This weekend’s matchup will be a tale of two cities, as the Buffalo Bandits (5-7) take on the Toronto Rock (8-4) at the Air Canada Center on Friday night. Both teams are coming off of losses to the Edmonton Rush. However, the Rock have won three of their last five. The Bandits have won just one game in their last five. They are also on a four game losing streak.
“Very disappointing, not what we wanted,” Bandits assistant coach Rich Kilgour said. “Hopefully we can have a better showing going into Toronto.”
“It’s not fun being in the slump or being blown at home again,” Bandits captain John Tavares said. “We have to get back to basics. If we can start doing the small things right, the big things will pay off.”
This will be the third and final meeting between the two teams, and the Bandits last win came against the Rock in Toronto on February 28th. The Rock won the first meeting in Buffalo. The Bandits are just 2-5 at home, but are 3-2 on the road this season.
“I guess that’s something we can take a positive from,” Kilgour said. “We just have to dig in and work harder. As soon as we can do that, be it home or away, we can be a lot better team.”
The Rock, despite coming off of a loss, have already clinched a playoff spot, and can clinch the East Division title if they win both of their games, and if the Philadelphia Wings drop both of their next two games.
“It would be great if we get there, but we have to get past what we put on the floor last week,” Rock head coach Troy Cordingly said. “We definitely have to be better than what we showed last week.”
Garrett Billings has been the offensive spark for the Rock all season. Billings is second in the league in points (79) and assists (55). Goaltender Nick Rose has been solid in the back end all season, winning a league-high eight games and making a league-leading 474 saves.
Shawn Williams continues to lead the team offensively with 50 points in 12 games. Rookie Dhane Smith leads the team in goals with 18.
The Bandits have struggled on both sides of the ball during their recent slump. The most they have scored in a game is 13 goals in a 13-16 loss against the Mammoth two weeks ago. They have given up no less than 11 goals in during the losing streak. They also lost the loose ball battle, 96-76, in the most recent loss to the Rush.
One bright spot last week was the team was newest Bandit Alex Kedoh Hill. Hill scored three goals in his debut and was named NLL Transition Player of the Week.
A big part may be the turnover in the roster. Between the changes that occurred in the offseason, the changes at the deadline, and injuries, the Bandits have faced the issue of adjusting to a constantly changing lineup.
“We’re trying to get these guys to gel. The big thing is lack of consistency in the lineup,” Kilgour said. “We’ll try to find our strongest lineup heading into the playoffs. Players need to do something where the coaches say, ‘I can’t take this guy out of the game.’ I think we’re having trouble trusting each other right now.”
Tavares believes that there is a cure to some of these trust issues: winning.
“Winning would help. I believe any team can beat anybody,” Tavares said. “With all the lineup changes, sure it takes some getting used to. I find working hard gets you out of slumps. If we start working hard, we’re start getting wins, and we’ll start getting confidence.”
Fans can tune into the game on TSN 2 in Canada, ESPN 3 in the United States, and The Lacrosse Network (Youtube.com/TheLacrosseNetwork) outside of North America. Fans in Buffalo can tune into KB1520 AM to hear the game.