The Buffalo Bandits will be welcoming East Division rival Toronto Rock to KeyBank Center Friday night to kick-off their home schedule. The team is fresh off a 17-14 win in Philadelphia against the Wings, a game which saw many ups and downs for the Bandits.
With that crucial win to open up the season, the Bandits have already put a step in the right direction. In 2017, the team lost their first two games on the season, to Colorado and Georgia, each by a four goal margin. With additions to the team in almost all categories, the Bandits are eager to snap a two year streak of missing the playoffs.
On the backend, the Bandits signed six-time goaltender of the year Matt Vinc to a three-year contract. The net minder who hails from St. Catherines, Ontario has been in the league for 13-years, and was a center-piece to the Rochester Knighthawks’ three NLL Championships in a row from 2012-2014. He recorded 36 saves on 51 shots in last week win over the Wings, and as he settles more in with a new defensive unit, expect that high-level pedigree to return between the pipes.
Two new head coaches will also be making their debuts in front of the home crowd Friday night. John Tavares and Rich Kilgour are splitting the head coaching duties after Troy Cordingley was relieved of his position in the off-season. Tavares and Kilgour are of course familiar faces to Banditland, the two are mainstays with the franchise as both players and later assistant coaches, and now look to lead the franchise from behind the bench.
Kilgour has head coaching experience in Major Series Lacrosse, the Ontario Senior-A league, as head coach of the Six Nations Chiefs. He led that team to three Mann Cup championships since 2013, and hopes to bring that championship-pedigree to his new position as co-head coach of the Bandits.
Perhaps the most immediate contributing addition to the line-up is that of forward Corey Small. The lefty forward was acquired from Vancouver in the off-season, and is already fitting right in with the offense, putting up five goals (all in the first half) in last week’s road win. Small is the type of offensive player that can slip through defensive schemes, and get set-up right on the door step, which is what this Bandits offense desperately needs.
On the injury front, star forward Dhane Smith is still questionable after suffering a lower body injury in last week’s game. He practiced with the team earlier this week, but it seems he will be a game-time decision come Friday night.
If the Bandits hope to win this home opening game, they need to play four full quarters of lacrosse. Last week, the team came out on fire scoring three unanswered goals, but defensive breakdowns led to allowing the Wings to constantly battle back. Hiccups like those might work when playing against a new squad like Philadelphia, but may not be the case when facing a seasoned Toronto Rock club.
Face-off for the game is set for 7:30pm EST, and can be watched with a subscription on the B/R Live app which is available on the web or through the iTunes, Google Play, Roku, Apple TV, and Amazon Fire.