The Buffalo Bandits (0-0) will host the Toronto Rock (0-0) at the KeyBank Center on Friday at 7:30P.M. as the two NLL East Division rivals kick off their 2018 season. Both teams will be looking to improve on last year’s campaigns where the Rock exited in the second round of the playoffs and the Bandits finished last overall.
“It wasn’t a fun time last year, a lot of things went wrong. We’ve made a thorough sweep as a coaching staff and management, making sure we have everything covered. It’s going to be different this year. We’ve done a lot of soul searching, a lot of video was watched and a lot of players were talked to,” said head coach Troy Cordingley. “Josh Byrne, we drafted him first overall, that’s what you get, you’re rewarded for having a bad season, but he’s a very smart player and we’re looking forward to working with him.”
The Bandits selected Byrne out of Hofstra University with the first overall pick in this summer’s NLL entry draft. The lefty forward netted 7 goals in his MLL debut for the Chesapeake Bayhawks last June. He’s hoping that success carries over to the indoor game.
“I played some indoor lacrosse in the WLA and I played a lot of Junior lacrosse for the Salmonbellies. I missed a couple years of indoor because of college, but I think I’ll be alright. The players here are going all out all the time and the compete level is through the roof; but I like that, because I’m a competitive guy,” said the rookie. “I don’t try to think about being first overall, I try to focus on my own game and getting faster and better and stronger every day, I’m not where I want to be physically yet.”
Buffalo’s GM Steve Dietrich had a busy offseason as just 12 players are returning from last year’s squad. There were trades (Ryan Benesch to Colorado, Alex Buque and Callum Crawford to Buffalo,) new defensemen brought in (Ethan Schott, Jordan Durston and Reid Acton,) and new roles for veteran players (Mark Steenhuis will be playing transition this year.) The GM found a plan to try to turn the team around.
”It’s always tough to get rid of some guys, veteran guys, fan favorites, guys that have been great here, but it was time. We had to get younger and faster and I think we accomplished that,” noted Dietrich. “Every year is a new start, but we don’t want to forget last year. I want to win as bad as anybody, especially not being able to win [a championship] as a player here. It’s a fresh start, our defense will be a work in progress with all the new guys and our offense needs to gel.”
These two teams met four times last year and split the series 2-2. Friday will mark the first of three regular season meetings between the teams in the 2018 season.