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Stories/Op-Ed

Benesch Embraces Scoring Role With Bandits

It’s nothing new to have a Buffalo Bandits left-handed forward leading the NLL in goals. What is new, however, is for that Bandits player to be someone not named John Tavares.

But Ryan Benesch is off to a red-hot start to his 2015 campaign, leading the league with 14 goals and adding eight assists as well.

Benesch is just four games into his second year with the Bandits, but his impact on the team is palpable. Much like the legendary Tavares, who has had a hand in over 40% of Buffalo’s all-time goals, Benesch has factored in on more than half of the team’s goals this season.

“Ryan’s playing the way he can,” said Bandits head coach Troy Cordingley. “He’s a very smart player and we need him to continue to do what he’s doing.”

The 5’9” Kitchener, Ont. native, who turns 30 years old this week, had a strong impact in his first season in Buffalo, but far more with assists (53) than goals (25). This season, he’s flipped the script by finding the back of the net with regularity through four games.

The Bandits paid a heavy price to acquire Benesch and Andrew Watt from the Minnesota Swarm prior to the 2014 season, dealing first-round picks in both 2015 and 2016 as well as a third-round pick in 2017. After such a blockbuster trade, the pressure was on for him to deliver.

“Last year was kind of an adjustment period,” Benesch admitted. “We had such great players and great leaders that you don’t want to step on toes. Obviously, you show respect to the guys who deserve respect like Shawn Williams, JT [John Tavares], Mark {Steenhuis]; they all deserve the respect that they get. It was just a feeling out process and I think it’s gone well. Obviously, us losing [Williams] kind of forced me to step up. So I’m just trying to do whatever I can to help this team win.”

He is doing just that, having contributed eight goals and six assists in Buffalo’s two victories on the season.

“He’s on fire, that’s all,” said his teammate, Bandits forward Mark Steenhuis. “He’s playing great for us. He’s got some of the best hands in the league, his shot is dead on and I think he’s pretty happy with his stick right now.”

Pretty happy indeed, however his five-goal performance was not enough in the Bandits’ most recent game, a 13-11 road loss at Toronto.

Buffalo has two chances to bounce back this weekend, facing Minnesota at home on Friday, Jan. 30 before travelling to rival Rochester the following evening. If Benesch can keep up his goal-scoring pace, the Bandits should have a strong chance to earn two victories this weekend.

“When you know he’s going to pop four or five a night, it definitely helps,” Steenhuis quipped.

Story by Alan Rosenhoch for NLL.com. Photo by Larry Palumbo.

NLL