The New England Blackwolves will look to even the score as they have a pre-season rematch against the Buffalo Bandits this Saturday at the Toronto Rock Athletic Center in Oakville, ON. The Bandits took the W in their first meeting this past weekend 10-9, a game which was very physical and came down to the wire.
Jerome Thompson, a free agent addition to the Bandits roster (he was originally drafted by the club in 2010) put up five points last week against the Blackwolves, including the game winning goal. After each practice and pre season game, Thompson seems to be meshing better and better with his teammates, and also is trusted more by the coaching staff, proving for great on-floor chemistry. This chemistry contributed to a lot of his success last weekend, who has been described by former coaches as a team player who would just as much rather pass than shoot can only get better from here on out, and will be a force on the floor in this matchup. I expect to also see new additions improve on their success from last week. Guys like Corey Fowler, Nick Weiss, and Brandon Goodwin proved they had what it takes to play at a high level. Goodwin was actually drafted to be that type of player who can feed the ball in tight situations, to free up space for the high goal scorers by setting picks, making the cuts through the middle, etc, and he did just that in last weekend’s game. Aaron Wilson will also look to prove that he is back 100% after he had an injury stricken 2014 season. He already put up six points (2g+4a) in last weekend’s game, leading his team to victory and gaining first star honors.
In these pre-season games, you more than likely won’t see starting goalie Anthony Cosmo in net, he is just about a cinch to get the #1 job, and so they want to give the two other goaltenders more time in between the pipes to get a better look at who will become the second string. Those two goalies are Dave DiRuscio and Rance Vigneux. DiRuscio got the start last game, playing the first half and stopped 17 of the 23 shots he faced. Vigneux on the other hand came in to start the second half, and in the third quarter, only allowed one goal in. He then backed up that stellar performance by only allowing two goals in the fourth quarter, stopping a total of 15 shots. This certainly makes the goaltending situation interesting, and I believe both goalies will be on the top of their game in this one.
The Blackwolves played a stellar first half in last weekend’s game. At one point leading the Bandits 5-2. However, Blackwolves defensemen Bill O’Brien dished out a vicious cross check to the head of Jamie Rooney (leaving Rooney with 4 to 7 missing teeth) which garnered a five minute major penalty, giving the Bandits plenty of opportunity to tie it up. The Bandits did just that capitalizing on the power play and leading 6-5 nearing the end of the second half. Brett Bucktooth got a clutch goal for the Blackwolves to even the score going into halftime. I think you can look to see a lot out of Bucktooth in this next game. He’s a type of player that can score from anywhere, so you never know what he has up his sleeve when he gets the ball. The Blackwoles will also look to guys like Mark Cockerton and Matt Crough to put up some points if they want to win this game. Goaltenders Kevin Croswell and Chris Collins will also need lock it down in between the pipes. Buffalo has a very explosive offense and can put a lot of shots on net.
I think this will definitely make for an exciting NLL pre-season game. The Bandits are not going to tolerate any sort of cheap shots or dirty plays from New England. This stemming from the O’Brien hit on Rooney which left the forward with several missing teeth. The Bandits did not really respond physically to the hit immediately, and that angered Head Coach Troy Cordingley a lot, I’m sure he talked it over with the players as in the second half the team was very physical and responded with force when New England made “debatable” hits. Now the Blackwolves have to realize this, and work it into their game plan. The Blackwolves are a young team, so they have to work that much harder to secure a win in this pre-season tilt. My prediction is the Bandits will pull out the win 13-10. Buffalo will come out strong and dominate play in the first half, but New England will battle back hard in the second half and make it a very close game at times.