By Steve Bermel / NLL.com Correspondent
The Buffalo Bandits (0-2) will look to get into the win column for the first time this season when they host the Vancouver Stealth (2-1) on Saturday, January 21st at the KeyBank Center at 7:30 p.m. EST. This will be the third straight home game to open the season for the Bandits and they’re hoping for a different result in front of their home crowd.
“It hasn’t been a fun start. This wasn’t what we expected, but it’s a competitive league and the bounces aren’t going our way right now,” said Bandits defenseman David Brock. “We were so good at home last year. It’s a little bit disheartening for us to lose at home. We have such a loyal fan base and putting up these stinkers isn’t fair to them. We want to do better, especially at home.”
In both of their games thus far, the Bandits struggled to score their first goal. In their opener against the Colorado Mammoth, they didn’t score until the second quarter. Against the Georgia last week, Buffalo didn’t score until the Swarm spotted themselves a 5-0 lead. Buffalo hopes to score the first goal on Saturday.
“Scoring the first goal would be huge,” said Bandits head coach Troy Cordingley. “Our first quarter offense hasn’t mustered a lot of shots. We’ve been tentative and afraid to make mistakes and take chances. If we get our offense on the same page our scoring chances will come.”
The Bandits will enter Saturday’s game without last year’s league leader in scoring Dhane Smith. Smith suffered a lower body injury in the first quarter last week and has already been ruled out against the Stealth. Although he’ll be missed, they have to find ways to score as a team.
“This is a team game. Our success last year wasn’t because of one guy,” noted Cordingley. “Dhane had a big year, but we had a lot of guys doing the dirty work. This year, we’re not doing the dirty work as an offensive unit.”
Last season, the Bandits excelled at scoring in transition. This year they’ve struggled to get out quickly in transition and finish at the other end.
“First off, we need to play good defense. We haven’t been pressing the ball too well. We’ve also been terrible in our own end at scooping loose balls,” said Cordingley. “Last week, three times, we had a defender try to run through a double team, turn the ball over and give up a goal against.”
“I think we’ve been gripping our sticks a little bit too tight. We’ve been fumbling with the ball,” said Brock. “That’s the strength of our game, transitioning the ball well. I think it helps spark our offense so we need to get back to good transition lacrosse.”
Buffalo will also have to be better on special teams than they have been. Against Georgia, the Bandits earned a five minute major power play that they failed to score on. Worse yet, they gave up a shorthanded goal during that major power play.
“We didn’t bury our power play opportunities last week,” said Cordingley. “We have to be smart, get back and not allow shorthanded goals against. We always spend a good amount of practice time on special teams.”
The Stealth have gotten out to a strong start and will give the Bandits a lot to handle. Vancouver notched two strong wins against the Calgary Roughnecks and Mammoth in their first two games. They’ll be looking to rebound after last week’s loss to the ‘Necks.
“They’re a hungry team. They have a potent offense that moves the ball really well. Their defense is very aggressive and ‘in your face,'” added the Bandits skipper. “I have an awful lot of respect for their big names on offense, but we can’t forget about Joel McCready. He’s huge for them, he’d go through a wall for them.”
The Bandits will also be without transition player and faceoff threat Nick Weiss on Saturday. He had an MRI for a lower body injury on Wednesday and may miss some more significant time.