By Alex Pagliano - Bandits.com
MORNING SHOOTAROUND UPDATE
Tucker Williams was not at morning shootaround this morning, but his presence was evident.
The Bandits, including Tucker's father, Shawn, donned orange apparel that read "Braver than Brave" on the front and with his name, "Tucker," adorned on the back. The team also hung a banner just outside of the dressing room.
Tucker was recently diagnosed with Stage III Burkitt Lymphoma, a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It is the fastest growing human tumor, and can often be fatal if left untreated, with intensive chemotherapy being the best treatment.
"Obviously, this has been a heart-wrenching experience for the Williams family," Bandits head coach Troy Cordingley said. "But, everybody has had his back. The amount of support has been unbelievable. We (as an organization) have let Shawn (Williams) know that his family comes first."
Tucker, who remains at Sick Kids Hospital, turns 8 today.
Emotions aside, the Bandits host a resurgent Toronto team that looks to improve to 3-2 on the season. The Rock won at home last night, 17-12.
"We have to stay out of the box. Toronto has five guys that are dangerous on the power play," Cordingley said. "I thought we generated good looks last game against [Toronto goaltender Nick] Rose, but some did not stop. We'll have to continue to work tonight."
After four consecutive victories in the month of January, the Buffalo Bandits find themselves atop the NLL's East Division.
The Bandits (4-1) look to remain there on Saturday, as the team hosts the Toronto Rock at 7:30 p.m. at First Niagara Center. The meeting marks the second time that the two teams have played in just over four weeks; Buffalo rallied to win on 12-10 on Jan. 10.
In the season's first meeting, Toronto carried a 6-2 lead into halftime. But the Bandits responded quickly to open the third quarter. Buffalo went on a 4-0 run to knot the game at 6-6 and outscored the Rock 6-4 over the duration of the fourth quarter to earn the home win.
"We turned the ball over and took some bad shots," Toronto forward Josh Sanderson said. "They went on a run, and it killed us."
Steve Priolo recorded two goals for Buffalo. The defenseman joined the rush, a concept that has helped the team over the duration of the four-game win streak.
"Our defense and our transitional game have begun to gel," Dietrich said this week. "[Goaltender Anthony] Cosmo is playing well. He found his swagger. The guys believe in him. And then the game becomes a total team concept."
Priolo regressed to the mean last week, but the Bandits continue to generate chances pushing the ball. The Bandits scored at least twice last week with numbers in their game against the Rochester Knighthawks. The team almost added another as Dhane Smith converted on a 4-on-2 break, but the goal was waved off because Derek Suddons was ruled to have stepped into the crease.
Dhane Smith has been tremendous for Buffalo this season, ranking second on the team with 26 points (10+16). Teammate Ryan Benesch, who leads the team with 27 points (7+20), acknowledged how valuable Smith’s contributions have been.
"Dhane has been our best player for each game so far this year," Benesch said. "Once he started believing in his skill, you knew that he made that jump to become one of the league's best players."
The Bandits have outscored opponents 18-9 over the third quarter this season; and, over the past two victories, the team has outscored opponents 10-2 over that span.
Bandits head coach Troy Cordingley has seemingly found a message that resonates with his team at halftime, as well.
Asked at the start of camp about expectations for the head coach, Dietrich had one concept at the forefront of his mind.
"[Winning] immediately," he said. "That's one of the reasons we brought Troy in. He's a guy that can come in here with an established group of players that can make the jump immediately. He has the track record of improvement."
Toronto hosted the Vancouver Stealth on Friday at 7 p.m. before coming down the QEW on Saturday. The Rock defeated Vancouver 17-12 at Air Canada Centre.
On the season, Buffalo is 2-0 playing against teams that have played the night before.