The Buffalo Bandits host the Philadelphia Wings, the last unbeaten team in the NLL, on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET at First Niagara Center. (Photo: Larry Palumbo)
Coming off two straight come-from-behind victories, the Buffalo Bandits (2-1) return home to take on the undefeated Philadelphia Wings (2-0) at First Niagara Center on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET. Watch live on the NLL on YouTube via The Lacrosse Network.
Buffalo’s only loss of the 2013 season came against the Wings in their season opening game on Jan. 11, falling easily by a score of 13-8.
“We are really excited to get a chance at Philly again,” said Bandits head coach Darris Kilgour. “We didn’t play very well in Philly [in the opener] and I know we can play a lot better. We look forward to showing them who the real Buffalo Bandits are.”
The Bandits were plagued by numerous penalties in the first matchup with Philadelphia, taking an incredible 25 minutes in penalties in the first half alone (34 minutes total). Spending so much time in man-down situations meant the Buffalo offense struggled to find its groove.
“Everything is about momentum in this league,” said Bandits forward Shawn Williams, who will be playing in his National Lacrosse League-record 200th consecutive game on Saturday night. “We just couldn’t get any flow going on offense and they did a great job on defense to keep that flow stopped.”
Since dropping the opener in Philadelphia, the Bandits have won a pair of very tight one-goal games that saw them overcoming late fourth quarter deficits.
“We’re scoring some timely goals, which I think was one of our biggest things last year was we couldn’t score the timely goal when we needed it and this year, we have,” said Kilgour.
Kilgour has commented on more than one occasion this season that his team is getting better with every quarter they played.
The Bandits had their first strong start of the season against Rochester last week, scoring the first three goals of the game in the opening 3:10.
Williams says that with all the new faces in the Bandits locker room, it has taken a little time for each individual’s game preparation routine to gel with others.
“Working the minor kinks out of what guys can do and what music is on and all those little things,” he said. “It’s like having a new girlfriend. You kind of [figure out] what you’re allowed to do and what you not allowed to do.”
The Wings come into Saturday’s game as the only undefeated team left in the NLL, flying high after two stellar performances from goaltender Brandon Miller.
Miller is leading the league with a stunning 7.50 goals against average. His play last week allowed his team to steal an 8-7 victory in Toronto, earning himself the NLL’s Defensive Player of the Week award.
“[Miller] is having a great start,” said Wings head coach and general manager Johnny Mouradian. “Even if we’re struggling a bit on the offensive side of the floor, [Miller and the defense] are giving us an opportunity to hang in there.
“We’re [defense] first right now and that’s giving us an opportunity to win.”
“The ball is moving a lot better [on offense],” said Kilgour, the area of his team’s game that he believes has improved the most over the first three games of the 2013 campaign.
The scoreboard has certainly reflected this improvement in the past two games as the Bandits’ offense has scored 13 and 14 goals respectively.
Miller’s strong goaltending coupled with the Wings team defense should prove a strong test for Bandits on Saturday. One of the early-season surprises on Philadelphia’s offense has been the play of forward Kevin Buchanan, who played with Buffalo last season and scored a hat trick in the season opener.
“Everybody knows Kevin has a real nice outside shot,” Mouradian said. “He’s blossoming as a player. We’re really happy with what he brings. We had to address our left side, so adding him and Kevin Ross really helped us.”
After the game, the Wings will head home on Sunday to host the Calgary Roughnecks at 4 p.m. ET at Wells Fargo Center before their bye in Week #5 while the Bandits will return to action next weekend.