Bandits host Wings in rematch of season opener
blog by Ben Tsujimoto • January 25, 2013 @ 10:35am
Buffalo’s lone blemish on its 2013 slate is a 13-8 thumping at the hands of the Philadelphia Wings in the season opener, but after two consecutive wins, the Bandits find a chance for revenge.
The Wings visit Buffalo for a 7:30 p.m. contest Saturday night at the First Niagara Center, and you can purchase single-game tickets here.
Unnecessary penalties unraveled the Bandits in the first tilt, as three first-half minors on Jimmy Purves and a five-minute roughing major on Mark Steenhuis left Buffalo short-handed and unable to find an offensive rhythm. The stats were ugly—the Bandits spent 34 minutes total in the penalty box and were out-hustled to loose balls, as Philly dominated that category 88-to-66.
Since the wake-up call on Jan. 11, the Bandits have settled down on committing penalties—their opponents have spent more time in the box over the last two games, and Buffalo was penalty-free the entire second half in the 14-13 road win over Rochester. The Bandits haven’t dodged majors—Jon Harasym picked up one (and a two-game suspension) against Minnesota, and frequent offender Jimmy Purves earned a five-minute trip to the sin bin against Rochester.
After a shaky start, the Bandits’ newcomers are beginning to make an impact—Mike Hominuck registered a hat-trick in his first game on the active roster, and Shawn Williams added two goals and six assists.
The iron-man Williams will start his 200th consecutive NLL game on Saturday, and we fully expect Anthony Cosmo to draw the start for Buffalo between the pipes.
In addition to Harasym’s absence, the Bandits will continue to plod along without the services of Billy Dee Smith, a training camp holdout who served a two-game suspension to begin the year and now has been placed on the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list.
Mike McNamara, Hayden Smith and Glen Bryan have combined to fill the void left by the Bandits’ physically-dominant All-Star.
Philadelphia remains undefeated at 2-0, nipping the Toronto Rock 8-7 one week after dispatching the Bandits. Wings’ goalie Brandon Miller has been the league’s most dominant backstop so far—garnering NLL Defensive Player of the Week honors—and he enters Saturday night’s contest with a league-low goals against average at 7.50 and both wins.
The 12-year veteran, who was the East Division’s All-Star Game starter in 2011, stopped 53-of-60 Rock shots, including 38 of the 41 total attempted between Stephan Leblanc, Josh Anderson, Blaine Manning, Scott Evans and Garrett Billings. Philly coach-GM Johnny Mouradian considers his team as “D-first,” according to LaxMagazine.com.
Mouradian’s club trots out a legion of stars, one year after the Wings boasted the worst goal differential (-31) in the league but only lost 14-13 in the first round of the playoffs against eventual champion Rochester. Three Kevins and a Drew—forwards Kevin Crowley, Drew Westervelt, Kevin Ross and Kevin Buchanan—direct the offense, while newcomer Paul Rabil, the elite Brodie Merrill and Jordan Hall are lethal in transition.
Philadelphia lacks a top-notch defender, yet Steve Holmes and Jeff Reynolds are names at least familiar to NLL fans, and fellow defender Brett Manney has been very active defensively.
(All photos courtesy of Cody Osborne’s gallery from the Buffalo vs. Minnesota home opener - full gallery here).