After their first defeat of the 2014 season against the Philadelphia Wings, the Buffalo Bandits (4-1) are catching fire. Riding a four game win streak heading into their Week 6 matchup against the Toronto Rock (2-2) tonight at the First Niagara Center, Buffalo will try to hold on to their fragile half-game lead in the Eastern Division.
Tonight’s meeting against the Rock will be the second time that these two teams have played against each other in just over three weeks. In their first matchup of the 2014 NLL season, the Bandits rallied back to win 12-10 on January 10.
In that first matchup, the Rock held onto a 6-2 lead heading into halftime. The Bandits then responded with a 4-0 run in the third quarter to tie the game up at 6-6 and outscored the Rock 6-4 in the fourth quarter to end the night with the victory.
Toronto forward Josh Sanderson explained the difficulty of holding onto their lead against the Bandits. “We turned the ball over and took some bad shots. They went on a run and it killed us.”
Leading the offensive charge for the Bandits will be the stellar play of off-season acquisition Ryan Benesch (27 PTS, 7 G, 20 A, 26 LB sixth overall in NLL) and second year Bandit Dhane Smith (26 PTS, 10 G, 16 A, 26 LB, seventh overall in NLL).
In an interview with the press on Wednesday, Benesch acknowledged the accomplishments of Smith so far this season.
“Dhane has been our best player for each game so far this year. Once he started believing in his skill, you knew that he made that jump into becoming one of the league’s best players.”
Hoping to extinguish the Bandits offensive fire will be the return of veteran Rock defender Bill Greer. On Wednesday, Greer was moved from injured reserve and returned to the team’s active roster. Greer opened his 2014 season with a 16-11 Rock victory over the Calgary Roughnecks on January 3. Unfortunately for Greer, the victory against the Roughnecks came at a cost when he was injured in the first half of the game and was unable to finish.
With the return of Greer to the Rock’s lineup, this will hopefully be that key piece the Rock was missing in their defense the first time they faced the Bandits.