The Peterborough Examiner
Bandits in finals for third year in a row
Will face winner of Calgary-Colorado series in the final
The Buffalo Bandits are heading back to the National Lacrosse League Finals.
The Bandits swept the Toronto Rock 2-0 in their best-of-three East Conference final series, winning the first game, 14-5, Friday night in Buffalo and the second game, 17-8, Saturday night in Hamilton.
This will be the third consecutive trip to the finals for the Bandits, who fell in 2019 to the Calgary Roughnecks and 2022 to the Colorado Mammoth (play was suspended in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic). Those two teams are tied 1-1 in the West Conference final with Game 3 set for Saturday.
The Bandits won the season series against Toronto 2-1. Two were close wins by Buffalo, but Toronto’s win was an 18-7 blowout at the beginning of April.
The playoff series win was payback, as far as the Bandits were concerned.
“They really took it to us less than a month ago. But we have no quit,” Bandits goaltender Matt Vinc told TSN’s Ashley Docking after the game. “We have a proud group back there. The offence really stepped up and made it a lot easier on our defence playing with a big lead.”
Vinc made a combined 85 saves over the two games, allowing only 13 goals. He was in an unbeatable zone, one with which Lakers’ fans are intimately familiar — the one that has won the team four Mann Cups in a row.
Of course, Vinc credited the defence in front of him, which includes Bryce Sweeting and Nick Weiss.
“There are going to be a lot of guys with some big bruises from soaking not only one or two but five or six shots,” he said. “The last quarter there, we’re up by seven or eight and guys are still laying it all on the line. We have an unselfish group.
We play defence by committee and, fortunately, we just played two of our best 60-minute games here in the playoffs.”
Over the two games, Kyle Buchanan scored one goal and six assists for the Bandits. Vinc and Weiss each contributed two assists, while Sweeting had one assist.
For Toronto, Corey Small was held pointless in Game 1, but had two goals and one assist in Game 2.
In each game, it was a seven-goal run by Buffalo that was the difference. Friday, Tehoka Nanticoke started it off with a goal just before halftime.
Buffalo went on to outscore Toronto, 6-0, in the third quarter. Saturday, Buffalo scored seven times in 3:49 with Toronto captain Challen Rogers in the penalty box serving a high-sticking major. Rock goaltender Nick Rose was pulled in both games.
The West final will be going to a deciding Game 3 after Colorado and Calgary split the first two games. Colorado won 8-7 on Thursday night in Denver and Calgary won 13-12 on Saturday night at the Saddledome. As the higher seed, Game 3 will be hosted by Calgary.
In both games, the Roughnecks led 5-3 at halftime. In Game 1, the lead changed hands several times in the second half until Colorado’s Connor Robinson tied the game at 7-7 with five minutes left to play. Robinson then scored the game winner with 3:11 left.
In Game 2, the Mammoth turned on the heat in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Roughnecks 6-4. Twice they came within a goal of the Roughnecks, but Calgary held on for the home-floor win.
Calgary goalie Christian Del Bianco made 74 saves in two games, while Mammoth goalie Dillon Ward made 73.
Zach Currier scored twice and added two assists over the weekend and was named first star of Saturday’s game with 17 loose ball scoops and seven caused turnovers. Josh Currier scored one goal and four assists over the weekend. Robert Hope scooped 19 loose balls for Colorado.
This will be the third consecutive trip to the finals for the Bandits, who fell in 2019 to the Calgary Roughnecks and 2022 to the Colorado Mammoth