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Mammoth In Buffalo: Bandits Face Off With Colorado

The Buffalo Bandits (4-5) return home to host the Colorado Mammoth (4-3) at First Niagara Center live on UniversalSports.com & USN app (mobile/tablet viewing) in the U.S. and TSN GO in Canada on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET. Colorado will try to continue getting back to its early season form while the Bandits look to continue their success against the West Division, currently 3-0 against the West and 1-5 against the East.

Buffalo comes into the game having lost two in a row, dropping both games of their home-and-home series against the Rochester Knighthawks. Rochester completed the season sweep of Buffalo last Saturday, taking all three of the key matchups. Bandits transition player Alex Kedoh Hill is not happy with Buffalo’s record against the East.

“It’s tough. The in-division games are the ones you want to win,” Hill said. “The only thing that I can say is that we have to get better.”

Buffalo forward Dhane Smith, who leads the Bandits with 51 points this season (21+30) is also dissatisfied with the season so far. He has higher expectations on himself and the team, but is looking forward to the last nine games of the season.

“We have to forget about the first half of the season,” said Smith quietly. “We learn from it and now we’re excited for the next chapter.”

Despite having several statistical leaders on the team, Buffalo is still struggling to put tallies into the win column. Bandits assistant coach Rich Kilgour insists that the whole team must work together in order to find more wins.

“Dhane Smith, Ryan Benesch, Alex Kedoh Hill, those guys are really pulling their weight. But they can’t be the guys who are providing all of the stats,” he said. “Everyone is working hard, there’s no doubt about that, but at the same time if it doesn’t translate into wins, it doesn’t mean anything. Hopefully we can find a way to take great individual successes and turn it into team successes.”

Buffalo’s coaching staff continues to preach the importance of consistency and playing a full sixty minutes. The Bandits will need a full game’s effort to take down the Mammoth in Week 9’s matchup.

“You’ve got to put in 60 minutes to beat teams in this league. We’ve put in a great 30 minutes or even 55 minutes, but it has to be 60,” said Bandits head coach Troy Cordingley. “We’re close to where we want to be, but we’re not close enough yet. We’re taking the rest of the season one game at a time; we’re after the playoffs.”

After an undefeated 3-0 start to the season, Colorado snapped a three-game losing streak last weekend versus New England, a game that had setbacks before the opening faceoff. Not only was the game delayed due to inclement weather, but bags containing Mammoth player equipment did not arrive on time either. Despite the hiccups, coach Dan Stroup assured it wasn’t a distraction on the bench come game time.

“It was right before the game, guys were borrowing ball boy’s helmets and stuff like that,” Stroup said. “Once you get going they didn’t worry about it, but I thought they played great. All the little things they could have worried about they didn’t, they just got out there and played.

“They could have had an excuse and distraction but they didn’t. They did what they had to do.”

Adam Jones was among the players who’s equipment was M.I.A., including his stick. Teammate John Grant, Jr. joked earlier this week that just like the other missing equipment, Jones did not let it distract him on the floor even with a spare weapon of choice.

“Looks like whatever stick you put in Jones’ hands he’s putting four or five (goals) in,” said Grant. “We’re pretty glad to have him on our side.

“Like coach [Stroup] says, once the anthem is over and you’re on the bench you’re going to have to forget about it and just play.”

Jones finished last week’s outing with a seven-point (4+3) performance, with a team-leading 16 shots taken.

Veterans of the NLL are no stranger to “Banditland” however, an arena that Colorado’s own crowd has rivaled since coming into the league. Combine that with a Buffalo team jawing to reach .500 on the year, creates a recipe for a tough matchup. Grant added nostalgically of games spent in Buffalo back in the day, and that the crowd will be a ‘X’ factor, much like their own Mile High City crowd, and will be part of the game plan.

“It’s a gong show…playing 10 years in Rochester, I know the building well,” he said. “The fans are very knowledgeable and they know how to get under your skin. The Bandits play off of that. That first five minutes of lacrosse, it’s a war. You have to do everything to withstand it and stick to your game plan.”

The Mammoth made a last-minute roster move last week leading up to the game against the Black Wolves. Veteran shooter Athan Iannucci was released and was replaced on the roster by young gun Mike Burke, who has had stints with the Edmonton Rush and Toronto Rock, and registered a goal and two assists in his first appearance with the Mammoth. The coaching staff noted his impact, but more impressive was his quick learning of Colorado’s playbook.

“I think he looked pretty good,” Stroup added. “He brought a lot of energy, he had about 24 hours to learn some offense with us, and I think he did a great job for a limited amount of time.”

Joey Cupido meanwhile continues to be a key player on both defense and transition. He leads the NLL among defensemen with eight goals thus far on the season, while teammate Creighton Reid has five goals himself.

By Steve Bermel (@BanditsBeat) & Nick Salen (@MammothBeat) for NLL.com. Photo by Bill Wippert.