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Incoming Bandits set sights on stealing road win against Stealth

03/24/2014, 8:00pm EDT
By Stealth beat writer Kyle Donen & Bandits beat writer Alan Rosenhoch for NLL.com

Vancouver vs. Buffalo for 'Lacrosse Fights Cancer' at Langley Events Centre


Vancouver Stealth (3-9) host the Buffalo Bandits (8-4) at Langley Events Centre on Saturday at 10pm ET. (Photo: Richard Olson)

The Vancouver Stealth (3-9) host the Buffalo Bandits (8-4) for "Lacrosse Fights Cancer" night at Langley Events Centre on Saturday at 10 p.m. ET. Watch the game live exclusively on UniversalSports.com, which is available in the United States for subscribers of Universal Sports Network (U.S. subscribers click here) and for all viewers in Canada (Viewers in Canada click here).

Buffalo needs to bounce back from their rough weekend that saw them drop two games on the road, doubling their season total for losses in a matter of days. The Bandits now find themselves a full game back of Rochester for the East division lead with six games to play, four of which are away from First Niagara Center.

“It was a tough weekend for the guys,” said second-year Bandits transition player Dhane Smith. “It was a little bit different traveling, having had so many home games this season. Obviously we can’t use that as an excuse.”

The home rink has had quite the advantage for the Bandits in 2014, with a 6-1 record. But with the two losses last week, their road record is under .500 at 2-3. With so many road games left, it is important for the team to bounce back against a struggling Vancouver team on Saturday.

“We’ve got to go into [face] a Vancouver club that’s desperate for a win,” said Bandits assistant coach Dan Teat. “Sometimes when you play those teams that are really desperate, you’ve got to ward off the momentum that they’re going to try and swing right away at you. It’s tough playing those desperate teams.”

One of the biggest issues plaguing the Bandits in their two recent losses was a lack of discipline, particularly in the loss to Edmonton in which Buffalo gave the Rush nine opportunities with the man advantage. The Rush potted six power play goals en route to their blowout victory.

“We were with Edmonton for the first two quarters, but we just got too aggressive and took a few stupid penalties,” Smith said. “We just fell apart there.”

The coaching staff draws a clear distinction between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ penalties, noting that the latter can be killer.

“The good penalties we can kill,” Teat said. “The ones that you can’t kill are the ones that are selfish, bone-headed sort of penalties. I think [Edmonton] was one of those games that was so hyped up and so emotional with a couple first place teams going at it. Credit them, they stayed composed where we got a little off-center.

“Once you get behind a couple you start to try to do too much and frustration sets in. The biggest key is to keep our emotions in check.”

In addition to losing the two games, an historic streak was broken in the loss to Minnesota as well as John Tavares was held without a point for the first time since Jan. 26, 2002, ending his NLL-record streak at an astonishing 185 games.

It wasn’t all bad for Tavares in the record department, as he recorded his 1,700th career point in the loss to Edmonton, by far the most of any NLL player in history.

“He’s the greatest that’s ever played,” Teat said. “JT gets a mulligan for getting ‘zeroes’ in one game out of 185. He’s one of those guys that always bounces back. It could be a loose ball game bounce back or it could be a four or five goal bounce back, you never know with him. But he’ll find his way onto the scoreboard next game.”

Meanwhile, the Stealth will be looking to end a three-game losing streak as they’re fighting for their playoff lives.

"We have to find a way to win," said Stealth head coach Chris Hall. “We have to be better. Last weekend, we let Calgary get out to an 8-0 lead."

Vancouver will be looking for some more consistency from their offense and according to Hall, it’s about more than just scoring goals.

"Our offense has to make sure when we’re not scoring that we are accountable on defense," he said. "Last weekend against Calgary we gave up a lot of transition goals. They need to be better."

Although the Stealth didn’t get the result they were looking for last weekend they did get some much needed offense from veteran forward, Lewis Ratcliff. Ratcliff had three goals and three assists on the night and was named the game’s third star.

The Stealth will again be looking for some offense from Ratcliff but more importantly a complete game as a group, something they’ve struggled to do of late.

"It’s going to be a hard fought game," said Stealth transition player Ilija Gajic. "We just need to be fundamentally stronger, we're just making too many stupid mistakes."

The Stealth still have a playoff spot within their grasp and at this point they just need to win. Colorado currently sits two wins ahead of the Stealth for the final playoff spot, but the Mammoth also have one game in hand.

Four of the Stealth’s final six regular season games will be played at home so if the Stealth can find their groove at the LEC they could find themselves in a playoff spot at the end of the season.

When the Stealth and Bandits take to the turf tomorrow night fans will also have the opportunity to participate in a limited edition game worn jersey auction with proceeds benefitting the Canadian Cancer Society.

The Stealth organization has already raised a total of $7,600 for Lacrosse Fights Cancer Night and the hope is that even more will be raised throughout the weekend.

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