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Bandits and Mammoth ready for round two

03/13/2013, 1:35pm EDT
By NLL.com's Bandits beat writer Alan Rosenhoch and Mammoth beat writer Nick Salen

Buffalo's Tavares set to return, Colorado's Powell will make debut

The Colorado Mammoth (3-7) play a rematch with the Buffalo Bandits (5-5), this time at Pepsi Center on Saturday at 9pm ET.

The rematch is on. Just one week removed from a game that turned real ugly in the final minute, the Buffalo Bandits (5-5) travel west to take on the Colorado Mammoth (3-7) at Pepsi Center on Saturday at 9 p.m. ET. Watch the game live on Altitude (DIRECTV channel 681 and Dish Network channel 410) and on YouTube via The Lacrosse Network. Fans in the Buffalo area can listen to the game on WGR 550.

Last Saturday, the Mammoth snapped a five-game losing streak with a 12-6 victory over the Bandits, overcoming a 6-4 third quarter deficit and scoring eight unanswered goals to end the game.

Frustrations boiled over with a melee just over 30 seconds when five players from each team paired off and dropped the gloves. Four players from each team were suspended for their actions.

“We’re all professionals; that stuff happens,” said Bandits assistant coach Rich Kilgour on the midweek media call. “I don’t think there will be any hard feelings [carried over into Saturday night] because all of the hard feelings were taken care of right then and there.”

Mammoth head coach Bob Hamley, whose late-game timeout call was speculated to have sparked the brawl, also stressed that his players will be focused solely on earning a victory, not settling a score.

“We’re going to be focused [on Saturday] just like we were this past weekend and the way we’ll be next week when we go to Calgary.”

The antics from last week’s game have been overshadowed, however, by both these clubs’ activity in the hours and days preceding the NLL trade deadline, which occurred at 5 p.m. ET Wednesday.

On Tuesday, the Mammoth acquired 2010 NLL MVP Casey Powell via trade with the Rochester Knighthawks in exchange for defenseman Jon Sullivan and a third-round selection in the 2014 NLL Entry Draft.

Powell, who has 22 points (8+14) on the season, now joins an intimidating Colorado offense with the likes of Grant, Gavin Prout, Adam Jones and Sean Pollock.

"When you are 3-7 you really work the bone,” said Mammoth head coach Bob Hamley. “Trying to improve the team, Casey Powell came available and Rochester really wanted Jon Sullivan. We think a lot of Sullivan and it’s obvious in the trade, but there's two character guys in Casey Powell and Jon Sullivan. You have to give something up to get something, we're happy Casey is coming to Colorado. I know he's excited about it in talking to him and we're looking for him to give a spark to our offense."

In last week’s matchup, Colorado stumbled out of the gates early in the game, giving up three goals in the opening quarter before eventually firing on all cylinders through the rest of the game. One of the major components in the rebound game came from Tye Belanger, who played all but 31 seconds in net in the Mammoth victory. It was his first career win in the NLL, earning Rookie of the Week Honors in the process in his 30 for 36 save performance.

“It was very exciting to go out and pick up my first win in Banditland, [and] play in front of that fan base out there,” Belanger said. “It's a good feeling to finally get it out of the way. It was the outcome that I liked, six goals sounds pretty good, a victory as well, playing in front of my parents and family members that came to the game as well. It was big relief to get it out of the way and put it behind and look forward to the future."

A big key to the Mammoth win on the road was due to their impressive six goal fourth quarter, putting the game well out of reach for Buffalo, as well as splitting goals across eight separate players. Now with Powell in the mix, the Bandits could be in for a long night on defense if fortunes deem similar the second time around.

The move adds significant strength to the right side of Colorado’s offense, providing needed support for leading scorers John Grant, Jr. and 2012 NLL Rookie of the Year Adam Jones, both of whom play on the left side.

On Wednesday, in the hours leading up to the deadline, Bandits GM Steve Dietrich made a few moves of his own. Buffalo sent transition player Jimmy Purves to Rochester in exchange for a second round pick in the 2013 NLL Entry Draft.

But these two teams were not done dealing. In a separate deal just minutes before the deadline, Buffalo acquired 22-year old forward Alex “Kedoh” Hill and in exchange for veteran defenseman Scott Self.

Whether Hill will crack the lineup this week has yet to be determined, though with the recent activation of Derek Hopcroft from the practice roster, it seems Hill may have to wait. Both Hill and Hopcroft play on the offensive right side.

Buffalo also traded the rights of retired goaltender Mike Thompson to Philadelphia for a conditional third round pick in 2013, finally ending the frenzy in a trade with Toronto that gave the Rock a sixth round pick in 2015 for the rights to retired netminder Steve Dietrich, the current general manager of Buffalo.

On Friday, the Bandits placed forward Luke Wiles on the practice squad and promoted Kevin Brownell and Hayden Smith to the active roster.

Buffalo’s offense should also get a much-needed boost with the return of John Tavares to the lineup. Tavares missed last week’s game after aggravating a calf injury that has plagued the 44-year old veteran for the past several seasons.

The absence of Tavares was not all that ailed Buffalo last week, as the whole team appeared to lose focus in the second half.

“We did put some work in, but the work wasn’t for the full 60 minutes,” said Bandits goaltender Anthony Cosmo. “We’re playing against a Colorado team that’s going to be more energized from the week before and the addition of Casey Powell… they just made that offense that much better”

Kilgour too believes that his team put in an incomplete effort last week.

“We need to work for all 60 minutes,” Kilgour said. “We just have to punch back in, put the hard hats on and finish games from here on out.”

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