Network).
The Bandits will enter the game after splitting their opening weekend. They opened the season with a 13-8 loss in Philadelphia before staging a fourth quarter rally on Saturday to beat the Minnesota Swarm, 13-12.
Forward Shan Williams has been a key piece to the offense in his return to the Bandits. He is currently tied for the team lead in points with seven points in two games (two goals, five assists). He shares the lead with Bandits captain John Tavares (three goals, four assists).
The defending NLL champion Knighthawks come into Saturday’s matchup having dropped their opening game two weeks ago to the Washington Stealth, 13-12.
“We saw a few things [from the Bandits] that we’ll work on in practice and prepare for a great Buffalo team,” Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen said.
Knighthawks forward Cody Jamieson is leading the way offensively for his team, registering five points (one goal, four assists) in one game this season.
The Bandits have had a tough time beating the Knighthawks throughout this rivalry. The teams have met a total of 45 times, with Bandits trailing the series 19-26 with an 8-16 record in Rochester.
“We need to continue to improve. Looking at our first two games, we have to get off to a better start,” Bandits captain John Tavares said. “Rochester is a tough team to play against, especially at their place. On paper, they probably have the best roster. We’re definitely going to have our hands full.”
The Knighthawks will also be raising their NLL championship banner from last season. Bandits head coach Darris Kilgour does not see this making a difference in the way the Bandits will prepare, and thinks it may actually help give his team a spark.
“[Last year] was a really lost opportunity for us. We definitely want to go in there and spoil something for them,” Kilgour said. “I think we beat them the last time they had some ceremony there. We’ll take any motivation we can get and if that comes from spoiling this for them, then that’s great.”
The Bandits will once again be without defender Billy Dee Smith, who had served a two-game suspension through the first two games, but sustained a high-ankle sprain which will keep him out of the line-up on Saturday.
The Knighthawks, meanwhile, made a new addition to their roster, signing ex-Bandit goaltender Angus Goodleaf to a contract. Although Hansen did not reveal who would start Saturday, he did say he is excited to see what Goodleaf can contribute to the team.
The biggest key for the Bandits will be to get off to a better start. Kilgour was upset with the way the Bandits started their first two games and expects the players to be able to prepare themselves better for Saturday.
“It’s confusing because you should be excited for each game,” Kilgour said. “It’s on each individual player to prepare himself for the start of the game. We have to go out there and have a high compete level from the first whistle to the last. Hopefully we learned our lesson from last weekend.”
The Knighthawks will focus on playing better defensively. They gave up 64 shots to the Stealth in their first game and intend on not letting that happen again.
“We’re just trying to run system on the backdoor and we I think we got away from our principles,” Hasen said. “We were spread out and Washington capitalized on our mistakes. We’ve talked about it and had a few practices under our belt, so hopefully we can improve on that this weekend.”
This game, the first of four meetings this between the two teams, will be the only game for both teams this weekend. They will meet twice in the next four weeks after Saturday. This season marks just the second time in franchise history the teams will meet four times in season
- Alex Bielman