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Banditland heads north for playoff test

Photo credit: Dave Marino

blog by Ben Tsujimoto  • 

When the Bandits sat at 2-6 after half of the NLL slate was complete, there was substantial concern in the media that Buffalo would miss the post-season in a league where eight of nine teams advanced.

Darris Kilgour’s Bandits closed the regular season with a 5-3 run, however, punctuated by a playoff-clinching victory over rival Rochester at the First Niagara Center and an overtime nipping of Washington. Buffalo is playing its most confident lacrosse of the season, having ironed out two of its biggest issues: selfishness on offense and rotations defensively.

Buffalo swings north to Toronto for a playoff clash against the East Division’s top seed and reigning NLL champion. The first round match-up begins at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Air Canada Centre, and there’s a special ticket offer for Bandits fans. Call Pat Stewart directly at (416) 596-3075 x234 for $32 adult tickets and $23 for youth and seniors (65+).

With his game-winning goal in overtime to down Washington, John Tavares capped his 21st season in the NLL with another 80-point campaign, finishing second in the league in goals (41) in the process. When the Bandits fell to the Rock in last season’s second round of the playoffs 12-11, Tavares was a late scratch because of a calf injury. Toronto won’t dodge the same bullet again this year.

The last regular season clash between Buffalo and Toronto was a disaster for the Bandits, as the Rock scored six unanswered goals in the fourth quarter to win 15-9. Troy Cordingley’s crew registered six power play goals off two major penalties, stressing how crucial it will be for the Bandits to avoid unnecessary trips to the box.

This problem hasn’t truly been addressed as the season’s progressed, as Billy Dee Smith’s five-minute high-sticking penalty kick-started Washington’s run of five straight goals to send the regular season finale into overtime. Needless to say, Buffalo will dig itself a deep hole if the game is officiated tightly and the Bandits struggle with discipline—Toronto’s distributing wizard Garrett Billings, who set the NLL assist record with 82, will be licking his chops.

Can the Bandits avenge last season’s playoff loss to the Rock in hostile quarters?

TAGGED: buffalo bandits, garrett billings, john tavares, lacrosse, nll first round, nll playoffs, toronto rock

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