SIX NATIONS – The Iroquois Lacrosse Arena (ILA) was the hub of the National Lacrosse League (NLL) action in the east this past weekend as the Buffalo Bandits, Rochester Knighthawks, Georgia Swarm and the New England Black Wolves joined their pre-season training camps together for a series of games and land training sessions.
It was all in advance of the kick-off of the 28th NLL season. The last few weeks of training camp is when the final cuts are made and players not called to the NLL them begin trickling down through the Major Series Lacrosse the Sr. Bs and Arena Lacrosse League.
There were two games schedules. The Bandits played games against the Knighthawks and the Black Wolves. The only stats that were kept by the official time keeper was to recoded the penalties and goals, but there was a lot more writing going on in the stands. That’s where the general managers and head coaches sat watching with clipboard in hand to leave themselves little messages of each player that could mean the difference between seeing action in the NLL this year or not.
The preseason rivalry between these two teams came together at the ILA Sunday morning and the Rochester Knighthawks emerged victorious, taking down the Buffalo Bandits 12-8. With the win, the Knighthawks improved to 2-0 in the preseason, while Buffalo fell to 1-1.
Matt Vinc, who made his first start of the preseason, turned aside 33 Buffalo shots in three quarters of work to earn the win. Meanwhile, Angus Goodleaf entered the game in the fourth and stopped the first eight shots he faced to finish with 11. He also picked up an assist on Mike Triolo’s breakaway goal.
“We wanna get a look at some of the younger guys in a game-like atmosphere,” said Bandits coach Rich Kilgour. “We had a good showing against New England and two good periods against Rochester.”
The Buffalo Bandits finished in last place last season and are in the midst of a much needed rebuild.
Kilgore knows that his job includes not only getting players to come out to camp, but to make them want to stay and as a former player, he also knows what it takes to do both.
Of course, there are a couple of people who are going to be here no matter what, but for the most part there are probably 10 jobs for the taking and it’s wide open.
Gaywash Schindler is an alternate governor for the Rochester Knighthawks and helps with their training camp. He likes what he has seen so far.
“We still have close to 30 players to sift through,” he said. “I think in both games, the second half we played much better. We’ve got a good mix of veterans and new guys and great goaltending. We’ve got some depth on defense already.”
The veterans returning are not just guys who gave been around a while, they are legitimate “A”-calibre NLL players, like Billy Dee Smith and the Dawson Brothers to name a few.
“I think it is going to be a much different year this year,” says Schindler.
Of the veterans returning, defenseman Paul Dawson looked like he was playing in a playoff game, throwing himself in front of shots like a second goalie. And why not? Dawson was drafted as a goaltender in the first round (seventh overall) in the 2006 National Lacrosse League entry draft. As a goaltender, Dawson played with the Brampton Excelsiors in the Senior A Major Series Lacrosse League. The San Jose Stealth converted him from a goaltender to a defenseman starting with the 2008 NLL season.
Rochester will close out its preseason slate with a 6:00 p.m. showdown against the defending champion Georgia Swarm on Saturday, Dec. 2 at the ILA.