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Bandits notebook: Saunders' life suddenly changes direction

It's funny how a single phone call can have an immediate and large impact on someone's day-to-day life.

It happened to Pat Saunders on Monday, when he found out he had been traded from the New England Black Wolves to the Buffalo Bandits.

"I was on my way home from work, and I got a call from New England's general manager," the new Bandit said. "I kind of knew that with them picking up Daryl Veltman that there were five lefty forwards on the team and one of us had to go. I was a healthy scratch the week before.

"I'm excited to get started with the Bandits. I tried coming here in 2015 in free agency, but they held my rights by matching an offer."

Saunders lives in Arthur, Ontario, which is located north of Hamilton. It's not easy to get from there to Uncasville, Conn., home of the Black Wolves, nine times a year.

"This is a lot closer and easier," Saunders said. "I don't have to fly to as many games. I can stay healthier, and stay on top of injuries when they take place."

The 27-year-old had bounced around a bit before finding regular duty in 2014. He had been with the Philadelphia/New England franchise (it moved before the 2015 season) for three-plus seasons before the trade.

Saunders didn't waste any time trying to adjust to his new situation. The team had a practice on Tuesday night.

"With my schedule, I could make it," he said. "It was a fast-paced practice, which was nice. I could get the legs going. I didn't play the week before. I got to know the guys a little bit.

"You don't want to come in and just be in the lineup. You want to show you are here to compete and contribute. The guys have been great here so far."

Unlike, say, football, it doesn't take long to adapt to a new team in indoor lacrosse. While every coach stresses different aspects of the game, the basics remain the same.

"It's a little different system," Saunders said. "The Bandits have five guys work together - move the ball, move your feet. We were a little more structured in New England with Shawn Evans playing. He's one of the best in the game. You can't complain about that."

You might guess that Saunders' family would be in the stands for Friday's game. But those people have a previous commitment.

"Actually, it's pretty funny," he said. "Most of my family bought tickets for the New England-Toronto game," which also was on the Friday schedule. "But one of my cousins is coming down for this game and the one in Rochester Saturday."


Bandits forward Ryan Benesch did a little shooting on the side during Friday's morning practice at the KeyBank Center. He's still recovering from a hit to the head, and is not expected to play this weekend.

"He said that the headaches have gone away, so that's a good sign," assistant coach Rich Kilgour said.

The Bandits also are missing rookie forward Blaze Riorden. He went on injured reserve with what was described as a lower-body injury.

"He's madder than the coaches about sitting," Kilgour said. "He was finally finding a groove with four goals in his last two games. He got banged up, so it's next guy up."

With the Bandits having two games within 24 hours this weekend, it wouldn't take much to leave the Bandits short-handed on Saturday. That's why Buffalo added two players to their practice squad during the week. Zach Tomkinson and Brier Jonathan were in Buffalo's training camp but cut before the start of the season.

"There's only one extra guy on our roster, so we brought in a couple of guys just in case," Kilgour said. "We have so many guys that are banged up. That's the nature of the league these days. ... You take one wrong step, plant a leg the wrong way, and suddenly an injury shows up."

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