NLL Preview: Bandits Battle Rival KHawks

With one third of the 2014 season now over, the Buffalo Bandits (5-1) are the team to beat in the Eastern Division. The Bandits are firing on all cylinders and have a five game win streak to show for their efforts. Heading into their Week 7 showdown against the Rochester Knighthawks (3-2) Saturday at the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, Buffalo will look to increase their commanding lead in the East and put some distance between themselves and the rest of the pack.

Saturday’s meeting against the Knighthawks will be the second time that these two teams have played against each other in two weeks. In their first matchup of the 2014 NLL season, the Bandits narrowly escaped with the 11-10 victory on January 25.

In that first matchup, the Bandits held a six goal (11-5) lead in the middle of the fourth quarter. The Knighthawks refused to give up and led a furious five goal rally that unfortunately came up one goal short in the end.

One possible answer to why the Knighthawks came up short in that first matchup with the Bandits could be due to the second quarter injury that kept their second leading scorer, forward Dan Dawson, out for the rest of the game.

Besides the fact that Dawson was out against the Bandits, the Knighthawks in general have had just a bit of trouble finding the back of the net. The Knighthawks are ranked second last in the league in goals scored with 50. Cody Jamieson is the lone member of the team with more than 10 goals scored (11 total).

Ranked second on the team in goals scored is Dan Dawson with seven. The only other team this year that is having even more offensive troubles than the Knighthawks, is the Minnesota Swarm with a league worst 42 goals.

With the placement of forward Craig Point to the injured reserve list on January 28, the Knighthawks hoped to turn their offensive struggles around with the signing of previously retired forward Mike “No Mercy” Accursi to a one-year deal. The 38 year old Accursi served as the Knighthawks Team Operations/Assistant Coordinator for the past six weeks.

“It feels great. I still loved playing and being around the guys. I’m definitely excited to be back and excited to contribute whatever way that I can to help this team win.”

—Mike Accursi

Accursi will be playing in his 17 season with the National Lacrosse League and seventh as a member of the Knighthawks. Accursi made his Knighthawk debut last week against the undefeated Edmonton Rush where he recorded two points (1 G, 1 A, 2 LB). Unfortunately, Accursi’s contributions alone were not enough as the Edmonton Rush emerged victorious at home with the 8-7 victory over the Knighthawks in overtime.

Hoping to return the Knighthawks to their former glory against the Bandits, Accursi added:

“We have to continue to stick to our game plan that made us successful the first three games. We just have to go in there hungry. We are fighting for survival week in and week out because that will ultimately determine your playoff position.”

Here’s a little bit of good news for the Knighthawks. With Accursi in the lineup, he has helped his team reach the postseason in 12 of his 16 seasons.

Leading the offensive charge for the Bandits on Saturday will be the stellar play of second year Bandit Dhane Smith (31 PTS: 10 G, 21 A, 30 LB, fifth overall in NLL) and off-season acquisition Ryan Benesch (30 PTS: 10 G, 20 A, 29 LB, sixth overall in NLL).