The Buffalo Bandits will kick off its 25th anniversary season on Saturday against the Calgary Roughnecks (0-1) at First Niagara Center at 7:30 p.m. ET. The Roughnecks had a tough 10-8 loss to the Saskatchewan Rush last weekend, and when the ball drops in ‘Banditland’, the Bandits will have a new look.
Most noticeably, Buffalo will have the league’s all-time leader scorer John Tavares behind the bench for the first time instead of on the floor. Tavares, who announced his retirement after 24 years in the NLL, was brought in as the team’s offensive coach this year.
Bandits forward Ryan Benesch isn’t too worried about the adjustment and still expects the team to perform well offensively.
“[John Tavares] has a way of calming everyone down on the floor,” Benesch told WGR550 in a radio interview. “I’m curious to see how he does it from behind the bench. When ‘JT’ talks, you listen. Daryl Veltman will help fill the hole left by Tavares. Daryl’s lacrosse IQ is one of the highest in the game.”
Veltman, who was acquired by the Bandits as a free agent in the offseason after he departed Calgary, will try his best to provide scoring on the left side of the offense.
As for the outlook on the season, the Bandits have big goals.
“It’s championship or bust for us, we’ve set very high expectations for our team,” added Benesch. “We’re going to have a big rough team. Our defense is stacked with tall, mean guys. We’ll be a fast-paced team that will move the ball.”
Buffalo’s 2014 second-round pick Tyler Ferreira joins the team this year, as well as former Roughnecks draftee Mitch de Snoo who was acquired via trade in which Buffalo sent Calgary their 2014 first round pick, Brandon Goodwin.
Buffalo hopes to get their season off on the right foot with a victory on Saturday night while Calgary looks to get back to .500 with a rebound win.
By Steve Bermel (@BanditsBeat) for NLL.com.