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Immediate reactions: Bandits 12, Rock 10

blog by Ryan Nagelhout  • 

The soundtrack in Banditland never changes.

When the Buffalo Bandits score goals, the same songs always play. Black Betty. Brick House. Song 2. Hell Yeah.

You hit the net wearing orange and black and you know what’s coming at First Niagara Center in Buffalo.

The familiar songs are great when you’re winning, but recently they’ve rang hollow. The Bandits lost their last seven home games, including a sputtering effort in their 2013-14 home opener in late December.

It was more of the same in the first half against the Toronto Rock on Friday, digging themselves a 4-0 hole to start the game and trailing by four at the half. Rock goaltender Nick Rose looked calm between the pipes, and Banditland brimmed with frustration.

It was a feeling Bandits fans were becoming familiar with over the last few seasons. Lots of offensive talents have gone quiet in Banditland, and the home crowd had followed suit.

Still, the game was there. Four goals in 30 minutes isn’t impossible. It was once routine for this team.

Ten minutes pass in the third quarter without a goal. Finally, at the 11:02 mark, defenseman Steve Priolo breaks the seal for the Bandits. Ryan Benesch follows 1:49 later with a turnaround goal falling to the floor to make it 6-4. The celebration music starts to gain some clout when Black Betty blares just 32 seconds later as Chad Culp makes it a one-goal game.

Then Mark Steenhuis ties it with 1:09 to play in the half, leaping into the plexiglass that separates him from the Banditland bedlam on the other side. Tie game.

Four goals in 2:49 of play in the third quarter swung the game, and another six in the fourth helped give Buffalo its first home win in eight tries, a 12-10 victory to even their 2013-14 record at 1-1.

We were far from the Banditland of old, with an empty-looking 11,404 on hand waiting more than a half of lacrosse to finally get into the game. But it happened. They won at home in a contest that featured some sound lacrosse on both ends and a satisfied Bandits crowd leaving First Niagara Center for the first time since January 26, 2013.

There are lots of question marks with this Bandits team just two games into the regular season. The weekend isn’t over yet. But when it was finally over on Friday, the PA cranked Fatboy Slim’s “Praise You” as the Bandits circled the field beneath a cheering crowd. It felt—and sounded—just like old times in Banditland. The good old times, that is.

Hot, Fresh Indoor Lacrosse Takes
— On Sunday the Bandits play in Philadelphia, a team they looked terrible against in the home opener. In three weeks, they play Toronto at home once again.

That’s how the NLL schedule works these days. The teams you see early are the teams you’re going to see all season. If you’re having problems you have to find the fix fast.

It took a half for the shots to finally fall, but the defensive effort was very much improved on Friday night. Bandits goaltender Anthony Cosmo was much better in net as well.

— Head coach Troy Cordingley, who has a bit of history with the Rock, said after the game what he said all week: it was just another game for his team.

Cordingley talked to the media in the hallway beneath Section 102 instead of the usual home team interview room on the other side of the visiting team’s lockers. This presumably allowed him to avoid the Toronto locker room, and the assembled media got a good look at the arena’s foosball table, which was a positive for everyone involved.

— On an early power play, Priolo broke up a play across the middle and the ball deflected down into the Toronto zone.

Priolo and a pair of Rock players raced down to get the ball along with the Rock netminder Rose, who Priolo crunched into the glass along with the other two Bandits. The crowd loved it. Crowds love when goaltenders get hit in lacrosse. Well, as long as it’s not their goaltender.

— Priolo, who was featured in a Buffalo News story on Friday, scored twice and played great defensively, intercepting passes and helping out on both ends of the floor. Journalism!

— There’s a two-goal cap on a 5-minute major penalty in the NLL, a reduction from the three-goal cap in previous seasons according to lacrosse wizard Steve Bermel.

The goal the Bandits scored to tie the game at eight in the fourth quarter apparently counted against that two-goal cap, which is why play went back to 5-on-5 when Buffalo finally took their 7-6 lead with the man-advantage.

— The delay-of-game penalty for touching a dead ball your team doesn’t have possession of burned the Bandits in the fourth quarter. Steenhuis thought it was Buffalo’s ball and was ready to reset, but it wasn’t his ball to touch.

He went to the box, and Colin Doyle put Cosmo on the floor and put it in to tie it at eight. The rule itself is a good one, meant to speed up the game and keep things flowing. When there’s confusion, though, it’s easy to take a bad penalty.

— Toronto just missed a chance to tie the game late in the fourth quarter. Josh Sanderson picked up a loose ball near the crease, fighting off Cosmo and two Bandits defenders.

His diving shot trickled into the net, but he was in the crease before it crossed the line. Buffalo took over from there, but it’s a different game if the goal counts.

— About a dozen Bandits were still out on the field practicing after the last Rock player hit the locker room both in practice and warmups, so they were totally winning the work battle even before the first faceoff on Friday night.

— The announced attendance was 11,404, which is pretty accurate as long as my admission counted for about 1,700 people.

— The clock never reset in the last 10 seconds or so of play, which killed any chance Toronto had of getting a final scoring chance. Not that it mattered much, but it is of note.

— I’m a bit fuzzy on the origin story of the Rock’s nickname, but I very much hope it involves Dwayne Johnson. I’m going to assume it does no matter what you say.

The Swennie Filez
Some people really like the loud noises of Bandits in-house announcer Chris “Swennie” Swenson. I personally file him under the category of “He Distracts Me From Focusing on Indoor Lacrosse.” To each their own, I suppose. The most objectionable thing Swenson has done this season is try to attach a nickname to Ryan Benesch. In the home opener “Hit the mesh” fell flat. This time he tried something different. “Benny,” I think, which might actually be his nickname. What he got from the crowd was a bunch of mumbling. Banditland is confused, Swennie. Please make it stop.

A Criticism of Ryan Nagelhout, Press Box Occupant
— Spilled some popcorn on his laptop

— Only stayed for Cordingley’s post-game interview.

— Insufficient tie knotting

Stat-line I liked:
4-0
— Bandits goal differential in the third quarter. The second-half turnaround in this game was pretty huge.

Stat-line I didn’t like:
22:17
— That’s how long it took for the Bandits to get on the board. Rough, rough start to this one.

Next Game:
Sunday, Jan. 12 at Philadelphia (4 p.m.) — Quick turnaround on this one. Big chance for the Bandits to get a good weekend in against division rivals.

(Top photo courtesy of Bill Wipert at the official Bandits Twitter page.)

Ryan Nagelhout is a freelance writer who blogs at The Goose’s Roost when he’s not writing children’s books.

TAGGED: buffalo bandits, downtown, immediate reactions, lacrosse, nll, ryan nagelhout, toronto rock

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