The Boston Bandits have been on good winning runs this year at times, and at other times, struggled to string victories together. Overall, they moved between the No. 4 and No. 8 spots nearly the entire NCDC season, so it might not come as any surprise that they finished seventh overall, with the chance to finish sixth going into the final regular season day on Monday.
The Bandits (26-18-2-4) have proven over and over again this year that they can skate with the top teams in the NCDC, and especially with their first round opponent, the host Junior Bruins out of Marlboro, Mass.
With strong goaltending and a balanced attack up front, the Bandits will likely cause some matchup problems for the Junior Bruins - and anyone else they might face this postseason.
Head-to-head vs. Junior Bruins
The Bandits match up well with the Junior Bruins based on their regular season matchups.
They didn’t meet until Nov. 15 at the Islanders Hockey Club Showcase, and the Bandits (in the midst of a four-game point streak) defeated their future playoff opponents, 6-1.
It wasn’t again until January that the teams faced each other, but they ended up doing so four times in the space of 20 days.
The Bandits won the first of these matchups, 6-2, on Jan. 12. On Jan. 23, the Junior Bruins took it the other way, winning 7-1.
Over the Feb. 1-2 weekend, the Bandits won a pair of one-goal games over the Junior Bruins, 3-2 and 2-1. Overall, that gave them a 4-1-0-0 record against the Junior Bruins.
Against the rest of the playoff field, the Bandits’ results were all over the map.
Vs. New Jersey Hitmen, 0-4-0-0; Vs. Connecticut Jr. Rangers, 2-1-0-1; Vs. Islanders Hockey Club, 3-2-0-0; Vs. New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs, 4-1-0-0; Vs. Syracuse Stars, 1-2-0-1; Vs. Northern Cyclones, 2-3-0-0.
Players To Watch
The Bandits have done all they’ve accomplished this year with the youngest team in the NCDC, at an average of 18 years, 259 days (just over 8.5 months).
Connor McAnanama (‘99/Agawam, Mass.) was an All-Star Game selection this year for good reason - he closed out with the best overall statistics for any regular goalie in the NCDC. He posted a 2.18 goals against average and a .935 save percentage to lead the league in both categories.
Billy Grant, a ‘98 from Mansfield, Mass., led the team with 46 points through 46 games (16 goals, 30 assists).
The other five Bandits who cleared the 30-point mark this season were 2000s and one 2001. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute recruit Jack Brackett (‘00/Manassas, Va.) scored 37 points in 43 games.
Shane Shell (‘00/Westfield, N.J.) scored 36 points, University of New Hampshire recruit Zack Jones (‘01/Bridgewater, Mass.) posted 35, Jared Thomas (‘00/South Glens Falls, N.Y.) scored 34 and Billy Hefferle (‘00/Flanders, N.J.) earned four points in his last five to hit exactly 30.
Linden Alger (‘00/Centerville, Mass.) led a similarly young defense, with a bulk of ‘99’s and ‘00’s lining up on the blue line this year.
Boston Bandits (7) at Junior Bruins (2)
Sat., March 16: 5:30 p.m.
Sun., March 17: 2:50 p.m.
Mon., March 18: Time TBD (if necessary)
All games to be played at New England Sports Center, Marlboro, Mass.