5/23/2019 11:00:00 AM / Nick Konotopskyj
The Bandits are down, but they are certainly not out.
After losing Game 1 of the NLL Finals last weekend, the Bandits will look to even the series when they travel to Calgary for a 9 p.m. game this Saturday night. They find themselves in a must-win game in order to keep their championship hopes alive.
The Calgary Roughnecks beat the Bandits, 10-7, in Game 1 behind a stellar performance from goalie Christian Del Bianco. He made 48 saves on 55 shots and the Bandits had a hard time getting into a rhythm offensively.
“We have to adjust with how we’re shooting the ball,” head coach John Tavares said. “I think our shot selection was good [in Game 1], but where the ball was ending up didn’t end up where we wanted it to. They have a lot of athletes and they put pressure on our offensive players.”
Including their two playoff wins, the Bandits have won 16 out of 21 games this season. Since it’s a best-of-three format, Game 3 would be back in Buffalo if the Bandits even the series. That decisive game for the championship would be at 8 p.m. on Friday, May 31 at KeyBank Center.
“Fortunately for us, this playoff format turned into a best-of-three series,” Bandits forward Corey Small said. “We have that opportunity to watch film, study and get ready for the next game. We seem to answer well after losses so we’re just looking for another opportunity to bounce back.”
Calgary’s Dane Dobbie led the entire NLL in points this season with 115 (47 + 68). Dobbie had three goals and three assists in Game 1 and took control in the second half. The Bandits went into halftime tied 2-2 but were outscored 8-5 the rest of the way.
Goaltender Matt Vinc had another solid game despite the loss, stopping 34 out of 43 shots. He held Calgary’s offense to nine goals (with an additional empty net goal late in the game).
Both defenses have been strong throughout the postseason. Calgary held Colorado to just four goals in the West Finals while the Bandits held Toronto’s high-octane offense to just eight. The Roughnecks were able to keep Buffalo, the best offense in the league, to a season-low seven goals in Game 1. The previous low was eight goals against Toronto on March 23.
“I feed off of the hostility, just like I feed off of our fans pumping us up,” Bandits captain Steve Priolo said. “I think something we can do moving forward is pushing the ball earlier. With the road bench, we can probably push it more in the first and third quarter instead of the second and fourth. I would look for a faster paced game in game two.”
One other thing to keep an eye on in this game is who Tavares and Rich Kilgour designate as scratches. In Game 1, Chris Cloutier was a notable scratch from the lineup as the team’s sixth leading goal scorer on the season. With 19 active roster spots available (17 runners and two goalies) we will see who the co-head coaches will go with in this win or go home Game 2.
With a championship just two wins away, the Bandits will now look for a road win in a hostile environment to keep their season alive. Opening faceoff is scheduled for 9 p.m. at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary on Saturday night.