When first place is on the line in a sporting event, as it will be tonight when the Buffalo Bandits host the Toronto Rock, it’s always good to have an expert on the other team available.
Fortunately for the Bandits, Glen Bryan is ready to help.
Bryan will play his first game against his former team when the two squads clash in the First Niagara Center tonight (7:30 p.m., espn3.com, Radio 1520 AM). He was acquired from Toronto in the offseason after spending two seasons with the Rock. The defender practiced every week against the Toronto offense, so he received a crash course in how one of the best offenses in the league works.
“It’s good playing against someone like Garrett Billings, who gets five, six, seven points a night,” said Bryan, who will turn 24 on Feb. 13. “Colin Doyle is someone I grew up watching. Playing against those guys, you learn a lot.”
The learning process for Bryan has been going on throughout his life. He was born and raised in Orangeville, Ont., which he describes as “a hotbed of lacrosse.” Bryan first picked up a lacrosse stick as a 2-year-old.
Bryan eventually graduated to junior lacrosse in Orangeville, where he won a couple of Minto Cups as Canada’s junior lacrosse champion. It was there that he discovered a fact of life about his level of offensive ability.
“It’s a funny story,” he said. “I used to be an O guy until junior. But my hands weren’t as soft as I thought they were. I’ve been a D guy ever since.”
Bryan was a second-round draft pick by the Rock in the fall of 2010. He made the team right away, and couldn’t have asked for a better start to a pro career. The Rock won the championship in 2011, beating Washington in the championship game.
What’s more, Bryan scored that contest’s first goal. As you’d expect from someone who doesn’t get to be in the offensive zone much, he remembers every detail.
“They missed a shot on net. It might have been [current Bandit] Luke Wiles, and I had a breakaway,” Bryan said. “I dove through the crease and brought it back on Todd Richards of Washington. It got reviewed, but fortunately it counted.
“It was awesome. I had a smile on my face the whole game.”
Bryan was back in Toronto in 2012, and then was traded to Buffalo with Jamie Rooney for two draft choices.
“I wasn’t expecting it,” Bryan said. “I know Rock General Manager Terry Sanderson pretty well. He’s an Orangeville guy too. But Bandits General Manager Steve Dietrich was my GM in the summer league. I guessed he liked what he saw. I was a little upset at first, but when it sunk in I was pretty happy.”
Bandits coach Darris Kilgour said. “When we first picked up Glen, all I could see was that he was 5-9, 180 pounds. I like our defense bigger. But the kid has come in and changed my mind. He gives a great effort. He uses his head. He can read the play and not just react. I’m very pleased with him.”
Bryan has played in all four games for the Bandits this season. Number five figures to be a good test for him and the team.
Buffalo comes into the contest on a three-game winning streak – its longest since 2011 – and is 3-1 for the season. Toronto is a half-game better at 4-1, so the winner of this game will be in first place in the National Lacrosse League’s East Division.
The Bandits certainly know that the Rock can score in a hurry. Billings is second in the league in scoring with 29 points, and Doyle is fourth with 23.
Bryan has discovered that lacrosse could be described as one big extended family, as everyone seems to have played with and/or against everyone else at one point or another. Friendships with the Rock’s players will have to go out the window for a couple of hours today.
“You talk to them before the game, but once the game starts they are enemies,” Bryan said. “Then you say hi to them after the game.”
Tonight’s game marks the return of Chris White to the First Niagara Center. White spent eight seasons with the Bandits, but signed with the Rock during the offseason. Earlier this week, White received a one-game suspension from the NLL. After a video review, the league penalized White for a hit against Casey Powell of Rochester. However, White has appealed and is eligible to play tonight. ... John Tavares of the Bandits will miss tonight’s contest. He is suffering from a calf injury.