After the brutal showdown against the Minnesota Swarm two weeks ago that left some players battered and bruised, the Buffalo Bandits (7-6) used the most of their week off to rest, recuperate and strategize against their upcoming opponent the New England Black Wolves (3-8). Saturday night’s showdown against the Black Wolves at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, NY will be the second of four 2015 NLL regular season matchups during the regular season. The last time these two teams met was during the opening week battle at the Mohegan Sun Arena where the Black Wolves emerged victorious with the hard fought 12-8 inaugural win at home.
During the month of March, the Bandits truly showed the rest of their opponents in the Eastern Division that they were a force to be reckoned with. First, the Bandits were faced with a home at home series clinching doubleheader against the Eastern Division leading Toronto Rock on March 13th and 14th and then a week later were placed in a must win Eastern Division matchup at home against the Minnesota Swarm.
Buffalo truly challenged the division leaders to their absolute limits during their home and home doubleheader series against Toronto by coming away with the satisfying 15-12 home victory at the First Niagara Center but the Rock got their ultimate revenge against the Bandits by clinching their season series with the 12-11 overtime victory at the Air Canada Centre.
Fighting for possibly their playoff lives against the Swarm two weeks ago at home in the friendly confines of the First Niagara Center, the Bandits immediately jumped out to a commanding 5-0 lead after the first six minutes had passed and they never looked back in their dominating 12-8 regular season series clinching victory against the Swarm.
If the Bandits do come away with the victory Saturday night against the Black Wolves, Buffalo will have their fourth win over the previous five games and will be a huge push in the right direction for them in clinching a playoff spot.
During the NLL coach’s conference call earlier in the week, Bandits assistant coach Dan Teat explained how important a win this late in the season can pay huge dividends down the road.
“It’s a real big one for a couple of reasons. We want to try and stay in the playoff spot that we’re in right now and try to stay ahead of New England and Minnesota. They’re going to be a hungry team after the trades they’ve had and new guys coming in.”
With the NLL trade deadline come and gone on Tuesday, both the Bandits and Black Wolves were serious players in securing talent to hopefully strengthen their ranks in the quest for a championship.
During the deadline, the Bandits traded forward Joe Resetarits and their third round 2016 NLL draft pick to the Rochester Knighthawks for defenseman Jamie Batson and two future second round draft selections.
Teat explained the reasoning behind why the Bandits had to let go of Resetarits with “It’s always tough to let somebody go, but to get assets you’ve got to give up assets.”
On the other side of the coin, the Black Wolves 2015 season is just shy of completely going off the rails with the team currently in the throes of a three game losing streak and residing in the NLL Eastern Division’s basement.
For the month of March, the Black Wolves have truly had their share of ups and downs. With the team riding high after an important 10-9 Eastern Division victory over the Minnesota Swarm on March 14th, the team’s celebration was immediately grounded to a halt when over the course of two weeks they were decimated 20-9 by the Calgary Roughnecks and lost an important divisional game 13-9 against the Minnesota Swarm.
With the Black Wolves’ playoff chances looking incredibly slim after the latest loss to the Swarm, desperate times called for desperate measures and the new budding franchise pulled out all the stops at the trade deadline in the hopes of turning it all around.
The Black Wolves first major deal as a franchise began with the team trading their captain Joel White and their second round pick in the 2017 NLL draft to the Minnesota Swarm for their captain Andrew Suitor.
Emotions will be running high for Suitor this weekend because before he faces the Bandits on Saturday, he will have to face his former team on Friday. “The emotional side of things, you just have to let that take its course and just go out and play the game you love,” Suitor said.
Another huge upgrade to the Black Wolves arsenal Saturday night against the Bandits will be the recent addition of forward Garrett Billings who was traded to the team in exchange for sending leading scorer Kevin Crowley to the Toronto Rock. Billings will be returning to the NLL after taking the year off recuperating from a torn ACL. Billings has recorded a total of 315 points in 47 games (almost 7 points a game) and even if he is just a tiny bit rusty after the layoff, he will still be a dominating presence in New England’s lineup.
At this point the Bandits and Black Wolves will face each other a total of three more times with each of their last two games on the season against each other. Each win is a guaranteed must win for both teams if they want to make the playoffs and the victor in the series will take that vacant spot.