The Buffalo Bandits flexed their new offensive muscles in last week’s 14-10 victory over Toronto. However, it was Buffalo’s defense that earned the most praise for the victory.
Tonight’s road battle in Rochester will put that defense to the test. The Knighthawks rolled up 22 goals on Philadelphia last week. Mike Thompson will be hard pressed to repeat as NLL Defensive Player of the Week considering Rochester’s firepower.
Rochester had some question marks entering the season considering the moves they made in the offseason. However, Cody Jamison is an elite talent, Stephen Keough should have no trouble following in his fellow Orange alum’s footsteps and Matt Vinc make this team a sure contender.
Considering the influx of talent to Rochester this year, the Bandits are sure to have their hands full this evening. Add in the fact that this is a road game and the I-90 rivalry will be sure to be in full force.
To think the Bandits can stymie another offense the way they did last week seems silly. Rochester has a great balance of veteran leadership (Mike Accursi, Pat McCready) and young, elite talent (Jamieson, Keough, Cory Vitarelli). Darris Kilgour won’t subscribe to trying to run and gun with Rochester, but you can expect Buffalo’s transition game to play a huge role.
Mark Steenhuis will see plenty of floor time. Depending on who dresses, Tom Montour, Jon Harasym and Jeremy Thompson should play a large role too. Steenhuis only had a couple of points last week; a larger contribution will be needed tonight. As I stated previously, the Bandits will not try to get into a shootout with the Knighthawks. However, they will need to have the more explosive offense if they hope to win.
Matt Vinc has given Buffalo headaches on many a night. He is the goaltender who stonewalled the Bandits in the 2009 semi-finals as the now-defunct New York Titans won 9-3. Vinc is incredibly athletic and employs an interesting style that, at times, mimics a butterfly goalie in ice hockey.
Mike Thompson comes as advertised. He is a reliable goalie who has a penchant for a big save. He is a big body who plays his angles well. He feeds off his defense and vice versa. When the Bandits system is clicking, Thompson is tough to beat – just as when Thompson is playing a stellar game, the Bandits tend to play to a higher level.
Both teams have elite talent. Luke Wiles, John Tavares and Tracey Kelusky can be counted on to score for the Bandits. Just as Cody Jamieson, Cory Vitarelli and Mike Accursi will put up points for the Kinghthawks. However, the Bandits added some quality depth scoring this season that has been absent in years past. Rochester has plenty of depth scoring too, considering the likely matchups both teams’ depth scoring will play a key role.
Billy Dee Smith vs. Cody Jamieson – The Buffalo system isn’t predicated on a one-on-one basis. However, you can expect Darris Kilgour to try to keep his most talented defenders (Smith and Chris White) out against Jamieson and Vitarelli as often as possible. The pairs may not play a straight match for the entire game, but Buffalo will need to neutralize Rochester’s most potent weapons if they hope to win.