4/16/2019 2:00:00 PM / Nick Konotopskyj
Buffalo Bandits captain Steve Priolo has had quite the career so far. The St. Catherines, Ontario native is in his 10th season with Buffalo and will already go down as one of the best defensemen in franchise history.
With 157 games played, 154 points (45+109) and 884 loose balls to his name, he has also reached the postseason six times, but has yet to win a championship. The last time Buffalo was in the playoffs was in 2016 when they lost in the finals against the Saskatchewan Rush.
Their last title came in 2008, two years before Priolo entered the league. However, Priolo, now in his second season as Bandits captain, knows this is a team that is capable of winning it all as long as they stick to what got them to this point.
The Bandits are 12-4 this season, good for first place in not just the East Division, but the entire NLL. There are plenty of reasons for why Buffalo went from 8-10 a year ago to arguably the NLL Cup favorites this year. Goaltender Matt Vinc, who signed with the Bandits as a free agent this offseason, has been a dominant force in net and keeps Buffalo in every game even when the offense might be lagging.
“It’s starts with Vno, then it goes to our defense, then to our transition game and into our forwards,” Priolo said. “We have such faith in each other and it’s such a brotherhood. We rely on each other and we know that if our offense is struggling, then in the fourth they will come through for us. If the defense makes a bad play, there’s such a great deal of confidence that we will make up for that and it allows us to play freely.”
You can also point to offensive weapons like second year forward Josh Byrne, seasoned veterans like Shawn Evans and Dhane Smith, and newly acquired goal scorers such as Corey Small and Chris Cloutier for top offensive production. However, one big offensive contributor has been Priolo.
He currently has 23 points (11+12), which leads Bandits defensemen and is tied for second in the NLL. The 11 goals are the most he has had in a season, and he needs only four points in the final two games to set a new season high for points.
“You see everyone running the floor and I’m fortunate enough where my shots are going in this year,” Priolo said. “If you look at games where I’m not scoring though, we get other guys scoring.”
The Bandits close out the regular season with the final home game on April 20 against the New England Black Wolves and then the following week against the San Diego Seals on April 27. All four playoff spots in the East have been clinched, but now it comes down to who can clinch home-field advantage. Buffalo enters the week in first and the furthest they can fall is third.
Priolo talked about what it would be like to play postseason games in Banditland with a chance to bring home Buffalo’s fifth NLL title in franchise history.
“It would be incredible to have some home games in the playoffs, Priolo said. “Our home crowd treats us so well and it’s nice to have a routine. It’s nice to know where you’re going, where you’re eating and it’s just really nice being at home.”