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Bandits Notebook: Rock resorts to rookie ritual in hopes of righting season

The Toronto Rock came to Buffalo this weekend as the only team in the National Lacrosse League without a victory. It clearly was a good time to try something different.

That’s why pictures of the team’s rookies, dressed up in costumes while dining at Chef’s Restaurant, were all over lacrosse’s social media circles late Friday night.

“I wish they had picked up the tab,” coach John Lovell of the Rock said about the first-year players.

Such rituals are relatively common in baseball, and it was borrowed to lighten the atmosphere.

“I just think we needed to do a little something for the team,” Lovell said. “Rather than going to Chef’s the day of the game, we decided to go Friday night. Actually, Brandon Miller and Nick Rose said we should do something. We didn’t have any rookies last year, so this was an opportunity to get together.”

The dinner party didn’t help, as the Rock lost to Buffalo Saturday night to fall to 0-4 this season.

“It hasn’t been the start we’ve wanted,” Lovell said. “We haven’t put the goals on the board that we are capable of scoring. There are a lot of things that have gone wrong.

“All the things seem to be going wrong at the same time. Maybe last year, all the things went right at the same time for us. That was reflected in our record. That’s the nature of the game, and it’s up to the guys to battle through this.”

The Rock are missing star forward Josh Sanderson, who went on the physically unable to perform list in December. At 38, he said he wasn’t healthy enough to contribute to the team. Sanderson had 102 points last season to rank sixth in the league.

“I think there was a little bit of wear and tear,” Lovell said. “I don’t know if he’s 100 percent closed the door to returning. But I think with each passing week, it will be a little bit more difficult for him to come back.

“That was a bit of a downer for our team. A lot of our motivation, a lot of our togetherness revolved around him. The loss last year of his dad,” Rock general manager Terry Sanderson, “was a big rallying point for that team.”

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It was an eventful 24 hours for Nick Sakiewicz, the new commissioner of the NLL.

He had planned to fly into Buffalo Friday night for Saturday’s game, but the snowstorm in Baltimore and Philadelphia made that impossible. Sakiewicz moved on to Plan B, which was to drive to Buffalo. He said he left the storm’s impact around Harrisburg, and it was clear sailing form there.

Sakiewicz has learned a lot about indoor lacrosse in his few weeks on the job so far.

“It’s the best-kept secret in professional sports entertainment,” he said. “I’m astonished at the quality of the entertainment value. What the players do on that field, with the stick skills and the physicality of it, it’s amazing. I never knew this existed, and I’m a sports fan of multiple sports. I love competition. We need to do a better of getting this imagery and this environment to more people.”

As for seeing a game in Buffalo, Sakiewicz came away impressed.

“They do it right here, and not only in terms of the on-field product for the athletes,” he said. “In terms of all the entertainment, and a world-class building, you’ve got to do it right. In sports, you either go big or go home. Obviously, the Bandits are doing it right.”

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Daryl Veltman was back in the lineup after missing a game with an upper-body injury. ... Buffalo had a 45-43 edge in shots. ... The teams were a combined 0 for 3 on the power play.

email: bbailey@buffnews.com