Hello from Uncasville, Connecticut, where the Bandits' playoff run starts in a slightly unlikely place (first playoff game between the teams ever here) on an unlikely night.
Both teams took part in morning shootarounds on Monday. I chatted with Tracey Kelusky, the ex-Bandit who is now an assistant coach with New England. He said that, just like the Bandits, they had to do a little scrambling in terms of the schedule because of the Monday night game. But - everyone has turned up and is ready to go.
Anthony Cosmo was a full participant at the workout today, so he should be ready to go this evening.
What to watch for tonight (7 p.m., nlltv.com and Radio 550 AM)? Here are three quick points:
- The stars will be out. The two major candidates for MVP honors in the league will be matched up in a sense. Dhane Smith is the favorite, but Shawn Evans of the Black Wolves has an argument. New England had a huge turnaround, and played a role in it. If one has an advantage on the scoresheet tonight, it could be a sign of the outcome.
- When in doubt ... The role of goaltending increases at playoff time. The game are closer, and that one big save can be the difference between winning and losing. Ask the departed Georgia Swarm and Colorado Mammoth, first round losers. Cosmo and Evan Kirk are coming off good years with relatively equal stats. We'll see who plays better.
- The enthusiasm gap. Let's be honest here. New England had the worst attendance in the league, at 3,751 per game. It's a rare Monday night game because of schedule conflicts, and the Black Wolves didn't have much time to sell tickets for the game. Therefore, the building figures to be reasonably empty. Luckily, the playoffs tend to get everyone fired up. Even so, the crowd won't be much of a factor, and that could wipe out part of the home-field advantage.
For those interested in the travel side of the road trip: Uncasville is a little less than an hour east and a little south from Hartford. The casino complex is large and impressive, as you might expect. The arena is right in the middle of it, so the fans park on the ends and walk through gambling areas, food stops, stores, etc. to get to the arena. It's not a great fit for lacrosse in terms of size, but, as every coach since forever has said, both teams have to play on it.
I'll be on Twitter @WDX2BB before the game with late information, so feel free to warm up for the 7 p.m. start that way.
-- Budd Bailey