The 3-4 Vancouver Warriors return home to Rogers Arena this weekend to face the 5-1 Buffalo Bandits after a short but impressive one-game road trip to New England last weekend where they upset the Black Wolves.
This matchup comes with lots of intrigue. It’s the first time that Corey Small returns to Rogers Arena since he was traded to the Bandits in exchange for Mitch Jones, who is currently the Warriors’ top point-getter and one of the league’s best scorers. It’s also a home-coming for Bandits’ players Josh Bryne, Garrett Billings and Chase Fraser who are all from B.C.
But what has most people excited about this game is the battle between the league’s best offence – the Bandits are averaging 13 goals per game – going against the dialled-in Warriors defence who are allowing 5.5 goals per game over their last two contests.
The Warriors are fully aware that stopping the Bandits’ potent attack will be a challenge, but it was also a tough task when facing the Colorado Mammoth and Black Wolves in their last two games and they came out on top.
The Warriors Tyler Codron knows that in order to shut down the Bandits, every part of the Warriors strategy is going to have to come to life once more.
“They’ve got a lot of firepower up there,” Codron said. “I think the key is outworking them. They’re going to get their shots, they’re going to get their chances, but Penney has been playing unbelievable and I firmly believe that’s going to continue. We want to minimize their good shots, keep them to the sides, not let them inside the middle and we need to keep them to one shot per possession; once they get that shot, we can’t let them get that rebound.”
For this Warriors machine to be running smoothly, it helps when all your pieces are on the floor. Last weekend, without Matt Beers, Logan Schuss and Bob Snider (all of whom are potentially returning for the game), the team still managed to pull out a victory because they had other players stepping up. As Mitch Jones mentioned, having their young players rise to the occasion motivates the veteran guys and the club as a whole.
“This past weekend we had a lot of young guys with something to prove, and I try and go out there like I’ve got something to prove,” Jones said. “You see it with these young guys even more. You see how excited they are to play and how excited they are to execute our game plan. We’ll obviously get guys back as the season goes on, but when we came in this season, we knew we had a lot more depth and it’s good to get to show that off a bit.”
It’s going to take a heroic effort from the Warriors to beat the Bandits. Led by John Tavares and his coaching staff, the Bandits are still improving, if you can do that when you’re a 5-1 team. But, Warriors head coach Chris Gill believes that his guys are playing a high-level of lacrosse right now and are ready to continue showing that against the visitors who will be without their star defender Steve Priolo who was placed on the IR this week.
Just because the Warriors have won two games in a row doesn’t mean they should begin celebrating just yet. The time is now to keep the ball rolling and what better way to do that than by grabbing another signature win.
“They’re definitely talented in goal, defensively, transitionally, offensively, the coaching staff is unbelievable, so it’s going to be a tough task,” Gill said. “But, I think our guys are up for the challenge. We need to keep all that momentum that we’re trying to build right now. I think we match up really well against them.”
“We’re not going to pat ourselves on the back too hard and just focus on the next task at hand.”