The Buffalo Bandits (1-1) visit the Rochester Knighthawks (0-1) for their 2013 NLL regular season home opener at The Blue Cross Arena at 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday night. (Photo: Larry Palumbo)
The Buffalo Bandits (1-1) are focused solely on scoring a victory as they travel east down the New York State Thruway to take on the defending 2012 National Lacrosse League champion Rochester Knighthawks (0-1) in their home opener at Blue Cross Arena on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET.
While spoiling their rival’s Champion’s Cup banner-raising ceremony would certainly be an added bonus, Bandits head coach Darris Kilgour downplayed how much the ceremony will affect his team.
“We beat them the last time they had some sort of ceremony,” he said. “So I don’t think it affects us too much.”
That being said, Kilgour admits that playing witness to the banner raising should be extra motivation for his squad.
“We definitely want to go in there and spoil something for them,” said Kilgour. “We’ll take any motivation we can get and if it’s their banner raising, then we’re going to use it to our advantage.”
The Bandits are coming off an up-and-down opening weekend that saw them beaten handily in Philadelphia by a score of 13-8 on Friday, before returning home on Saturday to defeat Minnesota in a thrilling come-from-behind 13-12 victory.
Out of the four halves of lacrosse they’ve played, Kilgour has liked what he’s seen out of his team in just one: the second half against Minnesota.
“I wasn’t real happy with Friday night; we weren’t really disciplined, took some bad penalties. We didn’t really compete as hard as we should have,” Kilgour said bluntly. “On Saturday night, we played a lot better. In the second half, I think our defense really came around.
“We got better as the weekend went. With all the new faces and young guys that we’ve got that’s a good sign to improve as the game goes on.”
Meanwhile, Rochester opened their title defense with a loss to Washington two weeks ago during NLL Face Off 2013 on Jan. 5. The game was a thriller, as leads were traded back and forth, with the Knighthawks ultimately losing by a 13-12 score on Athan Iannucci’s dramatic game-winner with just 1:23 remaining.
Having to sit idle for a week after a season-opening loss is not exactly what Rochester wanted.
“Our first game was a little while ago, so you’ll need to refresh my memory a bit,” Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen said jokingly during the weekly media call.
On the bright side for the Knighthawks, the week off coincided with a Bandits doubleheader, giving the Rochester coaching staff an opportunity to study plenty of recent game film.
“We had lots of lacrosse to watch this [past] weekend, which you don’t normally get,” Hasen said. “We saw a few things that we’re going to make sure we talk about and run through at practice to be prepared for a great Buffalo team.”
Interestingly, Hasen revealed that former Buffalo goaltender Angus Goodleaf has just been signed by the Knighthawks, replacing Jake Henhawk as the backup behind Matt Vinc. The signing has yet to be made official by the league, but one would expect that Goodleaf could provide some added intelligence on his former team.
The Bandits recently released Goodleaf after he lost the backup role to Kurtis Wagar in training camp. Wagar has played far more than expected in the first two games, as starting goaltender Anthony Cosmo was pulled in the first half of both contests. However, all indications are that Cosmo will be back on the floor to start in Rochester.
Unfortunately for Bandits fans, veteran defender Billy Dee Smith will not be available for Saturday’s matchup.
Smith was suspended the first two games for an incident that occurred after the final whistle of the Bandits’ playoff defeat last year in Toronto. Kilgour disclosed that Smith suffered a high ankle sprain at work and will be placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list.
No matter who is on the floor, the Buffalo-Rochester intrastate rivalry always produces heated and well-contested matchups and Saturday’s tilt should be no different.
Watch the game live on the NLL on YouTube via The Lacrosse Network and on the Time Warner Cable Sports channel in the Rochester area.